Russia by Train

Our first day in Moscow, we all went on a tour of the city’s subway system and I remember looking around at it and reminiscing on the ease of waiting outside of Willis for a Northfield Lines bus to the Minneapolis – Saint Paul airport. I’d spent time in cities before this, but never enough to know train stops by heart, and the whirlwind of people instinctively moving through the stations was entrancing to watch. 

Regardless of our past experience with urban transportation systems, we’ve all gotten used to moving by train here. There’s a station, Universitet, that’s a fifteen minute walk away from our dorms, and we’ve each been using it as a jumping off point for our adventures in this city almost daily. We’ve gotten to know other stations, as well, and each of us have found our favorites. I, for example, am of the opinion that Ploschad Revolutsii (Revolution Square), one of the stations abutting Red Square, is the most beautiful. It is filled with bronze statues depicting ideal Soviet citizens. Some of their knees or noses gleam from passerby constantly rubbing them for luck.


View down one of the Moscow metro stations. Owen Yager photo.

The comfort that we’ve developed with public transit has come into play in our travels outside of Moscow, as well – we’ve been on a slew of trains and a bevy of overpacked buses, including on a recent excursion to Murom. Six of us went to Murom to work with some English majors there (the Murom Institute’s English department is well connected, historically, to Carleton), leaving on a train at Tuesday evening. For four and half hours we rumbled eastward, stopping for twenty-four minutes at a platform in a small town. The train was swarmed by people selling sets of tableware and a few stray dogs begging for the scraps of the onion and egg pirozhki that a market on the other side of the tracks was selling. I walked up and down the platform, stretching out my legs, and then I, along with the conductors waiting at the car doors and the people puffing cigarettes, bundled back onto the train and we trundled on. 

We got to Murom late at night, were received warmly and given lovely rooms, and spent the next day working with Murom’s students and receiving a tour of the town, along with a lesson on the histories of both the town and the university. 

After a little under twenty-four hours in Murom, though, our time drew to a close and we said our goodbyes at the city’s bus station. The station was the start of a five hour odyssey that was, more than anything, a testament to the possibilities of blind luck. The bus was scheduled to get into Vladimir, where we’d been a few weeks before, fifteen minutes before a long-distance train passing through on its way to Moscow stopped for two minutes. We knew that we likely wouldn’t make the connection before the bus left late because the driver was finishing his cigarette. When, after that, we waited in line for a few minutes for a gas pump, the six of us had all but given up hope that we would make it through to our connection.

View from the bus to Vladimir. Owen Yager photo.

We forgot about that, though, on the ride to Vladimir. The road was small and winding, letting us watch buildings with windows framed in painted wood drift by. The sun was setting. 

A little after darkness fell, our bus drove across the river in Vladimir and rolled to a stop outside of the train station. In a light rain, we sprinted across a parking lot, dodging idling cars, and dashed through the station. As the last of us walked onto the platform, the train to Moscow pulled in, too, for its two-minute stop in Vladimir. 

Article written by yagero

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