Saturday, October 01, 2005

Heading home - chapter one

Saturday, October 01, 2005 11:08:22 AM

Well. This morning was an adventure. Here was the agenda: ride the train from Shchuch'ye to Chelyabinsk. I had it all planned out. I went to Shchuch'ye a couple weeks past to find the train station and get the schedule. There were several trains running each way - about one every hour and a half. Ok, so today I get there, and sit and get ready to wait. The van driver comes in to make sure I'm able to get my ticket and the ticket lady tells him that the train isn't running to Chelyabinsk - or something. I don't know what is being said, but it involves words I don't know, and it doesn't sound like things are going according to plan. The driver is great. He points to the rail map on the wall, and shows me that the only train to Chelyabinsk is running from 3 stops downline. I could take the train I was getting on. Stop at this other town for 20 minutes, and take another train to get to Chelyabinsk. Now, I could do that, but this is not fitting the plan, and I've got my luggage with, and this could be a real bitch. If I get stuck in Podunk here I am really stuck.

So after much figuring and talking and guessing at what each other means, and the driver talking to the locals to get the page two of the story, we finally call the camp and get a little translation help. The connection is awful, so that doesn't help much, but I do decide to just hang it, and head back to the camp. Part of why I am doing this is so other people could do this, and nobody at the camp would take two trains except for perhaps Rich Verrecka. And he's crazy enough to do most anything.

The driver did get that the next train would run at 3:30 PM. So we will try again then. I could take the bus at 5, but that's not the point. The point is to take the train and check it out. So onward.

I finally get on the train at 315 PM. It doesnt even stop for two minutes before moving on. Once it does get going, it doesnt get much speed up when moving either. Perhaps 30 or40 mph, sometimes slower.
The car is wide - wider than American trains. Tbe seats - benches, really, but with a little padding, are roomy. Plenty of room to stretch out. These cars are not new, tney arent old either. The seats and ihterior are in good repair and clean. There aren't many passengers, so it will be a comfortable ride.

As the train nears Chelyabinsk, the cars fill up. It is still comfortable, even when we are sitting 3 to a side - with one fat man in the middle. There is still room enough. The air does get a little thicker, as many of the riders are blue-collar, but it is no more than marginally a nuisance.

We make good time to the outskirts of Chelyabinsk - arriving at the first landmark within an hour, and at the first Chelyabinsk station within an hour and fifteen minutes. However, it takes another 45 minutes to travel to the main voksal (train station). That blows any time advantage from the train. Still, it is safer, and more comfortable, than the buses. And, there is the possibility that if you scoped out the first station, that you could get transport from there, and make a more efficient connection. That last little distance was just unreasonable. The first station is much smaller - not really much of a station at all - but the time makes it worth looking in to. So later, y'all.


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