09.10.2008 - 09.10.2008 14 °C
I ended my last post by saying I'd just over an hour left in Moscow. Plenty of time, or so I thought, to leave my hostel (woohoo!), haul me and my bag 10 minutes down the street to the metro, and get line 5 a few stops to Kurskaya. Above ground at Kurskaya was one of Moscow's nine mainline stations, Kursky, and also where my means of escape lay waiting - the 18.00 express train to Vladimir.
And it would have been more than enough time, had Moscow not decided to have one last laugh at my expense. Entering the huge cavern of Kurksy's main hall, a huge info screen told me I had twenty minutes to board the Vladimir express, ready and waiting for me at platform 10.
Following the directions to platform 10 (signed in English as well as Cyrillic), I follow a tunnel underneath the tracks and emerge at platform 10... only to find it totally deserted. Nobody. Not a sausage. Seventeen minutes to go. Hmmm, this doesn't feel right. Where were the other passengers? Was I the only one leaving for Vladimir that evening? Highly unlikely. Must have missed something obvious. Back down into the tunnel, back into the main hall, back staring at the departure screen. Fourteen minutes left. Departure screen looks back at me, and repeats it's message - platform 10.
Er, ok. I've just been there and it was baron. Guess I really am the only soul headed for Vladimir (and what does that say about where I'm going?) Back to the tunnel under the railway... actually hold on, there's some people in uniforms standing (guarding?) the tunnel entrance, I'll ask them. "Platformy...Vladimir, pahzhulsta?" I mutter, holding up my ticket. Uniformed guy No.1 looks back, furrows his brow (Twelve minutes to go, twelve minutes to go!), and slowly looks over his shoulder at unformed guy No.2, who then gives me directions to go back the way I came. Great.
Jogging, no, shuffling back to the main hall (bag is getting very heavy now), eleven minutes left, up the escalator, swing the corner, find information desk, produce ticket "Vladimir!! Vladimir!?", information person No.1 looks at me like I'm the maddest thing to ever slump across her desk, information person No.2 starts a sentance with "You must go to..." English! YES! Result! "...platform 10...!" Noooooooo! I look at the floor. Then up at the clock. Eight minutes.
Time for charades! I start waving my arms around - and by now my legs have been worn to stumps, so at my (less than majestic) height I probably just look like a backpack with frantic eyes and hands - and point in various directions until info person No.2 says... "Da!" And there we have it - platform 10 is not where platform 10 is, it's somewhere else entirely. With my arm still outstretched, locked in the direction we agreed I should go, I toddle off.
In my delirium, I'd not noticed that every light in the station was out. Some kind of weird selective power cut. The closer I got to where my arm had been pointing a few seconds previous, the darker it became. I'd reached a corner of the station inhabited by shadows (and perhaps a few lost foreigners). Five minutes... Then to my left, a slither of natural light and I immediately followed it. It pulled me into a second, much smaller and busier, ticket hall. Just the other side of the barriers, through a dirt smeared exit door, I saw it. Platform 10. A different platform 10. My platform 10! And alongside, a train. Go!
Using my three full days of Russian training, I ignored the queue (and to be honest, with the momentum my bag had built up I couldn't have stopped had I tried), bundled to the front, grimaced and threw up my ticket for inspection. I was let through, and dashed to the platform... two minutes.
The Vladimir Express was patiently sat at platform 10. The first carriage was shut, as was the second, third, fourth, fifth... hold on. What's going on? Oh, I see, my ticket has me sitting in carriage number 11. All the way at the other end of the platform. Aargh! One minute... dash, bump and strain down the platform length, until finally I get to a smiling provodnitsa guarding the entrance to my carriage. Checking my ticket, she waves me on. I fall though the carriage door, first onto the train and then into a seat (empty, luckily). A loud blast of a whistles follows behind me, the train doors slam shut. And we're off. Made it.
I'm leaving Moscow!