Writer on Location: Gettin’ Around in Russia

Now that I don’t have my beloved bike with me to discover the streets of Perm (which would be quite an adventure due to the big amounts of snow and ice) I had to find other ways to get around. Living in Russia for more than a month now I can say I have tried a quite interesting selection of transport. I have been on cross-country skis for the first time, a night train, the oldest cab ever and oldskool sickening buses. Well … it all adds to the experience, right? 😉

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Maybe the ways of transport are not the most interesting, but the Russians do make them a whole other experience. For getting around in daily life you have to turn to the regular buses and trams. When I first saw the trams I was so excited, I just loved the nostalgic little carriages with their sixties design. And when I spotted a tram which was a driving café, I decided the tram was my favourite way of getting around in town.

With their heated seats and regular departures there is only one disadvantage. For some mysterious reason the tram goes randomly to the tram depot and drops you and other disillusioned travellers off in some shithole at the outskirts of town. I can tell you that its quite cold to wait about 20 minutes in the snow before the tram decides to return to the station.

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I guess the Russian buses are not high on my list of favourite Russian things. Many buses smell like the exhaust pipe has been fixed on the inside and with the fine Russian roads, especially when there’s a thaw, you kind of feel that the buses aren’t the youngest anymore. One plus point is again the cute retro design of the long distance buses, but in Russia a sixties design doesn’t mean that its retro but that it’s just old.

Still these buses do deserve some respect, I’ve seen them face the toughest weather and icy highways which looked more like ice rinks with giant holes than motor ways. Also kudos to our bus driver who did not seem to be bothered by these circumstances at all, judging from the fact that he was still reading his book whilst driving.

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Still one of the most Russian experiences for me so far has been our legendary ride on the Trans-Siberian Express from Perm to Kazan. Which is only a very small part of the route, but still … I can already cross that off my bucket list. The ride took about 18 hours, with a very pleasant transfer in Balezino. That might sound like a very exotic place, but the only exotic thing about this place were the tropical plants trying to give added lustre to the dreary waiting room.  

Being on the train was a whole other story, Russians love their trains and I can see why. The fun of going on a train trip already starts in the supermarket doing groceries for on the train. Part of the standard equipment are boiled eggs and tea of course. Sleeping on the train feels like a sleepover party: food, drinks and stories are shared, also with your until so far unknown neighbours.

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Laying in my bed watching the snowy landscape slide past the train window was one of my most pleasant experiences so far in Russia. The long distances and long trips made me realize that sometimes the journey is even more important than the destination. More than enough reason to keep on traveling I think!

By Evelijn Hillebrand

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