Moscow to Minsk – May 13 – May 14
After making a thermos of coffee and having an awkward kind of hug with Yulia, (I think she was expecting a firm handshake or a pat on the shoulder,) we took a metro to a bus stop near the third ring road around Moscow. Last night, we had been looking for an escape plan together with Yulia, and we figured we could take bus 399 here. That bus should take us closer to the fourth ring road. After waiting for a couple of minutes at the bus stop we saw two buses with the number 399 drive by. We decided to start walking to the next bus stop, hoping we would get more luck there. At the next bus stop another of our buses drove past at supersonic speed, completely ignoring the stop. We remembered from Velikiy Novgorod that Russian taxi’s were super cheap, so we stopped one and asked the driver to take us to the last bus stop. It turned out taxis are only super cheap for locals, because the driver charged us 500 rubles for a 7 km drive.
The last stop was close to a gas station. We positioned ourselves near the drive to hitch a ride. We made a sign with Roman letters, hoping this would attract some English speaking drivers. One guy in an old Lada stopped, he looked like the same kind of no good hitchhiker robbing piece of shit as Micha and Sahid. He said he could take us 30 km further, but after he asked “skolka?” (“how much?”) we wisely told him off by making a big zero sign. Once again we were about to give up. Brecht didn’t sleep well last night and I was worried that we wouldn’t make it to the border before our visas expired (which would be tomorrow) and the hitchhiking spot was crap because cars were driving way too fast. The final straw came in the form of a small thunderstorm. We closed the Hitchhiking trough Russia chapter by concluding that it was not much fun to ask for free rides in this part of the world unless you speak the language or if you get a kick out of telling off a bunch of fake taxi drivers.
After the rain storm blew over, we followed a nearby railway to the closest train station. There we met Kola, a guy with a big knife, and after quickly studying some flashcards in the Getting around > Railway trains section of my Pocketglow Russian app, I figured that we could take a local train (електричка) back to Moscow, where we could then take a night train to Minsk. After getting off at the wrong train station and hopping a couple of metros and figuring out which train was cheapest we finally got our tickets and spent the rest of the evening in the sitting room of the Belorusskiy vokzal. Brecht tried to catch some sleep by hiding between two rows of chairs. Meanwhile I worked a bit and got a message from our couchsurfing hosts in Minsk that they wouldn’t be able to host us due to some family problems, so I booked a hostel and continued my work. Easy.
We got on the train at 21:30. We shared our compartment with Igor and Zoya, a couple from Moscow on their way to Kaliningrad, who helped us figure out that the train would arrive at 6:45 in Minsk. Brecht and me set our alarm for 6:30 and hopped in bed. The beds where pretty small so we couldn’t help sticking our smelly feet out in the aisle at head height, hindering anyone who had to go to the toilet or who just felt like wandering the train.
We got up at 6:30 as planned, but it seemed like we were the only ones. The conductor informed us that we moved between time zones and the local time was 5:30. A good hour later we arrived in Minsk. I felt rested, and I realized that taking a night train is just the perfect way to travel. It costs about as much as a hostel but meanwhile you don’t need a hostel, so it’s basically free! Furthermore you don’t have to spend your waking time sitting in a car or other form of transport. Brecht hadn’t been sleeping that well because, despite the loud cadence of the train, his hypersensitive snoring detector had been tingling all night.