Billet = Ticket in Russia
So you wanna take a ride on the Russian railroad?
In the last edition, I had a
Nike Experience, where I went to the largest (and
only) mall in Russia, GUM, and bought a pair of Nikes just like in the states,
with plastic and a smile.
Today I will present the opposing viewpoint, the Billet Experience.
Billet = Ticket
Today I wanted to buy a ticket from Moscow to St. Petersburg on a night train
leaving on Friday. I plan to spend the weekend in St. Pete, and return to
Moscow Sun night. Now this being Russia, the concept of a travel agent doesn’t
exist, so I went to the state train company’s ticket outlet here in town.
My first mistake was arriving at 1pm. As those who follow my stories know,
what happens at 1pm? Yes, lunch. So, when I arrived at the ticket office
the door was closed in my face, literally. I decided to wait an hour until
the office reopened, having lunch in the meantime. By 2pm, when it was to
open, the skies already had, forming a lake in front of the door. When the
door opened all the people waiting for it to open, about 30, rushed the door.
I wanted to whack a lady in the head as I scrambled for a place in line because
she felt my stomach was a convenient storage place for her elbow.
inside I stood in the chaos, which was actually four orderly lines by their
standards, for an hour. Oh, I was fourth. Yes, 20 min a pop! Talk about slow
service! So, by the time I was up, I was ready, with translations of
what I wanted, the cash, and a calm demeanor. Yeah, like that was going to
Guess what the answer was. Just guess… “Nyet!” Seems I couldn’t by a ticket
there, not because my feet were too big, or that I was wearing purple silk
underwear, but because I am an American. Russia is a little paranoid, so
foreigners, like me, have to go to special places to buy tickets. I must
go to the Moscow train station to buy a ticket. To a special window, yes
there is only one, where I can buy a train ticket at triple the rate Russians
Now this window is open only in the afternoons, only for a few hours, or
so it should be. In practice, I have no clue if it will actually be open
then. And here is the clincher; I can only buy the ticket on the day I want
to travel and only one way. I can only by a ticket from Moscow to St. Pete
on Friday in Moscow. For St. Pete to Moscow, only in St. Pete on Sunday,
so if the train is sold out then, well….
As you can tell, *anything* dealing with the Russian government is insane.
I finally did buy the tickets, using a Russian method. I paid a Russian
to stand in line for me, and bribed the conductor when he saw that the name
on the ticket was not the same as the name on my passport.
And I will never, ever complain about a western travel agent again!