While we are all on lockdown and unable to travel, I’m reflecting on trips from the past.
It was 15 years ago now that I was reassigned to my employer’s office in Moscow. I spent three months in Moscow, from mid-January to mid-April and during that time I got to experience the true feel of a Russian winter. But more amusing was my experience with Moscow public transport. Here is an example of how the buses were against me:
So today I am now the coldest I’ve ever been… since yesterday, when I was the coldest I’d ever been at minus 12 (in the morning) and minus 15 in the evening. Today it’s minus 17.
Yesterday was so cold, and my colleagues had been giving me a hard time about walking home in the cold, so I thought, I really can’t face it today, I’ll take a bus.
I left the office here about 6:20pm and went and stood at the bus stop on Novy Arbat for about 10 minutes. A couple of buses came but they weren’t numbers I knew that went anywhere near my house. It was really getting cold standing there, I could feel the cold seeping in through my coat, my gloves, my shoes. I got fed up in the end and went to the bus stop in Novinsky Bulevar (figuring the walk would help warm up my feet and my hands which were starting to tingle). So on Novinsky Bulevar I stood for another 10 minutes waiting for a bus I knew, and eventually along comes the 79. The 79 is the fantastic bus I got on Saturday that did the U-turn and took me back to the end of my street. So I KNEW this one would get me home. Sitting on this cold bus didn’t feel much warmer than outside, but I could sit on my hands to try and stop them tingling and scrunch my feet to circulate the blood. Of course, peak hour Moscow traffic is not like Saturday morning traffic and instead of whizzing up and down the street, we moved inch by inch, crawling along the street. But sure enough, at a certain point the bus did the u-turn and headed back down towards the end of my street, yay! I got home some time around 7.30pm (so it would have been much faster to walk!), feeling frozen to the core. First thing I did when I got inside was pour myself a reviving glass of Georgian wine.
This morning I was ready early – don’t know how this happened, first time it has! I thought, I just can’t face walking through the cold outside. (Especially when I realised the radio weather man last night was not saying “dvanadsat” (12) but “dvadsat” (20) – and you had to assume he was talking about below zero temperatures!). It was so cold that breathing made my nose hurt, and the cold wind made my whole face ache, and I wanted nothing more than to go back to the apartment and go back to bed and sleep.
Instead I headed to the bus stop this morning and by a fantastic piece of luck, pretty soon after along rolls the no.6 bus which I know goes down Novinsky Bulevard. Fantastic, I thought, I can get at least somewhere near work. First thing I notice when I get on this bus is I can’t see out the window – what would be condensation in London has frozen to the glass, covering the windows with an opaque layer of ice. The bus chugs along in traffic, start-stop, start-stop. I realise why no-one is reading (apart from the light being really bad). Probably you would get sea-sick trying to stay focused on the page as the bus jerks its way along the road. The man I sit next to is keeping a tiny circle of window clear by breathing on it and rubbing at it from time to time. I check through this little space for landmarks, and am pleased to see we’re heading down Novinsky Bulevar as planned. Great, I think, catching a glimpse of Novy Arbat up ahead, next stop will be me and I’ll have a nice short walk to the office. The bus seems to be turning a corner, perhaps we’re turning onto Novy Arbat? Even better!
All my hopes are crushed in moments as the bus driver puts the bus into a U-turn and floors the bus back up Novinsky Bulevar in the direction we just came from. I manage to stop myself from shouting “NO!” and quietly resign myself to a walk. So around 40 minutes after leaving home, I get off the bus around 20 minutes walk from home, the only good thing being it’s about 10 minutes walk to the office and I’m not as cold as I could have been. Although I didn’t quite make it in to the office as early as I’d hoped.