Monday, September 3, 2007

Back to Moscow (and, as Verka Serduchka might say, Russia Goodbye!)

On the train back to Moscow, in my compartment were a mother and son, who was late 20s / early 30s, and an older man (with characteristic smell of said). It was a relatively short ride (six hours) and so I didn't feel the need to bring food with me. I had breakfast in Smolensk and figured I'd eat lunch upon arriving in Moscow, as I'd have a few hours until the train to Kiev. Towards the end, the woman wordlessly gave me two apples (and insisted), and when I came back from using the bathroom - the only time in the entirety of my train travel, and on the shortest ride - go figure, she had a napkin laid out with some cookies and various other snacks for me. Shortly after this we all started talking. The guy had asked me from what Baltic state I was; confused, I said I was from America, and inevitably I told them my saga. The man was flying to Israel, and the mother/son were also going to Ukraine, but I forget if they were going to Kiev or elsewhere - I know we had compared trains and that we weren't on the same one. The train arrived, and that was that.

I took the subway to Kievskiy Vokzal, and checked my things in the baggage room for a fairly steep 150 rubles, then walked around as it was a really nice area. I had just caught some of the Bourne Supremacy on TV (in Russian) while flipping through the TV in Moscow a few days earlier, and had seen most of the last part of it which takes place in Moscow, with Bourne arriving by train from Berlin at this station; in contrast, I didn't have any spectacular foot and car chases. Anyway, the station is nice, and there is a large fountain/square (Europe Square), plus an elegant glass-enclosed bridge (Rostovsky) overlooking the river, which I crossed, and then took the subway (from Smolenskaya, incidentally), to eat and use the internet cafe. I returned to the station and decided to use the bathroom before the trip to Kiev, and it was the most disgusting thing I'd seen, literally a step above a hole in the ground. You (apparently) sat practically on the floor. I'll leave it at that. Luckily I didn't have to do that, as I just wanted to avoid having to use the bathroom on the train, but the train is actually far better.

I had about 25 minutes and began worrying when I returned to the luggage room and saw the window locked that I'd used earlier, but the door was open a bit farther down, so there was no problem. I walked to my train. I was car 1, so it was either going to be a very short walk or a very long one. My heart sank when I saw the first car: 26. It was going to be a very long walk. A few cars later I looked at my progress and saw "3." Confused, I backtracked, and it turned out 26 was just tacked onto the end. (On the train, the woman next to me said she made it to 8). On the way back a woman was asking for money, apparently to go home on the train. I gave her 20 rubles, and she said she needed 1000 for the ticket (!), so I said, well, that's too bad because I don't even have anywhere near that (since I wasn't going to be needing any rubles soon enough). As the train left there was a great twilight view out the window, with the glowing superstructure of bank towers under construction in the distance looking like something out of a science fiction movie.

In my compartment were 3 women, two Russians (sisters) and a Ukranian woman that lived in Moscow. The one Russian woman said, "давайте познакомиться (let's get aquainted)," just like in the textbooks, and we gave our names, and thus we were acquainted, apparently. We had to fill out migration cards (ugh) and although Russia's paperwork was annoying, at least they'd refined it enough that the migration card fits perfectly within one's passport - the Ukranian one is a bit larger and doesn't fit unless you fold it. Curiously, it has Ukranian and English prompts, but not Russian, so they had a tough time until the Ukranian woman helped out. They asked how I was doing it with no trouble, proposing that I'd done it before and remember, and I said, well, it's in English (the conductor had asked our nationalities when giving out the cards). I told them all about my travels as well, and they said, wow, I should write a book, which I said I'd thought about doing. I joked that I could offer it in English and Russian, maybe. The Ukranian woman was going to Kiev to see her son for a day, and the Russians were vacationing in Odessa, the train's ultimate destination. I went to sleep, and at 3 AM we crossed the Russian border - or something, because Russian border control did their thing, but the Ukranians didn't until we'd traveled another 3 hours, during which time I wondered what was up, whether they'd missed our car, or what, I don't know. After 10 weeks, I had finally left Russia. When we reached Ukranian border control they stamped my passport on the back (past the visas, on the "amendments" page), after flipping through it for a while. Who knows.


Unknown said...


The film The Bourne Supremacy was filmed partly in Moscow
I am trying to locate two key filming locations, and was hoping you may be able to help as you said you recognised some of the locations when you visited.

1. Bourne emerges from an underground subway to a square/yard where he goes into a 'hypermarket' (supermarket)

2. After leaving the market Bourne beats up two cops by spitting vodka in their faces and then steals a yellow taxi from a taxi driver.

Please take your time and watch the movie again then email me with your help at


London, UK

Mark said...

I will definitely see if I know where either of these places are the next time I watch and let you know. I want to re-watch Bourne Identity and Bourne Supremacy before seeing Bourne Ultimatum.