Sunday, March 09, 2014

Moscow (Part X - Novoslobodskaya)

Click here for Parts I, IIIIIIVVVIVII,VIII and IX.

Rusina had said that it was a 15-minute walk from my hotel to the Novoslobodskaya Metro station, where I was to meet her, but I didn't want to take any chances so I went down to the lobby at about 5:30 to ask how to get there.

The first thing the receptionist (the same one who had given me free internet a bit earlier) said was "you see train on street?" Yes. I had noticed a network of electrical cables strung over the major streets nearby  -- it did nothing to improve the aesthetics of the city, but did vaguely remind me of the "T" in Boston and therefore felt sort of homey to me --  and periodic tiny "trains" that ran along them, with little antennae-like rods connecting the "trains" to the cables. Hilariously, to make sure I understood what she was talking about, the receptionist made a little V sign over her head, to indicate the antennae. Anyway, yes, I knew about the train.

"Take train to Novoslobodskaya," she said. I replied "I can't. I have to walk. I have no money for the train." She literally rolled her eyes and I realized how absolutely idiotic I sounded, being a tourist with absolutely no money.

The receptionist impatiently said "follow train," so I did. But when I saw the train veer left at a point that I thought perhaps I should be veering right if I was on foot, I tried asking more people for directions (I'd been correct. Also, the station was VERY difficult to find and I never would have done so on my own. Also, the big M signs indicating a metro station are not as obvious in
Moscow as they are in other cities I've visited . . . at least, not if you don't know what you are looking for). Every few blocks I stopped Russian passers-by and said "Metro Novoslobodskaya?" And I learned four things.

First, everyone who had assured me that in central Moscow I'd find plenty of cosmopolitan people who spoke English did not know what they are talking about. Not one single person spoke English.

Second, no one ignored me. Everyone did what they could to point me in the right direction. Some of them did so brusquely, but there were people who were friendly in the sense of stopping and thinking about the best direction to send me, and trying their darndest to explain in English. It was sweet of them to try. Most switched to Russian and I just gave them a blank stare and shrugged, because trying to understand was pointless.

Third, if you are reading this and you have never learned Russian, I guarantee that however you are pronouncing "Novoslobodskaya"in your head is wrong. Every single person, when asked "Metro Novoslobodskaya?" first responded with a quizzical look and then said something like "Noviblublublublublu?" Maybe it was NoVOslobskei, or Novoblintzes, or Novajabotinsky. But however I was saying it, was not right.

Fourth, when you are sick AND you don't know where you are going, a 15-minute walk turns into a 40-minute walk.

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