October 10, 2012 by farbolino
So if you read my last post, you’ll understand already that I organized a trip to Moscow with a Belarusian tattoo artist and that my adventure would not include the mandatory visa for Russia.
Before we left we were already starting to have problems, as our couchsurfing host had asked us to arrive before 11pm, but our driver kept delaying the departure time. Finally at 4:30, we were on our way to Moscow. Along the way we stopped at a gas station and i came across something I’ve never seen in the bathroom before. Someone had run out of toilet paper and decided to use 50 ruble bills to wipe their ass.
So after 8 hours in a car packed with 4 large men from Belarus and Russia in the car who didn’t speak English, and me sitting bitch the whole time, we arrived to Moscow a little past 1 am, which meant the metro was no longer running. This was the least of our problems since our couch-surfing host had fallen through since we arrived too late at night. Without a visa, it wasn’t as simple as going to the nearest hostel and checking in. They would have reported me to the authorities upon realizing that I was without a visa. Luckily, Victor; my travel mate had a friend of a friend who said we could use her apartment for the night.
She was 3 km from where we were dropped off, so we walked the rest of the way to reach her. As mentioned in the previous post, Victor doesn’t really speak English, and I can only say a few phrases in Russian, but most of them are introductory, which doesn’t help with someone you’ve already been introduced to. This lead to some confusion; as I thought we were walking to where we were sleeping, but in fact we see simply picking up keys to the apartment which was about 10km across the city.
This meant we needed a taxi, but since we had no working cell phone, and were nowhere near the center of Moscow, we just hailed a random car. ( For those who don’t know, in the far east of Europe it’s common to hail anyone headed in your direction and pay them as you would a taxi, depending on your negotiating skills.)
Obviously Victor did the bargaining before agreeing on a price. I got in the back seat and realized I’ve stepped into a car in one of the worst conditions I’ve ever seen; and I’ve seen some seriously shitty cars traveling around the past 2 years. This one was very special as my rear door didn’t close properly, and the two front seats were crooked, unattached to the floor and being held in place by the seat belts. The passengers seat was the worst, as the seat belt was also holding the seat from folding in half. As we started to move, I realized that the wheels were rubbing on the wheel wells, possibly because there were three people in the car. I was loving the whole situation, until the driver randomly pulled over the car. I looked around to realize it wasn’t random at all, and that he had been pulled over by a cop. 45 minutes in Moscow and I was already at risk of being deported back to the US.
I kept my cool, and just looked straight ahead and didn’t say a word. If I would have said anything in English the cop might have asked for my passport. My heart was beating out of my chest at the moment, and that was exactly the feeling I came to Moscow for; to be thrown out of my comfort zone. The rush I felt was amazing. The driver just stepped out of the car, paid the cop a bribe and off we went again.
Finally, after driving for what felt like an eternity in this death mobile, we arrived to a sleeping district in the north of the city. It wasn’t far from the Cosmos hotel with all it’s flashy lights on the outside. We paid the driver in Belarusian Rubles since we didn’t have any Russian Rubles yet, which he didn’t seem so pleased with, yet still accepted them.
We opened the door to the apartment and realized it was a two bedroom and each of us would have their own room. We sat in the kitchen for about an hour eating a few boiled eggs and some cheese and ham on slices of bread while we exchanged Russian words for English ones. At almost 4 in the morning we decided to go to bed before our first full day in Moscow. Day two would be almost as exciting.