Well we arrived in Moscow during the peak of morning commute. The metro station was a zoo. It was literally like being in a cattle drive through the gates. The luggage was a big problem trying to haul it up and down stairs. Then like a funnel we were herded with no escape to the long ride down the escalators. Someone bumped me in the sardine packed madness and I was tossed into this older woman. She started yelling at me. I at first said "Excuse me" in Russian, but as we went down the escalator she wouldn't let it go. So I started yapping at her in fake French. Tatiana kept hitting me telling me to shut up. Well it was totally crazy. Then we had to transfer metro trains in downtown Moscow and I was stressing hauling the luggage. Fortunately they were helping me with the smaller bag. Finally we got to the train station and found ourselves about an hour early. A chance to relax with some coffee and a few smokes...
Well the train ride to Minsk in the 4 berth sleeper was a lot of fun. The now familiar site of forests and meadows and some farmland passed by. Sleeping in a train is quite enjoyable as it rocks and rolls down the rails. We brought plenty of food and tea and coffee and the porters give out all the hot water you need. The ten hours went fast.
But when we arrived at Minsk, the skies erupted in a downpour.
Tatiana's cousin Olga and husband Mikhail met us at the train, but they came by bus. So we got soaked, in spite of the rain gear and umbrellas as we headed a block to the bus station. Well they had an apartment in the downtown area and a nice little enclosed balcony where they had their ritual smokes. Dinner was a feast and I had no problem downing the obligatory shots of vodka during the meals. I have found out that there is a consensus on the internet that the vodka I was drinking, which comes from Brest, is considered the best in the world. Maybe... but it was extremely tasty and potent. Mikhail does ironwork and he is truly an artist. I wish he was in America so he could do some nice stuff around the house.
Well these people were really nice, and they put out feasts of great food the two nights I was there. The conversation was difficult at first since they didn't speak english, but my Russglish is getting better and we managed to have quite a few good laughs. Tatiana's daughter made sure I was kept up on the topics of conversation. They seemed to appreciate my effort to speak Russian, and with a few hand gestures and some crappy sounding Russian from me, we seemed to be able to communicate. These people were so nice, they gave me a gift when I left. It was quite enjoyable to witness their reunion. I think Tatiana's uncle and aunt were returning from the country the next day, and they were going to spend the week in Minsk before heading back to Russia
. I took a walking tour of the downtown and even managed to sneak a couple pictures of the last operational KGB building. I heard you shouldn't photograph it, and it is loaded with video cameras but never saw a soul. This guy is blatantly taking photos of it. Bet he was an American. LOL. So I went and snuck a few shots in. It was a little hectic trying to get some money exchanged so I could pay for the ride to the airport which is about 40 miles out of the city. But I finally made it out through the Border and customs checkpoint with all documents in order and on the plane to Kiev. Managed to even avoid the overweight baggage fees. See ya in Kiev. Can anyone guess what Kiev is infamously known for as the capital of in Europe?
So I headed out on thursday by train to Minsk with Tatiana and her family. She hadn't seen her relatives in about 20 years, and so I thought it would be fun to have company riding Kupe class. That is Russian for a 4 berth cabin. Well the day started out at 5 am, Taxi to the train station. Can't put your luggage anywhere but at your feet on the commuter train, and three on one side face three on the other. As the train filled up during the hour plus ride into Moscow, my big suitcase became a problem. Sometime during the trip they came around checking tickets. Tatiana had brought her little dog that was on her lap. An animated conversation between her and the porter ensued, and I soon got the gist of it after realizing it wasn't my suitcase causing a problem. The porter wanted money for the little dog! People around us were in disbelief that the porter wanted 150 rubles for the dog and it evidently was a lively topic of conversation. I was in disbelief that they didn't want it for my luggage. But I dug out the money (about 5 bucks) and we paid her off