Sunday, January 20, 2013

Our Metro Adventure

The weekend is here, and Jeana and I just knew we couldn't stick around the hotel and go stir-crazy, so we decided to take on the giant Moscow Metro.  Jeana had heard about a great market here where you can buy touristy things but at a much less cost than in the city, so we got out our Metro map and calculated just where we needed to go.  It seemed easy enough: get on the blue line (the metro is mapped out according to different colored lines) and go five stops!  Piece of cake!

We bundled up in our warm tights we bought the other day (they have ultra thick tights here that are amazing) and jeans, two pairs of socks, boots, coats etc. etc. and headed out.  We asked the lady at the front desk of the hotel just to be sure we were correct in our assumptions, and after saying the name of the place we wanted to go incorrectly a gazillion times, she finally figured out what the heck we were trying to say and confirmed we had the correct itinerary.  Just in case, she wrote down the name of the market in both English and Russian so that if we got lost, we could show our little post-it note to some sympathetic person that might put us back on the right path.  Thank goodness for this little note because it would come in handy.

Our metro tickets and the note that saved our behinds. 
We have changed hotels because the one where we were at was going up in price, double the price, so we transferred to one of their hotels closer to Red Square that had a better rate (more on that later).  Anyway, we walked down to Red Square, found the metro sign and headed underground.  For those who aren't familiar with the Metro here, it is pretty amazing.  Something that is kind of fun is that there are little shops that line the tunnels where vendors sell their wares.  You can buy everything from nesting dolls to underwear.  It is like it's own little city down there.

So we made our way through the swarms of people to the ticket booth.  The first problem we ran into was that the signs all had the red and green lines on them, but not the blue!  We knew we were in the right station, but there were no signs that indicated the line we wanted to take.  All there was was an escalator going down, down, down, forever it seemed, into the belly of Moscow.  We showed the woman at the ticket counter our little post-it note and she nodded her head that we were in the right spot. So we bought two metro tickets and headed toward the escalator.  You have to hold your ticket up to this sensor and the red light turns green so you are able to walk through the little turn style.  We watched for a minute until we were sure we knew what to do, then headed to hold our tickets up.  There were a whole group of police standing around that point, which made us a little nervous, not that we were doing anything wrong, but you know, having them watching our every move wasn't fun.  I held my ticket up to the sensor and the light turned green and I went for it.  Made it through!  I looked back for Jeana and saw her hold her ticket up to the sensor.  It made a funny noise, but she tried walking through anyway.  Well, the machine didn't like that, and suddenly there were these bars down by her legs that closed around her, keeping her from coming through!!  So she jumped back and tried the next turn style over, and it beeped red too but the little bars didn't try to grab her so she jumped through!  I thought for sure the police were going to swarm us and ask us what the heck we were doing!  We just stared straight ahead and made our way to the escalator.

This was going back up to the street from the Metro we took today.  The escalator goes on forever!  
Finally we were down on the main thoroughfare where there were trains on both sides of us, each going the opposite direction.  We stared at the signs, all in Russian of course, and didn't see the name of the station we wanted to go to anywhere.  Plus, the colors were wrong.  They were all green and red instead of blue. We wandered for a bit and then saw yet another escalator going down even further and decided that was really only our other option, so we took it.  Looking back up, we could see there was no going back because all the escalators only went down.  This made us slightly nervous!  Once down, there was only one tunnel you could go down, so we followed everyone even further down until we ended up at another platform with trains on both sides going opposite directions.  But again, they were the wrong color!  These were the red line trains, and we needed the blue.

So here we were, at the very bottom of the Metro, it seemed the very middle of the earth to us!  And we had to choose a train, both of which we knew were the wrong ones!  We couldn't go back the way we came.  We were stuck!

I remembered reading something about how the young people here are usually more sympathetic to Americans, so I looked for a young person and noticed a young woman waiting for the train and typing on her cell phone.  I walked up to her and smiled and showed her our little post-it note and said "help?"  She smiled at me and asked "where from?" and I said "United States-America" and she raised her eyebrows and nodded her head back and forth sympathetically as if to say, "wow, you guys are really lost!"  She got back on her phone and brought up some awesome Metro app and pointed to where we needed to go, where we currently were, and said a whole lot of things in Russian.  The problem was, we already knew we were in the wrong place, but we didn't know how to get back to where we started!  She pointed back up the stairs, so even though there was a sign which clearly showed we were not supposed to go that way, we headed back up the tunnel until we got to the bottom of the second set of escalators we had descended earlier.  We spied a woman in a small booth, assumed she must be an information worker, so we did what we did best: shoved our post-it note into her booth and said, "help?!"  She spoke even more Russian at us and waved her arms around and pointed back down the tunnel we just came up!  At this point, we knew we didn't have another choice but to go back down, because the escalators didn't go up.  We decided we would just take one of the trains, get off on its first stop, and hope we could reorient ourselves once we got back up to the surface.

Back down on the platform, we went under the archway to where you stand next to the tracks waiting for the train, and realized to our utter embarrassment that we could walk along the platform next to the tracks to go somewhere else in the station!  We walked until we finally saw a sign that had our blue line on it!!  Then we looked on the wall across the tracks and it had the correct station name on it!  We had finally found our train!

The train came barreling down the tracks.  When the doors opened, we looked at each other like "here goes!" and got on.  We were relieved to see, once we got on, that there was en electronic sign in the train that showed the different stops the train makes, and we recognized the stop we wanted to get off at, five stops down the track.  With a sigh of relief, we had a great laugh at ourselves and the predicament we had gotten ourselves in to!  We took pictures of ourselves to document the journey:

Here I am, looking like I ride the Metro every day. No problem!
Here is Jeana, looking how we actually feel .  She made me shrink this photo because she doesn't like it :-) Deer in the headlights!
Five stops down, we got off the train.  Luckily, there was an escalator right off the platform that went up forever, so we figured this was the way out.  We got up to the street and walked out into the blustery cold.  It has been about 7 degrees here lately.  We were told to veer left when we got out, so we did, and saw the very colorful buildings down the way that we thought might be the market.  Lucky for us, we saw a sign on a fence with the name of the market on it, so at least we knew we were in the right spot!  We followed the crowd and headed that way.

Finally, we were at the market!  We paid our 10 rubles to get in and we made our way around the many, many vendors selling their things.  The prices were much better than in the city, and we bought several items. I bought the cutest traditional little Russian dresses for my girls and a couple things for friends and family back home.

By this time it was late afternoon and the temperatures were quickly dropping.  Poor Jeana only had flimsy boots here and her feet were wet and cold.  Her gloves too weren't doing much good, and she was getting extremely cold.  We had been told there were places inside we could eat.  We found some men cooking meat and bread on a long grill outside. We ordered some of both and they motioned for us to go up some stairs to a small and smokey room with chairs and tables in it.  We sat across from this group of older Russian men who seemed to be having a good time together.  Jeana took off her boots and put all of our hand warmers into her socks and gloves to try and warm up.  The men across from us kept motioning for us to come and sit by them!  We just kept nodding our heads "no" in a friendly way and smiled.  They were very persistent, and finally this old woman who worked there also told us to go sit by these men!  These exasperated men motioned to this metal pipe on the back of the bench they were sitting on and we finally figured out it was heated, and they were trying all this time to tell us to come get warm!  These men were so friendly to us.  They didn't speak much English, but they did say, "Russia, cold!"  Then they motioned for Jeana to put her freezing feet right on the heater and told the old woman to bring us a blanket to put on our laps.  After a while, one of them went downstairs and came back up with some Vodka and they poured us each a glass, put it in front of us and said, "Vodka, warm!"  It was so funny and kind. We tried to explain to them that we don't drink, but they kept insisting.  We just kept eating our food and finally one man pointed to our drinks and said, "no drink?" and we said nyet, so he took our drinks and dumped the Vodka into his glass and drank it!  They left and said good-bye to us.
Our yummy and warm food.
Thanks, guys, for taking pity on the freezing Americans!

Getting our hands and feet warm on the heated pipe!
Our food came and it was delicious and warm.  We were able to defrost a bit and headed back down to the market.  We looked at a few more things and decided it was starting to get dark so we'd better head back to the metro.  Luckily, it wasn't nearly as difficult to find our way back to the Metro station near our hotel!  We came back up to the street right at Red Square and it was so, so cold, we decided to head into the underground mall there to try to find some hot cocoa or something before walking back to our hotel.  Well, we window shopped a little first and got nice and warm, so when we found the food court area we were actually parched and decided we just wanted a big drink.  We ordered some 7-up at the Burger King (of all places) and lo and behold they also had ice cream!  We ordered some kind of cookie shake thing and enjoyed every last spoonful of it.  Speaking of spoons, I told Jeana to take a photo of it because it's shaped like a snow shovel!  What a great way to eat your ice cream!

We found some waterproof boots for Jeana at this mall that didn't cost an arm and a leg, and then headed back to our hotel.  What a day!  We checked our email and I FaceTimed my kids and then we crashed into our beds, exhausted but glad that we had ventured out that day.  What a story this is all turning in to!  I can't even explain how grateful I am to have Jeana by my side, especially since Brian has now returned home.  I know God wanted us to be together through this ordeal.

1 comment:

  1. I laughed so much while reading this post. What an adventure! Sure am glad you made it back safe and sound and that neither of you lost any fingers or toes to the cold. I am sure glad you have Jeana there with you too. Adventures (and burdens) are made lighter with good people there too!