Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
“Wasn't it Confucius who said a person shouldn't be born into a time of change?”
Andrei asks. I'm not familiar with the particular quote, but I'm all ears. “It's the worst thing
to be born into a time of change. We were children of perestroika. Born in one country,
grew up in another, and now live in a third. And who knows what's next?”
Andrei emphasized back in Sagra that Russians are not lazy. But they are tired. At least
his generation is. And so are many in Russia's younger generation, as Sergei and I were
about to learn on our next stop to the south.
“Sergei,” I say, as both of us have pieces of cake in our hands. “We have a meteorite to
Feels odd just to say those words. After all, are we in some science-fiction movie? Role-
playing at a Star Trek convention? No. In fact, while we were making our way across the
country by train, a meteorite streaked across the Russian sky at low altitude, shattered win-
dows, and scared the hell out of people in a large city, then plunked down in the middle of
a lake. This just isn't normal!
The thing landed near the city of Chelyabinsk—only a few hours to the south. How
could Sergei and I pass up the chance to go?
“The train to Chelyabinsk takes hours—I think you should take a bus,” Andrei says. We
heed his advice.
After saying good-bye to his family, Andrei drives us to the bus station in downtown
Ekaterinburg. Evidently Russian traditions are not specific to one's mode of transportation,
because Andrei grabs my suitcase, rolls it over chunks of snow and ice, and escorts us into
the bus terminal. (Now I'm feeling guilty for the times when I have pulled up to an airport
terminal or train station and just let Rose out of the car, without going inside.) The bus ter-
minal is pure chaos. There are indecipherable timetables hanging on the walls all over the
vast room that echoes the sounds of travelers yelling at one another. As for the timetables,
it's not just the Russian making it hard on me. Sergei can't figure out what any of them
mean either. We eventually decode one and are reasonably confident there's a bus to Kaza-
khstan at 9:00 p.m. that makes a midnight stop in Chelyabinsk. (Some twisted version of
“Midnight Train to Georgia” is now playing in my head.) We buy tickets, and we each hug
“It was great to see you—and thanks for all your honesty.”
“David, come back anytime.”
Andrei waves as he walks out to the parking lot, and Sergei and I find a spot to wait for
our bus.
T HIS BUS makes third class on a Russian train seem downright luxurious. I swear, our driver
looks just like the Moscow trolleybus driver who refused to let me pay. And he's just as
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