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From: Sandy Lubkin
Date: Wed, 3 Sep 1997 13:00:11 +0000
Subject: Yaroslavl, part 1

It's just as bad to have too much to write about as it is to have too little... I'll try not to inundate (or bore!) you.

You remember that we were going out of town on a short vacation. Bela told you about our adventures making the arrangements through Intourist. Well, we got the tickets the day before we were supposed to travel, so that worked out fine. Since we were going to be away from home on the 25th, our usual day to pay rent, Bela called our landlord and asked him to come the morning before we left. We pay our rent in cash. Most Russians don't have bank accounts, and checks are pretty much unknown here. Many banks have recently (in the last couple of years) installed "autobanks", so getting money out of our accounts in the US isn't too much of a problem. Our landlord comes to the apartment to collect the rent each month. He also checks over the place and makes any repairs. He doesn't speak any more English than we speak Russian, so his visits are always interesting and challenging. You might be surprised at just how much can be communicated through pantomime.

After we'd paid the rent, we grabbed our luggage and headed for the Metro. (I promised at the beginning that I'd tell you more about the Moscow Metro, and I will. Later.) The Leninsky Prospect Metro station is about a 15-20 minute walk from our flat, but it seemed longer with the luggage. We changed trains at Octyaberskia Metro station and got out at Komsomolskia. There are three train stations (voksals, named after Vauxhall Station in London) right together there. We'd already been told to go to Yaroslavl station so we headed that direction. We found a pochta (postoffice) at the station, so I took the opportunity to mail some postcards. It's really hard for me to find pochta here. I usually wind up carrying letters around for a couple weeks before I see one. I must not know how to recognize them properly. Anyway, the clerk had such a hard time counting out stamps that I didn't have the courage to try buying some spares :(

After that, we went looking for platform 2 and the train to Yaroslavl. That wasn't too hard, although we couldn't see it from the main waiting area. The train was already boarding although it was early. The conductor at our car checked our tickets and our passports, then showed us to our seats. She kept the tickets.

The train car wasn't like Amtrack (the only trains I've taken before) where everyone is seated 4-6 across facing forward like in a bus or plane. The train car was like in the movies. We had a little room with 4 folding bunks and a small table. We put some of the luggage under the bottom seat like we'd been shown, keeping our books and snacks handy. We shared the compartment with one lady, who spent the whole trip reading.

Bela climbed up to the top bunk so we could both have window seats. The train started very slowly and accelerated smoothly. Our seats faced backward, so we could only see where we'd been. For the first half hour we could see the standard huge apartment buildings and factories through the trees lining the railway. Scattered around were lots of pretty wild flowers. After that, the buildings became more scarce, and I started to see individual houses - something I have never seen in Moscow. The houses were wooden, with intricately carved trim (like gingerbread houses :) They were accompanied by little fenced vegetable gardens and occasional farm animals (lots of goats and chickens). The trees grew thicker, with lots of paths through them. Soon the houses were appearing in clusters with miles of forest between the villages. The view continued like this for most of our 4 hour trip, with an occasional small city (obvious by the factories and huge apartment buildings) for variety. The villages reminded me of the little towns in the Columbia River Gorge (on the border of Oregon and Washington states) where I grew up. This was the part of Russia that I hoped to experience during our outing.

Well, at the end of our train trip, we pulled into a fairly large city -- the largest I had seen since leaving Moscow. So much for getting out in the country. My atlas classes Yaroslavl as having a population of 500,000 - 999,999. The conductor gave us back our tickets. I guess that was our cue to leave the train.

The folks at Intourist had told us we could find out how to get to our hotel by asking at the Intourist office at the voksal when we arrived. Well, we spent an hour trying to find the Intourist office, which I'm not convinced even exists. We asked people at the market stalls where it was. We asked a policeman (militsia). We asked a ticket seller. No one had heard of an Intourist office.

We finally started asking people how to get to our hotel. A lady in a flower shop told us we should catch the number 1 bus out front and get off at Ploshad Volkova (Volkov's Square, after Fyodor Volkov, founder of the first professional Russian theatre, located there). We finally found the stand where we could buy bus tickets (also good for trolley and tram) and got two. We decided the best thing to do would be to ask the bus driver. The first bus number 1 which came by only opened its center and rear doors, so we couldn't ask the driver. We waited while a bunch of other numbered busses went by. Finally another number 1 arrived. It didn't open its front doors either, but we got on anyway and went to the front. The driver told us the best way to get there would be to take the number 3 tramway, which we could catch "toda" ("over there", "that way").

We wandered over that way, and found the tram tracks. So we waited, and caught the first number 3. The engineer was totally sealed off -- we couldn't ask if we had the right tram, so Bela asked a couple people if they knew where we should get off. One really nice lady told us to follow her; she was getting off at that stop. We got off when she did, and then she walked us to our hotel. It wasn't far, but it was a rather twisty, confusing path. I'm not sure we could have found it on our own.

Hotel Yubileynaya (Jubilee) is on the waterfront, overlooking the Kotorosl river, a small tributary of the mighty Volga. Since we had already paid for our accomodation at the Intourist office in Moscow, check-in was fairly simple. The clerk took our passports and our hotel voucher and gave us "guest cards" which we had to show to get into the hotel. We showed our guest cards to the security officer guarding the elevators and went up to the third floor. There we gave a guest card to the floor monitor who gave us the key to our room.

Some Highlights From Our Guest Card (Karta Gostia):

"Guide forthe hotel resident

- Guest card allowes you to enter the hotel;
- The key from your room will be given by the floor serviception in exchange for your guest card;

The rules of the Hotel FORBIT:

- to use electric ytaters in the room;
- to invite other people to your room while you are absent;

Please keep up with the rules of conduct and fire safety in the Hotel."

(The funny thing about the last line is that the evacuation map in our room told us to go down a non-existent stairway.)

And for our family name on the guest cards, they wrote the Russian for USA.

All text and pictures copyright 1997 Sandy and Bela Lubkin, all rights reserved.