Where did I leave off? Late June 2012…
Oh yes – days on the rails. It became a little monotonous. And smelly.
On the seventh day of the trip we rolled in to Vladimir, a city a few hours outside of Moscow. We got off the train with our packs and walked through the exit to the street. Nobody was hawking taxis. This was strange. In every airport and train station I have ever been through in Asia there have been people saying “taxi! taxi?” and sometimes I take them up on it. This is one part of our trip that had me literally plucking beard hairs out in the last few hours of the train ride. We needed to get to Suzdal – about a half hour drive away. We wandered over to a Taxi sign away from the main entrance where one taxi driver was wiping down his car and the other was snoozing in the sunshine. Soon we were whisked away in a ratty taxi toward Suzdal.
It was a pretty drive once outside Vladimir. Rolling hills, flowers, and increasing frequency of onion-domed church steeples.
We found our bed and breakfast with only limited difficulty. Speaking almost no Russian has been a frustration a few times on the trip. We got checked in, took showers, changed and went to go see some of the Suzdal sights.
It is an amazing little town. People were selling crafts, religious icons, Russian souvenirs, fresh fruits, vegetables, and delicious pickles as well as honey mead in a square near the center of town. We wandered through cathedrals, buildings, and museums before we found a great place for dinner. Prices were high but we were glad to be off the train and seeing amazing architecture and Christian monuments and idols.
We got a solid night of rest and then started off early in the day to try and catch the last few sights before we had to check out of the B&B and taxi back to Vladimir. It would have been nice to have had a whole other day in Suzdal.
The taxi we arranged to take us to a few important sites in Vladimir before we went to the train station. We saw St. Demetrius and Assumption Cathedral, watched a few minutes of a beach volleyball tournament and ate at a McDonald’s. We went to the train station and went to buy tickets to Moscow. The women at the counter asked if we had tickets and when we said we didn’t they just waved us into the terminal. We walked through the turnstyles confused and more people waved us through pointing to a train that was stopped. We boarded, piled our bags in the corner and hoped we were headed the right direction for the right price.
It was a local train that made many stops. People came on board to sell things. Locals evaded the toll collectors by walking forward through the train and then at stops running to the back to do it all over again. It was about a three hour ride. Hot. Stuffy. But Moscow appeared and we once again wondered how we would get to our accommodation. Adventure!
We used a metered taxi with a nice driver after dismissing taxi hawkers that wanted three times what we ended up paying. Our apartment was nice and in a spot close to a subway station. We had finished our ride on trains and the Siberian Railroad!