Jumping Turnstiles: The Road Less Taken

I get lost a lot, and I’m pretty sure it is because I never really think before I do. I just do. There’s no planning that ever goes into my excursions in this country. Usually I just close my eyes or flip a coin and hope for the best. And you know what? I’ve learned to love my mistakes. I enjoy getting lost, because it is the best reason I have to step out of my comfort zone and explore parts of Russia that I would never see in a million years. There is nothing more exhilarating than being stuck on the side of a road in Russia, with nothing more than your language skills and a few rubles to get you out of a sticky situation.

Two prime examples stick out in my mind. The first is from my trip to a small suburb of Petersburg called Pavlovsk. A couple weeks back two of my friends and I decided to attend a Maslenitsa celebration(aka Pancake/Butter week).  This is a huge weeklong celebration in Russia that has both religious and pagan backgrounds. On the Christian side, it is the last week before Orthodox Lent, which forbids Christians to consume meat, fish, dairy, and eggs. So naturally, everyone pigs out on as many of these products as possible. During the Soviet times all religious holidays were not celebrated. Therefore, it was just used as an excuse to get together with friends and family and eat Russian blinis (aka crepe-like pancakes) filled with jams, sour cream, condensed milk, meat, or caviar. This is very close to the holiday of my dreams, so I decided to round my friends up and head out to Pavlovsk, a town that hosts a huge Maslenitsa celebration in it’s large park. This park takes up almost half the town and even is home to a palace. However, our prerogatives were to find the blinis, eat to our hearts’ content, and watch the burning of the Kostroma (a giant hay doll that symbolizes severe winter). Apparently though, this is easier said than done.

The burning of the Kostroma, which symbolizes the end of winter and the beginning of spring
The burning of the Kostroma, which symbolizes the end of winter and the beginning of spring

My journey to Pavlovsk was long, yet not very challenging. I rode the trolleybus to my metro station and then rode the metro to Moskovskaya metro station to meet up with my friends. We knew that somewhere in the vicinity of the metro station entrance, there were marshrutkas (basically routed minivan taxis). We quickly found the one we wanted and hopped on for only 55 rubles (approximately $1.80). Despite getting stuck in traffic, we finally arrived and enjoyed a fantastic day of horse sled rides, dancing, eating, and making new friends.

At about 6:30pm, the temperature started to rapidly drop, so we decided to head home. There was a train station just outside the park that would take us directly to the closest metro station in Petersburg, so we decided to buy tickets. As soon as we paid the cashier, we heard the train arriving, so we dashed through the turnstiles and ran onto the train. Happy, and slightly sweating, we settled in for a 35 minute ride. However, everything did not go as planned. After about 25 minutes we hit the end of the line. We had gone the WRONG way. We got off and quickly hopped on a train heading in the other direction. Finally! We were headed home…that is, until we rode past our stop. We desperately scrambled to the exit to get off and take a train back to the previous stop. We literally landed in the middle-of-nowhere-Russia. There were only train tracks and smoke stacks as far as the eye could see. And to make matters worse we had a 30 minute wait in 15°F weather. I just couldn’t help but laugh. I mean, I literally almost fell to on the cement platform from fits of laughter. Getting lost in the sketchy, industrial outskirts of Petersburg never really was on my to-do list. After I recovered from my laugh attack, I decided my next plan of attack would be to dance to stay warm.  Honestly, nothing warms the heart and body like The Spice Girls. All in all, we ended up making it to our metro stop safe and sound, despite a few runny noses.

Train tracks as far as the eye can see
Train tracks as far as the eye can see
Do we look cold?
Do we look cold?

My trip to Pushkin was an even greater laughing matter. My friend Kellie and I arrived on a Marshrustka all right and spent a fantastic day exploring Catherine’s Palace.

Catherine’s Palace
Catherine’s Palace

However, when it was time to go back to Petersburg, we hopped on the wrong bus and ended up riding far out to the edge of town. When literally ever person exited, and the driver stopped the bus on the side of the road, I burst out laughing. My luck is nonexistent. So Kellie and I pulled out our oranges and had a lunch break. Sometimes you just need to roll with the punches. Eventually the driver turned around and asked us where exactly we thought we were going. Apparently the bus only ventured to the city limits…not to Petersburg. After a brief lunch break, the bus finally started again, and we rode it to the train station. We even had a relatively carefree ride home, despite almost having to jump over the turnstiles while trying to exit the train station. But that’s a story for a different day.

From now on I never really consider myself lost. Rather, it’s a journey on the road less taken.

2 thoughts on “Jumping Turnstiles: The Road Less Taken”

  1. Quite the journey. When I was your age and dragged friend after friend along on these types of journeys, they referred to these roads less taken as “Duffy shortcuts.” Must be in the blood. LOL

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