The Train to Yaroslavl

February 6, 2012

The train from Moscow to Yaroslavl is really quite convenient. It takes only four hours, costs about $15, and runs 15 times per day! I had gotten into the habit of taking the bus back from the airport when I traveled–it’s a little easier, but a it’s also pricier and takes about six hours. It was high time to try the train!

The Adventure:

After a smooth trip to the train station (okay, I might have gotten stuck in the metro entrance and set off an alarm. Hillary, darling, I feel your pain), I found myself on the train bound for Yaroslavl. When I arrived at my seat, I found two other people sharing the table I was to sit at: a young man and an elderly gentleman. The young man (Yuri, I soon learned) helped me to store my suitcase up above and detected my accent. When the Yikaterinburg high school judo champions showed up to occupy the rest of the seats, I found myself re-answering the typical “What brought you to Russia?” “Where are you from?” “You’re from California?!  No, really–why did you come here??” that Yuri had already flown through. And they had more!

I had anticipated a quite, slightly dull train ride. I would read, doze off a little, and maybe peer out the dark window at the moonlit Russian landscape. I found myself instead with four hours of genuine cross-cultural curiosity. Two hours into the journey, it felt like half the wagon of teenage boys had crowded our table, pushing earphones at me to share their music while declaring sincere love of the great American pop-artist Michael Jackson whose lyrics, claimed the ones who spoke some English, were so deeply meaningful. One boy very earnestly asked me to translate the LMFAO song “Sexy and I Know It.” Others recommended Russian artists for me look up, such as Звери and Чемпион.[1]

We ended up looking at each others’ passports (“We both have eagles!” one of them excitedly observed, while another went “Is this you? You’ve lost weight!”) and they were shocked to find out that, unlike a Russian passport, and American passport does not tell your ethnic heritage. “But what do they put on your documents when you’re born?” someone asked me. I explained that we didn’t have the same concept of “Национальность”[2] in English, and that for and American “nationality” just means is that you are a citizen of the USA. I told them about my heritage (I’m quite a mutt, if I do say so myself) and told them that like me, most people in the US have a pretty mixed heritage. What would be put on our passports? The elderly gentleman, who hardly spoke to any of us, looked quite interested in that fact. I hope it made up for my LMFAO translation from earlier.

I managed to turn down drinks without offending anyone, which is slightly easier for a girl than a guy. They ended up assuming that I was worried the alcohol would affect my future children. I leapt on the excuse they invented for me, though I honestly just wasn’t looking to polish off the drinks of (kindly) strangers on a train. Advice: just claim a stomach ulcer right off the bat if you don’t want to drink. It makes life easier.

The trip ended with me being escorted off the train carrying only my purse. It really was a pleasant trip. I hope I’m lucky enough to find company like that on my next train ride!

The Technicalities:

Want a similar adventure? Here are some logistics for your travel….

  • If you flew into the Шереметьево[3] airport like I did, you can follow the signs to the train into the city. At the ticket counter, you can buy a combo ticket (one аэроэкспресс[4] ride and one метро[5] ride). Mine cost me 350 rubles (about 12 USD).
  • Get on the аэроэкспресс. It’ll take you  to Белорусский вокзал[6] and should take about 30 minutes.
  • At the Белорусский вокзал, exit the train station and mosey on over to the metro station right next door. Hop on the metro–you’ll be headed toward the Комсомольская[7] stop, which is just a few stops down on the brown circle line.
  • Ready? It’s time for the train! Exit the metro toward the sign that says “Ярославкий вокзал”.[8]
  • Buy your ticket at the train station (mine cost about 420 rubles) and hop aboard.

The Tips:

(For my fellow country bumpkins)

  • When you’re looking at the departure board in the waiting area of the  Ярославкий вокзал, make sure to check the train NUMBER specifically–there are a few direct trains from Moscow to Yaro, but most will show a different destination.
  • There will be two main boards: departure and arrival. An arrival from Yaro does not mean that’s going to be the train you’re departing on. Look to the board on the left for departures.
  • The seats in the train are benches with a top you can lift to store luggage. There’s also storage space up above.

[1] Zveri (Beasts) and Champion: Russian pop artists

[2] This might translate to “nationality,” but the Russian word infers very specifically to ethnic heritage (are you of Ukrainian or Russian descent?) and not to your citizenship. It’s more like “ethnicity.”

[3] Sheremetyevo is one of the main airports in Moscow.

[4] Air-express (it’s a train)

[5] Metro

[6] Byelorussian Train Station

[7] Komsomolskaya

[8] Yaroslavl Train Station (makes sense, right?)


One Response to “The Train to Yaroslavl”

  1. I love reading your posts, it’s so amazing to hear stories of people who go to Russia! I am the complete opposite of you, I moved to the US!

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