It’s Friday morning, and the Great Journey is about to start for me. My bag is packed, my passport too, and Maciej picks me up well in time to be at the train station in advance. Once arrived there, I start to curse the cheap quality of my 45-euros-60-l-backpack, which looks so fancy, but, despite the fact that it only contains about 10 to 12 kg of my most precious stuff, is incredibly heavy and presses on my neck after only 10 minutes walk. We are just searching for an ATM and the mandatory daily ice cream, and I already praise the fact that I packed my massage-tennisball.
The train ride to Kajaani, and after to Kouvola, is relatively unspectacular. I got accustomed with Finnish trains like with taking daily showers, by now: They are comfy, “normal”, a bit boring. It is Kouvola, where my adventure starts for real. Arriving there, I have one hour till my train “Tolstoi” will pick me up, so I decide to look for some dinner. And more mandatory daily ice cream. Blinded by the (sun)light, I oversee a step in the pavement and twist my ankle. I cannot move an inch for 10 minutes. Is my adventure over before it even started?
Hobbling with some snacks from the kiosk in the train station back to my track finally, I call everyone goodbye. Who knows when I will have internet again? Who knows what will happen on this trip? My dear friend waits with booking her flight tickets to my birthday until after I come back – just in case. She is Ukrainian. Sounds promising, doesn’t it?
The train arrives, and the conductors speak only Russian. They take away my ticket and send me impatiently to my cabin, which I share with one Finnish woman and a Russian woman who speaks only Finnish and Russian. Multilingual, hardly understandable conversations start. After crossing the border to Russia, with an unproblematic passport control, I lose my Finnish internet connection – and realize, there’s wifi on the train! I am still connected to the outer world. Boring. The Russian lady is impressed by the trip I am about to take, warns me of “lots of people, lots of perfume, lots of people without perfume…”, and gives me some tips for taking care of my valuables.
When we finally stop in Moscow in the morning, I am on my own. I have to find the metro station, and get cash for paying for the metro. Both are an easy task. With some Rubels in my pocket, the real challenge begins: How to get into the metro station? The huge building with the red M has “no entry” signs all around – I am sure of this after the second round I made with my torture-backpack. I ask a girl in front of it, how to get inside – she doesn’t speak English and refuses to understand my sign-language. Starting to get desperate, I enter the neighbouring building and ask one of the security guards how to get inside the metro – showing him my google maps printout with the name of the station. Yes, in all the alphabets! He just nods and shakes his head randomly. I am about to cry soon, the backpack is cutting off the blood support to my left arm; how will I ever make it to the hostel? Why does the stupid hostel promise taxi pickup and then take it back again, after I booked it?
His colleague finally comes for help, and explains in Russian and sign language that there must be stairs somewhere that I need to go down, the entrance of the metro is underground. Everything gets back to easy. I find even my brown line, the first one I need to take, and the right stop. They have some good digital system inside the metro wagon, indicating the stops. But where is my blue line now? There are all possible colors printed on the wall, each wall. Does that mean they all pass by here? But which side is the correct one then? I decide to ask for help again, this time a guy, they seem more willing at least. He smiles and nods to everything I ask. That didn’t help. I continue to a couple – the guy shakes his head, the girl looks at me as if she wants to kill me. Ok, moving on. When I suddenly see something blue on the floor, it becomes easy again: Apparently, every color has their own tunnel, I need to follow the arrows and go to a completely different part of the metro for my blue line. Finnish metro is way easier, indeed. But now I understand the system. The only trick is to find the correct destination within my correct colour now – but that is fun, it’s like a puzzle, comparing the Cyrillic letters to the one on my print-out.
Finding the hostel from my metro stop is the final challenge, and by now I just really need a shower. Although it is still morning, it’s already around 30 degrees here. The next elderly guy who was chosen by me to help me find my destination sends me around the entire skyscraper building complex our hostel is located in. But at last, I make it – free wifi, a shower, and even coffee! I can now happily wait for the others to arrive.