Crossing Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway: The Final Chapter
- Crossing Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway: Chapter 3 of 6
- Crossing Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway
- Crossing Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway: Chapter 5
- Crossing Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway: Chapter 4
- Crossing Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway: Chapter 6
- Crossing Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway: The Final Chapter
The next day was a snow storm, and I made my way to the station with my backpack, slip-sliding on the sidewalk, the snow hitting my face, but enjoying it. I waited for the bus 30 minutes but it never came, asked a woman in a small booth, she just pointed at the sky, so I figured I better grab a cab. The driver was hesitant, said it would take 2 hours each way, but I was ready to pay the equivalent of the 75 euros he wanted which would be less than buying a new plane ticket if I missed my flight.
Since cabs in Russia have no meters, you agree on a price before-hand and they try to make it the fastest way possible as they won’t get extra. It’s actually rather efficient. I could tell thought that he quickly regretted having taken me, there were cars and busses along the way stuck in snow and turning around on the highway, and the police were motioning to certain cars to go back where they came from, which they did to us. I figured that was it, but he made a U turn a few yards later and came back again, making it past the cop this time. I don’t know what the story was, but he got me to the airport on time for my 9 hour flight to Moscow.
When I made it back to my youth hostel in Moscow, I felt as if I had lived there for years, was totally at ease, telling people how the shower worked, where the tea was, feeling like I was 20 and belonged there.
My last day in Moscow, got up early and made my way by metro -which I still don’t fully comprehend but which I could manage and somehow get where I was going – to the sculpture park, or Park of the Fallen Heroes, where lies the collection of Soviet statues (Stalin, Lenin, Brezhnev, Marx and others I’ve never heard of) that were pulled off their pedestals and moved here to form a sort of eerie arrangement in the snow. I walked around, alone as usual, apart from a mother and young child playing carelessly among what we see as the hideous faces of Soviet history. A moody place indeed.
Behind is Gorky park, now an amusement park, and I crossed the bridge to view the Church of Christ the Saviour, the pride of Moscow, torn down by the Soviets and replaced by one of the world’s largest swimming pools, then rebuilt as closely a possible to the original in 1997.
The city lies very much like Paris, with the large river flowing between the banks and the beautiful views up and down it. In fact the river is the same shape as the Seine. I then crossed another bridge to my final destination, aha,… and what could that possibly be but… the home of Leon Tolstoy.
Ulitsa Lva Tolstogo, Leon Tolstoi Street, is where he lived between 1882 and 1901 with his wife and several of his 12 children. I made it there by opening time, alone again, slipped on the cloth slippers to protect the wooden floors and walked around the house, one of the usual babushkas at my heels to make sure I wasn’t moving backwards at any point, the absolute no-no in any Russian museum.
I didn’t think it would hit me like it did, but when I entered the house I was taken by such emotion that I had to sit down and organise my mind. The home is as it was, with all the furniture, objects, pieces of clothing, kitchenware that was his. I was alone, walking through the rooms, and happily the small signs were translated into English here. The dining room where he had his own soup dish as he was a vegetarian, his bed with the bedspread knitted by his wife, the piano room where they held musical evenings, the children’s bedrooms, the servant’s quarters, his bicycle, his dumbbells – his writing desk and chair. What can I say, I was bewildered.
The dining room, with the smaller soup bowl for Tolstoi who was a vegetarian,their bedroom, quilt knitted by Tolstoi’s wife
What they called the Hall. Here the Tolstoys received guests and held musical and literary evenings (Scryabin, Rakhmaninoff, Rimsky-Korsakoff, played on this piano. Chekhov, Leskov, Ostrovsky, Gorky were among their guests)
I left Tolstoy’s home and boarded the metro at Park Kultury, which was where there was to be a bomb in one of the trains 2 weeks later.
And his study. It is said that as he was short-sighted he shortened the legs of his chair so as to be closer to his desk.
Boarding the flight back to Paris, the steward gave me a loud welcoming “Bonjour Madame”. I burst out laughing, I hadn’t heard a soul speak French for 2 weeks. It was like something soft and civilised and terribly familiar and life was going to seem very easy from now on.
Tags: 30 minutes, backpack, brezhnev, busses, cabs, cop, Heroes, lenin, marx, moscow, new plane, pedestals, plane ticket, sculpture park, sidewalk, snow storm, soviet history, stalin, statues, youth hostel