-Ehh, two tickets, please? we desperately repeated, hoping to get a metro ticket in Moscow. Though Russian is hardly my forte, I’m pretty sure we were told that English was no option and that the lady in the ticket office would have none of it. Speak Russian or get out of my sight! This denounciation of western ignorance was delivered in blazingly fast Russian–the only right way–leaving us with little option but waiting and hoping her mood would improve shortly.
Counting of and pointing at fingers (which we had been doing from the start), flashing of cash in surprisingly large denominations (apparently, the ruble is worth five times more than I thought–the airport ATM was not as lousy as I reckoned at first) seemed to do the trick, we ended up with something looking like a ticket and some odd-looking change.
The metro stations in Moscow are quite a sight–the architecture and sheer grandeur is other-wordly, and they all seem to commemorate some Soviet war victory; a station without marble and a large statue celebrating the Stalingrad victory is not to be taken seriously. Another oddity: the language. Cyrillic letters are everywhere, and there is very little in the way of roman-letter guidance.
Solution: find the map (yes, singular–it seems having more than one per station would be a waste of ink and wall space) with roman and cyrillic letters, try to print out the cyrillic version as best as we can, find a somewhat young, westernish-looking person (usually female–the guys seem to be more preoccupied with vodka and leather jackets than their female counterparts, and it shows), point feverishly at the name we’ve just written and ask a simple question in English. Voila.
The irony? After a few hours we have it all sorted. Simple, really. If only we had known that some stations have different exit and entry points, we might have avoided another stream of Russian swearing in our direction. I wonder what lessons Russia will haul at us tomorrow.