On Tuesday my only task was to get myself to Yoshkar-Ola, a city about two-and-a-half hours from Kazan. I searched bus schedules online and couldn’t find the schedule from the actual bus station. Instead, I kept finding schedules for buses that advertised on VKontakte, the Russian facebook. I checked one out, including doing a “street view” search of its pick-up location so I could make sure to find it. Easy peasy: get on the metro, take it to the train station, walk towards the cafeteria, and there are all the buses.
Well…I go to the wrong train station. But, oddly enough, it’s also a bus station. So I’m very confused. I wind up calling the bus company and, even though I’m in the wrong place—and, in fact, very far from the right place—they will come and get me in twenty minutes.
So I wait and the guy calls and tells me he’s there, near the metro stop. I’m near the metro stop. I ask if he’s in a van, he says, yes, a white van. So I hop in a white van like I own it. I’m settling in and then the driver kindly asks, um, excuse me, but why are you in my van? I have to hand it to the guy for being so polite.
So I get out and run around in search of a different white van. Found it. Got in. The guy tells me we’re waiting for two more people, but they never come, so we set off.
About twenty minutes later we stop and the driver says, “Here we are in Yoshkar-Ola!” What a joker. I give him a raised eyebrow and he explains that we’re waiting for a bigger van. About forty minutes later a smaller van arrives. The side door slides open and I see this doughy mass of humanity. A stout babushka’s face is pressed up against the glass of a back window. My suitcase somehow disappears into this mass and undoubtedly makes someone terribly uncomfortable for the duration of the trip. As for me, I’m squeezed into the front seat between the driver and some man who immediately fell asleep.
My goal of reading evaporated, but on the bright side I got to experience some thrills! And some chills! as we zoomed down the highway and forced any and all other vehicles out of our way. I enjoyed peeking at the dash-cam recording both the front and rear view of our trip…I fantasized about somehow getting a copy for my blog, but decided to not press my luck.
The driver deposited me in Yoshkar-Ola six hours after I had set off. Considering I was nowhere near the bus pick-up and was using some off-brand, bargain basement bus company, I take this as a huge victory.