Thursday, August 29, 2013
Riding the "ъ" Bus
Several people suggested that I take a bus around the "Golden Ring Road" of Moscow to become acquainted with how the bus system works and how the city is laid out. This turned out to be a great suggestion, possibly because of the amount of time I have looked at the map reviewing where I went.
Rather than being laid out in a grid fashion, Moscow has the old city centre, consisting of Red Square and the Kremlin, with a road running in a circle around it. Called the "Boulevard Ring" it has two lanes running each direction and gardens in the medians. The next ring out is called the "Garden Ring" which has four lanes of traffic each direction and no boulevards. It was originally built in 1591 as a line of defense around the city. 1683-1718 the road indicated a customs border for those entering into the city to pay their taxes. Markets began springing up around the outside of the ring as a way to evade taxes with the last of these markets being closed in the 1970's. There are two more ring roads around Moscow, but this is the road we were going to follow.
The Garden Ring is also referred to as the "ъ" ring, thus the name of the city bus we were looking for. Moscow has a wonderful public transportation system in place. The Metros or subways are timely and can get you almost anywhere. The same ticket works on both the Metro and the busses. Another great thing about the transportation tickets is that they are interchangeable and can be used for more than one person. I bought a 20 ride ticket at the Metro station and just swipe it for each kid as they go through the turnstile to get into the Metro. I used this same ticket for my bus ride.
I suggested this outing to a new friend so we left the embassy, walked a block to the main road and got on a bus for our 16 km ride right outside the American consulate. Soon we arrived at Gorky park where we wanted to get out and explore a bit. Walking on an overcast, cool day took us past gardens of flowers past their prime, summer amusement rides weary from the long hours and the almost empty wooden deck along the river that thrives with sun bathers on long summer days. We stopped to watch three tap dancers as they practiced on the hollow sounding deck.
Back on the bus a few stops later three gypsy women got on. I actually don't know if they were official gypsies or from anther Baltic region, but to me they fit every description I have read of a traditional gypsy. The boarded the bus and as one woman created commotion with the driver, the other two women effortlessly slipped under the turn-style. They had clearly become experts in riding for free. The last woman swiped her card and the bus took off. They were dressed in long black velvet peasant style skirts with ribbon between each layer of gathered fabric. Jet black hair was piled on their heads covered in silken scarves tied in a mysterious, intricate fashion. I found them striking and mesmerizing not because of their beauty but because of an unseen force that they carried with them.
We reached a bit of a snafu when half way through our trip the bus stopped and dumped us all off. As confused as the rest of the passengers we followed to another bus preparing to leave. After a few minutes the new, bewildered looking driver let us on. Several people tried to say something but he was making them all pay. Not wanting to cause any ripples it seemed worth it to me to re-pay the $1.00 fare. Another woman was not to be cheated and talked the driver into letting her through another door.
We stood the entire ride so we could better see out the windows. Large Stalin architecture covers the city. Several buildings stood out but I am not oriented enough yet to know what they are. We soon found ourselves back where we had started, in front of the American consulate.