After being stranded in Russia for an extra 3 days the Brier family have finally left. On a train.
After our return to Moscow it soon became apparent that flights were not going to start for at least another couple of days and my family did really need to get home. My brother has exams soon, my parents have jobs to do and my sister only has 4 months of lazing around left before she starts university! My friend Alison was also visiting Moscow and she REALLY needed to return – she has to sit her finals in a few weeks! So we decided to book a train.
On Saturday Alison and I went to the train station to ‘assess the situation’. Good thing we did because it was total chaos. All the trains to Europe were getting booked up and all the boards had messages saying ‘NO SPACES’ to all the major cities in Europe. Argh. We didn’t have any kind of concrete plan so we decided to discuss with my parents what would be the best thing to do and come back the next morning to buy the best tickets.
Sunday morning, 8am, we go to the train station. Alison (who has perfect Russian) asks the woman at the desk, “We need tickets to anywhere in Europe as soon as possible.” The woman smirks. After around half an hour of debating (and being filmed by the Russian news… we made our TV debut that night) what to do, 5 tickets to Warsaw (Poland) for Monday were purchased. I was amazed we actually managed to get tickets for the next day!
The next problem was how to get from Poland to the UK. After an afternoon of internet research we had organised a night in a hostel and then a coach and ferry back to the UK. Then a speedy trip to an internet café, the tickets were printed and everyone let out a huge sigh of relief that they were actually going to get home - even though it was going to take 3 days. Here is their travel plan:
Yesterday (Monday) they left Moscow at 5pm and got a train to Warsaw where they arrived at 3pm today (Tuesday).
Here’s a little map for those of you (who have geography as terrible as mine) and who don’t know where Poland is. Apologises for the child-like circles around Moscow and Warsaw.
Tomorrow (Wednesday) they will leave Warsaw at 10.45am on a coach (!) cross Europe, get a ferry across the channel, get back on the coach and arrive in London on Thursday lunchtime, a mere 68 hours after setting off.
Not sure how happy my sister and brother (who are 18 and 17) are about this. Obviously they want to get home but I think being stuck in a confined space with the parents for 68 hours may be the end of their relationship. At least they have a new friend Alison to talk to! I have to say (facebook status rants aside) they have been very good about it all.
Mum and Dad however, are loving their adventure across Europe! As Dad said, they’d always wanted to do it – they just wish it was their choice! They have handled the situation really well – for a change I was the one stressing and panicking. They were totally fine!
This whole experience was very odd for me. Normally I’m trying to get INTO Russia and moaning about how annoying it is to have to get a visa. Now I’ve seen all the problems when trying to get OUT OF Russia.
For example, major problem number 1 was that to get a train from Moscow to most European cities you need to go through Belarus, and therefore need a Belarusian transit visa (fortunately because of the situation this rule has been relaxed… although we didn’t know this until Sunday because literally every visa office is closed at the weekend. Even the British Embassy. Helpful).
Then major problem number 2 was that it is impossible to pay by card in most train stations in Russia, so we needed to buy 5 train tickets… with cash. This meant a lot of transferring money to every account we could (my bank account has never looked so healthy – have to keep reminding myself it’s my parents money!), getting out as much money as our cards would let us, 3 cards being stopped by banks in the UK (shame on you NatWest and HSBC – when I am actually being frauded I KNOW you will not pick up on it) and then finally being able to purchase the tickets.
A stressful couple of days but finally they’re on their way home. At the station they were (hilariously) filmed and interviewed by CNN (TV appearance number 2). Annoyingly they only talked to my family and not me! I was all ready to be interviewed but they only talked to Dad aka the worlds most terrified of public speaking man. I was like TALK TO ME! I'M the one who wants to be a journalist! Then they filmed us walking down the platform and saying goodbye (hopefully not catching the fact that I was, as usual when saying goodbye, in tears). I bet everyone on the train thought they were celebrities. Naturally I asked for the correspondent’s card… There’s nothing like a crisis to try and help further my journalistic career.