From the 15th to the 17th of july 2017. After having crossed the border between Georgia and Russia, I landed in Vladikavkaz (Well I didn’t take the plane… you understood me right?). In 3 hours I had the chance to discover the russian hospitality before taking a train (my first russian train!!) to go to Mineralnye Vody (which literally means Mineral Water :D!!). Why Mineralnye Vody?! I don’t know, probably because I didn’t understand the woman selling the ticket at the train station when I bought mine… Rock’n’Roll trip!!
Cet article est aussi disponible en français : Rockers à l’Eau Minérale (Mineralny Vody)
The 15th of july 2017 around 13h. The taxi I took from Tbilisi the same morning droped me off at the Vladikavkaz train station. As I didn’t know at all if I could cross the border coming from Georgia by land, I had absolutely no plans. No ideas of where to sleep, what to see… Completely off for some… Or totally free for others…
I’m in Russia. I can talk 3 words in russian… Well, I know how to say “Я не понимаю по–русский” (I don’t understand russian)… And I have my little notebook with some usefull words.
Vladikavkaz… I heard that there are not many things to do around here… I’ve been droped off at the train station… Never mind, I’m going to buy a train ticket to go somewhere else, we’ll see what will happen next!
At the entrance, there is a security gate, people look at me amused seing my huge backpack (There are probably not much foreign travellers around here). Their english is very limited (almost as my russian), but I manage to make me understand and they tell me where is the ticket office. My backpack is checked and then I go to the line where I start looking on the map where I could go and what I could do. It’s my turn. I’m asking for a ticket in several cities more in the north like Krasnodar or Rostov-on-Don. Nothing, no seats or no trains, I don’t really know, but I understand that it’s not possible. The woman proposes to me to go to “???”… I don’t understand at all the name of the city, even after I manage to ask her to repeat it. But it’s more north (it cannot be more south anyway than Vladikavkaz… except going back to Georgia… which is not an option). Deal! I take it. It’s how I bought my first train ticket in 3rd class in Russia. When the woman give me the ticket, I’m discovering my destination : “Mineralnye Vody”. Tht means “Mineral Water”.
I just have 3h there. I don’t have money at all, I need to find an ATM and I also have to find something to eat (because I’m starving), and why not find a sim card. More or less usefull things. Going out of the train station, I try to start asking to people around. It’s the total incomprehension… But it’s funny, everybody is trying to help. After few minutes, 3 young guys arrived at the strain station. The security guy call them and ask them if they are speaking english. Yes, they do :D!!
They are really happy that they found me translators to help me (maybe also happy to get rid of me), and it’s how I met Azamat, Aslan and Atsamaz, 3 young ossetians who became my guides during my short stay in Vladikavkaz.
What was supposed to be a short discussion to find an ATM, became a guided tour and I could also taste one of the speciality of the region. Who said that russian people were not welcoming? After 2 minutes of conversation, they brought to an ATM, they offered me food, bought me a sim card, and show me around their city.
Back at the train station, I cross again the security gate and go to the platform where my train is stopped, showing my ticket to people, letting them to guide me. I find the good carriage, ID control before getting in the train. In the train, with my ukulélé on one side and my coat on the other side of my backpack, I touch both walls of the narrow corridor. I pass the toilets, the “samovar” (big boiling water tank free of use 24/24 for the passengers), the cabin of the attendants. I cross a second door and I arrive in the “dormitory”. More than 50 beds are arranged in an organised puzzle. Obviously, mine is at the other end of the carriage… I stumble over everything that passes the bunks. People are smiling when they see me. I might have the biggest luggage of the all train.
I have 4h in this train. I settle, put my bag in the case under the bunk and sit down quietly, observing. My neighboor of “compartment” (We cannot really call it compartment as there are no doors…) arrive. A soldier, an old lady with her grand-child, a couple also with their son. I’m a curiosity, conversations start (Thank you google translate). The soldier arrives quite quickly to tell me that I’m pretty, that I have a nice smile and beautiful eyes… hum hum… and that I really should consider to go to Krasnodar, that I could stay at his place and that he could show me around… hum hum hum… Ok… Well, sometimes russians are a bit too much welcoming… (Thank you to the woman a the train ticket office for giving me this ticket to Mineralnye Vody and not for Krasnodar!!). Then the couple start also to talk to me, both of them speak a bit of english. The guy is working at the border between Georgia and Russia! If only I had met him before (I let you read the article : “Georgia-Russia by land/by sea : crossing the uncrossable border“). They are going to Crimea. They all offer me food and drinks. I don’t have any place to sleep… But at least I’m not gonna starve!!
Arriving around 20:00 in Mineralnye Vody. It’s still daylight, after all it’s July, but still the sun is going down quickly. After talking with a “Working-Holiday Visa in Russia” friend by internet, he gave me the address of an “Gostinitsa” (type of hostel), cheap and with good reviews. I go there walking, it’s not far. But when I arrive… it’s full… and the night is already here. The woman call me a taxi and give him an other address where to go. I would have avoid taking a taxi, but it has been a long day… I don’t really wanna fight, certainly not in russian (because again nobody speaks a word of english), I just hope that it’s not gonna cost me an arm and a leg. He drives me to the other hotel, but they refuse to give me a room because they don’t do “registrations” for foreigners (this is the thing to about when you go to Russia… You have to register officially in the different places you are going)… Bakc to the taxi (the guy is nice because he is speaking for me). The 3rd hotel is the good one. Cost of the taxi?? 200 RUB… (3€). At least I kept my arm and my leg for this one.
That’s it, I’m in my hotel room. Alone. In Russia. Now I have to think about what’s going to happen in the next days! It’s already 22:00… My brain is off… I at least triple my russian level since the morning (It was not that complicated but still 🙂 ). The only decision I made?!… Booking a night for tomorrow at the cheap gostinitsa where there was no place to stay. That will let me some time tomorrow to figure out what to do next.
The 16th of July 2017. Powaa, I slept pretty well, and as things always look better in the morning, I have my head full of ideas. I take advantage of the hotel’s wifi during the morning to send messages and so on and then I go to the Gostinitsa to let my backpack. I’m in Mineralnye Vody for one day, so I just have to go walk around to see what there is to see and feel a bit the atmosphere of the city.
I put my hat, take my camera and go to wander in the streets, enjoying the sunny sunday afternoon in a small russian city.
When walking, I hear a guitar and people singing, laughing. They seem nice people. I keep going… But I’m telling myself that I don’t have anything to loose, and so if when I return they are still here, I’ll go to take my ukulélé and will sit with them.
At the “Bar Rock”, I finally spend my evening with the rockers of Mineralnye Vody. I had again a really warm welcome, almost nobody was speaking english, but with my simple russian vocabulary and all their english combined we manage having nice conversations. But the best language here was music! They fought each other to play me some songs and I also played the only songs I knew at that point with my ukulélé. They offer me some beers (No mineral water), flowers (A huge bouquet that I had no idea what I was going to do with…), and other little presents. I wasn’t expected this, but they were so happy just seing me coming to them.
“Des rockers au grand cœur” (Rockers with big heart) as we say in french, but finally Mineral Water Rockers fit also them well.