With their friends at the rockabilly club just a few blocks away, I became a bit of a celebrity, and the vodka-misted fifteen minutes of fame was really too much for my sensitive ego- by the end of the night* I had large groups of Russian people toasting to my long life and happiness, and explaining to me why my presence in their country gave them hope for the future of life on earth. Vodka, the thing that Russia is probably best known for, had exceeded all of my expectations! It was a good day to be me.
Prying my eyelids away from each other and swinging about the leaden appendages that used to be arms, legs, and a cranium the next day, however, was another story.
But I would not be thwarted by a hangover that rivaled the unique sensation of being hacked into six pieces with a rusty axe, because the coming day would be my last day of proper sightseeing in not only the city, but the whole country. Of course, for a young lady such as myself, the only proper attraction with which to close my Russian peregrinations would be nothing less than the "Центральный музей железнодорожного транспорта РФ."** this was not just any typical railway museum, this was advertised as the second biggest shrine to railway transit in the world. The lying, callous sadists at saint-petersburg.com billed it as such:
This is undoubtedly the country's best museum concerned with railways and charts the complete development of railways in Russia and the former USSR, from the very first Russian steam locomotive, built by the father and son Cherepanov team, to the modern railways and engines of today. The museum boasts some incredibly detailed models, most notably one of a cargo station with railway cars going up and down a hill.
The Railway Museum also owns a collection of old locomotives and cars, which is displayed at a separate location, just outside St. Petersburg (from the Vitebsk Railway Station take a local train to Parovozny Muzei).
Address: 50, Sadovaya Ulitsa, 190068
Metro: Sennaya Ploschad/Sadovaya
Tel: +7 (812) 315-1476
Open: Sunday to Thursday, 11 am to 5:30 pm
Closed: Friday, Saturday and the last Thursday of the month
I showed up on its doorstep, at the proper time and date, probably the single most overly-excited tourist on within a kilometer of Sadovaya metro station, to find a large steel lock holding fast the doors of a disintegrating, apparently abandoned building with no signs of human use in the past decade or so. I was not amused, as you can tell.
(You may have win the battle, Russia, but you will not win the war.)
Luckily, things move fast in my microcosm, and as I had planned to meet up with some other couch surfers to witness the wonders of the "museum," and when I found them, one of them informed us of another locale where historic Russian trains were kept! Not even Russia itself could keep me from seeing the Russian things that I was determined to see.
We drove to an old station on the other side of town, which had been converted and redeveloped into a stylish shopping mall and entertainment center. I was very pleased by this, especially when I saw the huge flock of antique cars and engines parked behind the structure, as if they had gotten into formation in preparation for my visit. I posed with some small children on top of a locomotive from the early twentieth century, which was great fun, and embarrassed everyone involved, myself excluded.
(Tiny Russian child, well trained in the art of torturing foreigners, prepares to pounce on idiotic American pathological blogger)
By far the most exciting was the car that had been outfitted to be able to not only store nuclear missiles for transit, but also launch them directly from the tracks.
(Makes American Railroad barons look like gentle shepherds who had your best interest at heart. iPad users, tilt device to view in proper direction.)
Afterward, I finally found some beautiful tiny butterflies to buy, in the weirdest little floral shop I have ever seen. It felt like a scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but dubbed into another language and much, much creepier. I stopped briefly at a couch surfing party on Nevsky Prospekt Street with just enough time to drink one more delicious Russian beer and coerce every attendee to sing their respective national anthem*** before running to the train station to catch the 11:55pm Krasney Strela.
*And by "end of the night" I mean 6am, which in any other time and place I am relatively certain is morning.
**Or if you can't read Cyrillic, which I am now convinced most Russian cab drivers cannot, The Central Railway Museum.
***We were over fifteen countries represented, so this was no trivial feat, let me tell you.