March 01, 1996

Of Tickets, Hares and Dozing Fathers

Of Tickets, Hares and Dozing Fathers

За двумя зайцами погонишься, ни одного не поймаешь.
If you run after two hares you will catch neither.
⎯ Russian proverb

When Moscow hosted the 1980 Olympic Games, a trip on the city transportation network was simple for foreign tourists: there were no crowds (all non-Muscovites had to leave the city), and the names of metro stations were even announced in English at each stop. Granted, Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan (and the resultant boycott by Western nations) put a damper on visitor turnout, but those who made the trip must still remember how comforting it was to hear the words “Next stop: Polyezhayevskaya” in a familiar tongue.

The Olympics are history. So are those temporary linguistic concessions. As a visitor, you’re on your own on Russian public transport, so a user-friendly transport vocabulary will come in handy. Of course, you can always use your hands – or better still your elbows – to communicate. But you will have a much smoother ride with a few choice expressions at your disposal – useful to counter that over-aggressive babushka stabbing you in the ribs with her umbrella.

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