Ask anybody what’s the best thing about Moscow and they’ll tell you it’s the speed. The blistering pace of life includes everything from the social whirl and nightclub beats to the money you spend.
Is there a way to take a break and enjoy life in the slow lane for just a little while? Sure: Just hop on a trolleybus with Vera.
There’s no better way to see Moscow then by making a trip on the circle line. Not the metro, but by overground trolleybus. They’re marked with a big ‘?’ and tootle amiably around the Garden Ring.
So find any bus stop there and just wait for the old trolleybus to roll along.
For a mere 28 roubles, you’ll get a fantastic tour of town. Alongside amazing Stalin-era architecture, you’ll pass the storied Gorky Park, soon to be replaced by some kind of Russian Disneyland. You’ll also go underneath the statue of Mayakovsky, fly over another intersection and pass clunky 1970s architecture, such as the RIA Novosti building where this paper is produced.
Vera loves the ride too. “It’s the most sought-after line amongst trolleybus drivers,” she explains. “Even though it gets harder every day with the traffic, it’s a beautiful circle time and time again.” Being a proper trolleybus driver, Vera wears a bright orange jacket and has a set of tools at the ready to repair the bus when it breaks down.
You’ll soon notice that it’s a whole different world out there on the circle line. Passengers greet each other when they get on and people mostly spend their time reading – on a wide range of topics. On one single ride last week, passengers variously recommended which poetry of Lermontov’s I should read; gave me an excellent recipe for fish cutlets; warned me against drinking pomegranate juice; and even gave me the number of a Chinese acupuncture therapist.
Vera knows the regulars on her bus – mostly elderly people who have a tough time walking. She greets them like old friends. When after a full circle on the bus, I got out and met her again a couple of hours later, she remembered me.
As if within a city of millions, you’re in a small village.
“I remember faces,” Vera told me. “Especially if they buy a ticket.”
She has to pay attention, though, as driving a trolleybus is pretty hard work.
“It’s quite a workout to push the pedals, sell tickets and keep an eye on the road in the meantime,” Vera says. “And then you have to fix the bus all the time.”
It’s a truth universally to be acknowledged that Moscow trolleybuses always break down halfway along their route, and have to be fixed on the spot. As the buses are hooked up to cables, they can’t pass one another that easily. With huge gloves Vera hooked the bus back on, apologised – and told me she has the best job in the world.
“Sure, the traffic is horrible and sometimes there are drunks shouting at you, but in general it’s a very friendly place,” she says. “It’s like driving your own car, but with a lot of friends aboard.”
Half-way during the ride there’s an announcement: The bus company is looking for new drivers to join the world’s biggest trolleybus network. They pay, at best, 35,000 roubles. So grab your chance now!