The Joys of Marshrutki

Posted: October 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

Dear reader, unless you have been to Russia before, you will have no clue what a marshrutka is. In Russia and many former-Soviet countries, marshrutki are common forms of transportation. They are basically a cross between a bus and a taxi. They are mini-buses or vans and have set routes. However, you can flag them down pretty much anywhere in the street and can ask them to stop wherever you would like on the route. The primary form of transportation in Ulyanovsk in the marshrutka, which makes traveling around the city a somewhat annoying. The issue is that you have to know where the marshrutka goes, which is difficult because there aren’t route maps. There are also 150 different marshrutki in Ulyanovsk, so good luck learning where they all go. The most common practice even amongst the locals is to flag the driver down, open the door, and ask the driver if it goes anywhere near where you want to go.

The ГАЗель (GAZelle) is the most popular marshrutka.

One aspect of living in Russia is having tales from riding on marshrutki. After the performance I went to on Monday night, my companion and I, a floor mate of mine, had to wait about twenty or thirty minutes in the cold before we could get into a marshrutka that would take us back to the university. Two others that we could have taken arrived, but there was not enough space for us. Eventually, after standing in the cold long enough, we decided to squeeze into the one that finally came. The two of us, as well as a few others, were standing. About half of the people in the marshrutka were drunk, which was pleasant as always. At one point, after some people got off, a babushka grabbed my arm and shouted “Girl, sit down” and somewhat threw me into an open seat. This was a bit of a problem as in the process I brushed against the inebriated young man next to me. He told me that he was not well and that I had hurt him. I apologized and he proceed to open his jacked and show me what looked like bandages for a series of cracked ribs. Then he told me that his heart wasn’t real and he told me he wanted to show me that as well. I told him I didn’t want to and that it wasn’t necessary, but he insisted. He pulled down his shirt to show me, but it was dark in the marshrutka. Thus, he pulled out his cigarette lighter and held it close to his skin to shed light on his possible chest wound. I didn’t really look too closely.

The marshrutka ride back the next night wasn’t as bad as the previous night. We decided to walk the four blocks to the main avenue of the city in hopes of finding more service. We still waited for about fifteen or twenty minutes for the correct marshrutka to come. In the process, I studied the passing cars. Surprisingly, at one point I saw a fairly new Ford Mustang. I also got the pleasure of watching two males joy riding in their BMW M5. The went up and down the street a few times, racing between the lights. Just a hint guys – BMW puts traction control on these vehicles for a reason. When done properly, you can get a quicker start off the line without traction control, but when you don’t know what you’re doing, it looks stupid when you skid around a bit. Also, you look really stupid when you’re driving too quickly and don’t stop in time, skidding to a halt by hitting a marshrutka sidewise. Two of my companions remarked that maybe it would be wiser to walk home instead of taking a marshrutka. I’m inclined to agree with them.

BMW M5, probably my third favorite currently produced German vehicle behind the Mercedes G-Klasse and the SLS AMG.

  1. GT says:

    I fell asleep in one of these before by accident and woke up at the last stop with the Uzbek driver staring at me. Marshrutkis are scary, man.

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