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Ride The Bus

There are many means of transportation available in Simferopol, however one of the most thrilling, amusing and cheapest modes of travel are upon what we affectionately call The Mini-Bus. Whenever I travel from Moscow Center towards City Center (Downtown) the Mini-Bus is the fastest and most exciting way to get there!!! So far, I have found over 10 different Mini-Buses that can take me to The Railway Station, and beyond City Center to the very outskirts of Simferopol.

If I happen to miss one Mini-Bus, I am not too concerned, because there will be another Mini-Bus along within a very few seconds. The cost for a one-way ride anywhere in the city is only thirty cents aka 1.50 hrivnia. Now, I happen to be 6'2" tall and weigh approximately 210 pounds and I really like to stretch out and enjoy the ride, so if a Mini-Bus is very crowded, or if The Mini-Bus is one of the small Van Types, I'll just let it pass, wait a few moments, and take a less crowded Bus.

Just the other day, I was traveling around City Center with Xenia, my pretty, delightfully brilliant young translator. Xenia needed to get back to her University before 3:15 and she hailed the first Mini-Bus to approach the Bus Stop. Apparently she wanted me to get much closer to the people of The City of Simferopol, and she selected a Mini-Bus so packed beyond capacity that a sardine would have felt cramped. Good Grief, if I had fallen, I would not have been able to fall. We traveled for another 5 minutes and no one ever got off the Bus, and somehow two more people managed to squash me like a bug on a windshield to get on the Bus!!!

Actually I would have paid almost ANY amount of money to get off this particular Bus, however not only do I not speak Russian, it was also totally impossible for me to even reach towards my pants pocket to retrieve the desired currency. When Xenia and I arrived at our designated stop three people had to exit the Bus, before we could manage to find the icy sidewalk from this overstuffed Bus, and two more people tried to get on the Bus!!!

The traditional way to hail a Mini-Bus is to stand and hold your right arm straight out, however I have seen many people, women especially, just wave towards the Mini-Bus Driver and the Bus will stop and allow them to board, even if it is not a designated Bus Stop. This is very friendly, and courteous on the part of the Bus Driver and very convenient for many Bus Riders, and at times I wonder if I should attempt to do the same.

Since I do not speak or read Russian, and have only been in Simferopol less than 4 weeks, I have not learned how to ask the Bus Driver to stop the Bus at a particular Bus Stop, if no one else happens to be getting off the Bus. Therefore, I'll just wait until someone else is getting off the Bus, or I'll walk towards the front entrance of the Bus and wait on the top step. Whenever I miss a Bus Stop, then I am more than comfortable walking the extra distance to my destination, because I can see the shops and sights, plus walking is very, very healthy!!!

The other day, I was able to sit in the front of a somewhat empty bus and watch as the Bus Driver collected fares from each new passenger. I was fascinated as the Bus Driver drove the bus and shifted gears with one hand while having his left hand full of currency to make change for any large bills collected from each new rider. He also has a small open change box filled with paper money and coins. Upon entering the bus a passenger will place their paper money close to the Bus Drivers right hand, and he will pass the change back to them over his right shoulder.

At times many new passengers will board at one time and they will walk towards a vacant seat on the bus and once settled, they will pass their fare money forward. The Bus Driver will then make change and we all help in passing the change back to the new passengers.

About the only times it is difficult to find a bus with ample room is during noon hour, and then again after 4pm. Apparently 90% of the working population goes to lunch at noon, and leaves work at 4pm. Ride the bus during these times to get close and friendly to everyone on your Bus Route and you won’t forget to pick up a can of Sardines on your way home from the Bus Stop!!!

Joe K. Roberts

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