“You want a taxi to Riga?”, I was asked this morning in one of those classic moments of misunderstanding, due to the lack of a common language. I’d arrived at the bus station at about 5.30 this morning, a good half-hour before the terminal was due to open. Looking at the schedule and seeing nothing on the screen about buses to Riga, I wondered if I’d gone to the wrong place. There were only two buses listed: one to St Petersburg and another to a town on the Estonian/Latvian border.
I went online last night and found there were no train options to get me to Riga, the capital of Latvia. There are several buses every day between the capitals, so there must be a fare bit of two-way traffic going on.
At about six on the morning I had two options. There was your stock standard bus, probably still run by the government, and there was a private sector competitor offering what they described as “business class” bus travel.
There wasn’t much difference in the price between the two, but the business class option listed wireless internet, catering and “an attendant” amongst their bonuses. Unfortunately I couldn’t book online, as they would only accept Estonian-based Visa, so I thought if I went to the terminal nice and early I might be able to buy a ticket before-hand.
For a while this morning I thought I’d actually gone to the wrong terminal. Without any sign of the Hansa Bus on the departures board, I had pretty much resigned myself to joining the long queue of those taking the traditional bus service.
“It’ll be fine”, I thought to myself, as I waited in the fairly lengthy queue. And then all of a sudden there was a loud bang and then a crunching sound. It was then we all realised the driver had misjudged the height of the terminal and had crashed the bus into it. “Oh my goodness”, I thought to myself, as the woman next to me in the queue and I looked at each other with a worried look on our faces.
As it turns out, she was also booked on the Hansa business class bus, and was similarly confused. We then offered each other a smile of relief, and a look of condolence to the others in the long queue, when our bus arrived a minute or so later. The physical contrast between the two could not have been more stark. The standard bus looked twenty years old, ours was bright, shiny and new.
And while the other bus is packed to the rafters, ours is half empty. We’ve already been served coffee by our “attendant”. I have a single seat with plenty of leg room, though the tray table is a little small. I could also go for a walk if I wanted to and read one of the newspapers or books from their library, watch a movie, or maybe just sit back and relax and have a nap under the nice blanket the attendant has given everyone. But no, I’m making good use of the wireless internet and decided to update my blog, simply because I can.