I had a very bad day today. It involved the Russian migration authorities. Actually, this year has seen a high ratio of bad days caused by the Russian migration authorities to bad days caused by any other factor at all. Fortunately, I'm not leaving the country again until I actually leave the country (semi-permanently), so this should be the last of them.
Anyway, I should have known it would be a bad day when I got on the tram this morning, handed my ten-ruble note to the conductor, and received only three rubles change. Seven rubles?!? It was five just last week! That's a 40% increase! So much for Taganrog's claim to the cheapest public transport in the Russian Federation. (For reference, the exchange rate is about 23.7 rubles to the dollar, so five rubles is about 21 cents and seven rubles is 30 cents.)
I don't know if we actually had the cheapest public transport; there are probably other cities whose trams and buses only cost five rubles. But you'd be hard pressed to find a ride for less than that, and it's usually more; in Rostov it's seven and in Vladivostok it was eight. I might be wrong, but I think it's actually nine(!) in Pskov. I've never ridden a tram in Moscow, but I hear you have to sell your firstborn child to get on. And that's after you've already taken out a second mortgage so you could ride the metro. (I think a metro ride is 21 rubles now. They seem to raise the price about once a month.)
So this post isn't a complete whine-fest, let's add trams to the list of things I will miss about Russia. Really, public transportation in general. Even small cities have extensive, cheap public transport systems, including buses, mini-buses, trams and trolleys. I think trams are my favorite, and not just because they're fun to ride. First of all, you never have to worry about getting stuck in traffic (although in Vladivostok that was not the case, because the streets were so crowded that people drove on the tram tracks all the time). Plus the routes are very predictable, they're more spacious than buses, and you don't have to shout at the driver to stop at your stop like in a mini-bus.
Sometimes on holidays they decorate the newer trams in Taganrog's fleet (there are three of them, shiny red and white with gray upholstery, tinted windows and orange handrails inside) with bouquets of balloons. It's always very exciting when they do that; I've actually seen pedestrians ooh and ahh as they clank by. Not surprising – I mean, everyone wants to ride the Party Tram!
My English dictionary doesn't give a clear distinction between trams and trolleys. In Russian, both are powered by cables, but a троллейбус/trolleibus runs on the street, while a трамвай/tramvai runs on rails.