First and foremost, I’d like to post a disclaimer about my ‘travel complaints’. I’m sitting here in the Moscow airport, drinking a probably $10 Newcastle, and tracking hurricane Irene through the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/projects/hurricanes/?ref=nyregion#!/2011/Irene. I feel so… Selfish? Is that the right word? Perhaps guilty, as I sit comfortably enjoying my beer, while a nightmare plumages New York. My heart really hurts. I want to be there, and yet nothing can really be done except to wait and hope for the best. I really hate natural disasters; they’re so powerful and yet uncontrollable. Anyways, I wish the best for New York, and all of the East Coast, and I really, really hope the damage is minimal.
So, onto my bitching regarding this great thing they call ‘traveling’.
I spent two great nights in Saint Petersburg.
Yesterday (I think it was yesterday), I was nicely escorted in a taxi (much cheaper than the one for an accidental $100 that took me to my friend Sasha’s) to Pulkovo 1. This was my first experience there, as most international flights go out of Pulkovo 2. It was a mess. people everywhere. no set lines for kiosks. I stood for about an hour before the line even started moving. There was a huge group of asians that even further confused the process ( granted I love Asians – one lady near me made an origami figure on the plane and tried to use it to console a crying baby. it didn’t work, but i mean, how cute !). So, eventually I checked in my baggage. Previously, I was worried about accruing massive luggage fees, as the limit for S7 (my airline) was 20 kilos. I had close to 50.. (oops.. shoes, damn you!). HOWEVER, the lady charged me not ONE cent for my excessive baggage. urrraaa! so, i waited for my flight to Piter, quite happily, at that time. However, we ended up leaving Piter almost an hour late. What was my Moscow layover? Yup, one hour. Of course, we landed in Moscow and had to wait for a bus to pick us up from the plane, and ahhh I was yelling on the inside. I approach the lady at the transfer desk and, alas, the flight had already departed. I then spent one horrible hour walking though Domodedovo, carrying my 5 kilo overweight hand luggage looking for the so-called S7 Company desk, whatever that was. Here, this nice man (if I pick men, I can more easily get what I need; who woulda though?!) explained that the next flight wouldn’t be until tomorrow, at the same time, but my luggage could stay at the airport, and they have a hotel I will stay at, and here’s some free meals. Oh, not so bad after all; I figured I could take a nice walk on Red Square, etc.
Turns out, S7 has their own complex, located in the middle of nowhere. I sat on a bus for about a half hour (thank god I was with other Russians, or I would have been slightly worried) and we suddenly ended up at this complex. There was some nice lady there who explained everything, made us feel all at home and such. Meanwhile, all I could do was follow her instructions, well, because there was absolutely no where to go. Trying to accomplish this goal of learning how to be alone,
I was making great headway at this place. Got into my room, a nice double bed, and thought I would read, maybe watch a few movies; however, after dinner I was quickly befriended by a Russian girl. She was great! She had relatives in Ohio, spoke a bit of English but didn’t even try with me. We chatted for quite a few hours and her companionship easily took up my night.Next thing I knew, I had a roommate and we continued to chat well into the night. So much for being alone! I was well grateful of their company and more so their kindness and hell, if I get stuck in places like that every weekend, my Russian will excel so quickly!
This afternoon I caught a free shuttle back to the Moscow airport and began my quest to re-check in. This was a process. This guy was super annoyed already, asked me maybe 10 times whether I had my previous baggage tags, I didn’t. asked me 5 times if I had collected my baggage, I hadn’t. Searched the computer system, couldn’t find it. Complained because I hadn’t previously paid for extra baggage, made me pay and return. Complained because my hand luggage was also overweight, I told him my computer and camera were in there. Oh well, that’s okay then. And on I went, phew. Interesting, yesterday the airport in Piter let me on with food. Today Moscow let me in with water. Safety – woohoo! And I fully understood why there are so many plane crashes in Russia.. phones were going off before we took off, on the runway, AND before we even landed! that has to interfere with signal towers!! mind you, I was pulling my hair out. They’re really bad with rules… getting up and going to the bathroom when the seat belt light is on and we are obviously descending. getting out of their seats when on the runway after landing.. sheshh.
So I arrive in Astrakhan. I wait almost an hour for my luggage. I’m greeted by my host, Lena, and her boss, also Lena, whose entire family was there because her niece was just returning from a summer in Cambridge. This great old man, Lena (#2’s) husband and her son helped me with my luggage and absolutely insisted on doing it himself. He was quite a strong old man! Lena has a car and was going to drop me off at the dormitory, which
Russians always call “hostel”.. not sure on that translation. I suppose in most instances the dorms actually do resemble hostels. However, Lena first informs me that we must stop by her in-laws to get her husband’s keys, and then the grocery store, then maybe to her husband, if he immediately needs the keys, then ultimately to the dorm. So, we drive down this one lane dirt road with more potholes than Michigan roads and appear at a nice gated place, her in-laws. This place was amazing. They had a true Russian garden – apple trees, grapevines, rose bushes, mini-peach trees, and even pine trees! They fed me some peaches and cut me a few roses. fresh fruit! they were very nice, invited me over, etc. next stop was the grocery store, where Lena bought my things for me while I insisted it was the only time she would, and she insisted it was not. And now, I am sitting in the dorms. To be continued…