A year in Russia
5am, we arrived at Gatwick for my flight to Moscow. Checked-in my luggage, said some farewells to Ma and Pa, and off through security I went. Really quite seamless. As ever, I got a ‘random check’ and enjoyed a frisk.
I had a list of things that I needed to do in Duty Free: buy my host a gift; buy a toothbrush/brush teeth as having packed my toothbrush in my hold luggage I was feeling fairly grotty (rudimentary mistake); get a sandwich for my flight. I had half an hour until my gate closed.
Managed to buy the toothbrush and whizz around the Harrods store whom I’d like to thank for having the most visible gift-like generic British items which really eased my pain. A red bus keyring and a tin of English Toffees later, I had 10 minutes to get to my gate.
In my first wrong turn (literally) I started by heading the opposite way needed to get to the gate. After realising my error, I managed to find my gate in the nick of time and was the last one through, so had no time to brush my teeth or answer the call of nature, plus was feeling a little flustered as I boarded the plane.
Flight: Standard really. Struggled slightly to lift my bag into the overhead storage. Saw a man pick his nose and eat it. Napped. Awoke. Went to the loo to brush my teeth (finally) and opened the door on a man just past the unzipping stage. The shock of that encounter brought me out of my post-nap daze. Please, please, remember to lock the door when you go to the loo on an aeroplane…please. I was calmed when my mp3 shuffle chose the classic that is the Ninja Turtle Rap by Vanilla Ice. When that sweet melody came on I just knew that everything would be okay.
If you have ever been to Russia before, I do not need to tell you about the GARGANTUAN queues at border control. It took at least an hour for me to get through, during which I chatted with a Lithuanian guy who was visiting his girlfriend while eyeing up all the rather striking Russian ladies in their airport uniforms and saw a young British lady realise that her handbag wasn’t in her bigger hand-luggage case which meant she didn’t have her passport/purse/phone. I hope she found it, but lets all just learn a lesson from her situation. Do not let these items wander.
I then had two hours to kill in Moscow Domodedovo. Having found my way from arrivals to departures (really not difficult even taking my lack of sleep into account), I tried to find my check-in desk (регистрация по-русский). Eyed up the big screens, my flight was listed saying check-in opened at 17.55. Well, guess when my flight was due to depart. 17.55. Two initial thoughts: this is incorrect/maybe the airline is so cheap I roll my suitcase out with me. I decided it must be the former and trundled my way to the information desk for my first foray into the Russian language.
It went something like this (but in Russian obviously);
Me: Where’s check in for flight YQ-777?
Her: Look on the board
Me: But the TV is wrong
At this point she looked at me as though to say ‘these foreigners never fail to both waste my time nor surprise me with their stupidity- the TV is never wrong’.
Well guess what buddy, it was that day. She phones someone, asks where the gate is and off I go to gates 157-160, but when I get there the info says some other airline name and a flight to Voronezh for 18.44. I was somewhat confused. Now is the time that I would have thought that panic I was expecting in my Living the Dream post might hit, but alas. I looked at my watch, it was only 15.30 so I figured I’d give it an hour and re-evaluate the situation then. Got some lovely jasmine tea and sat down for a chat with a Swiss guy who complained about how soaked his shoes were due to the torrential downpour hitting the mean streets of Moscow that day. It was all very relaxed. Only incense and some meditative music could have lowered my blood pressure any more.
16.30- the TV had updated and was now showing check-in as open at the aforementioned gates so this time despite the strange signing I went on up and lo-and-behold the lady was right all along! I had to pay an excess on my luggage due to weight so after offloading my suitcase I was directed to another desk to hand over some roubles and then return with the receipt in exchange for my boarding pass.
Security was quick and easy, they have those big scanners which take a photo of you naked even though you’re clothed so no frisking- woo!
Having arrived at my gate, I had plenty of time to people watch. Queue this gem.
We had to take a bus out to the plane and this is where I had my first experience of Russian values; the step up to the bus was pretty high and as I reached down to the main handle on my hand luggage (not the extendible one) a man swiftly took hold of it, said ‘помощь’ (help) and up it went. I was almost too surprised to say спасиба (thanks)!
There were only about 30 travellers on this flight and the plane was tiny- it actually had visible propellers. The overhead luggage compartments were incredibly small. If you took maximum size Easyjet hand luggage, it will not fit up there. I had to squeeze my stuff between my seat and the seat in front and sit really awkwardly the entire flight, this is not only bad for possible DVT’s but due to little old ladies ranting at you for preventing their seat from reclining.
Flight: the engine was fairly noisy but quietened down once we were in the air. This was entirely made up for with the boiled sweets given out before take off to help prevent ears from popping.
Voronezh Airport is rather humble in its size. You cannot get lost. I was collected by my landlady Женния (Jennya- yeah yeah Jenny and Jennya) who studies English at Voronezh State University and is renting me a room and her brother-in-law Стан (Stan). Stan again shocked me by refusing to let me help him carry my bags and at one point wasn’t even rolling them; one was 29kg and the other fairly heavy too!
Time to get settled 🙂