Russia-Travel To Archangelsk-A Day In The Moscow Airport

January 18, 2006 A Day at the Moscow Airport

The taxi driver drove me to the airport, but dropped me off in the middle of street in front of the airport. I walked through the airport, but it was unclear how to get into the building, where to board flights, and what the protocol was. As with everything after a few stops and starts I managed to figure it out. The elevator was so tiny and was a omen of what was to come after having a lot of difficulty just getting my two pieces of luggage into the elevator. Taking apart the two pieces of luggage each time to carry them one at a time up the steps, down the steps many, many times feeling like a mouse caught in an unfriendly maze, rushing because I am worried about missing flight, frustrated that things are so difficult and no one to ask because everyone speaks Russian, I finally arrive at the right place!

The lady checking my ticket assured me I had plenty of time, but told me in broken English, I needed to pay extra money because my luggage was over 20kg pointing to the small print on my ticket. Bottom line- pay them extra money. I could pay $20 now in American money to them or go to some office and pay 1500 rubles. Guess what I chose to do. Then through the security line which for the most part proved uneventful. On board the flight from St. Petersburg to Moscow they served a choice of juice or water and gave coffee or tea along with a delightful chocolate covered candy bar wafer topped with nuts.

The plane didn’t take off right away so we were delayed an hour leaving for Moscow. I couldn’t understand what the delay was about because everything was spoken in Russian. I will spare you, dear reader, the agonizing details of missing my connecting flight along with the stress and strain of realizing had I known the language or been familiar with the protocols of registering for my connecting flight first then returning to get my luggage which took nearly 45 minutes to arrive, I would have been on time for my flight. I had to wait until 8 pm before boarding another plane in Moscow!

The airlines wanted to charge me an additional fee of $5600 rubles to take a flight at 3:25pm and told me the 8pm flight was full. Since it was not my fault I missed my flight, I stood my ground refusing to pay an additional fee and they finally stamped my ticket for the 8pm flight. With that worry aside, I called my contact, Irina, in Archangelsk to let her know of the delay and was surprised when the next five calls were hung up after a cough, or a few Russian words. Confused, I made a call to Holland, asking a friend to call Irina and find out what was wrong. Thankfully, I had been dialing the wrong number! Irina was anxiously waiting for me though much concerned about me and the cold. It was -36 ° in Archangelsk and schools had been officially closed all week!

A woman sat across from me holding a shopping bag from Belks, a store near my home in America. I asked if she spoke English. She was as delighted as I was to speak to someone who spoke English! Lada is married to American and lives in Florida now, but is here in Moscow waiting for her 6 pm connecting flight to visit her ill mother in Sochi. She had been traveling since 9am the previous day and she looked a bit tired. We had been talking and getting to know one another when suddenly Lada jumped up said that’s my name referring to the announcement being made over the intercom and rushed away. When she returned her friend, Venera who lives in Moscow was with her! I had hoped we would have spent the day sightseeing Moscow or take Venera’s offer to go to a restaurant where she worked, but Lada was afraid we would get stuck in the awful Moscow traffic and miss our flights. So Venera led us over to a restaurant in the airport. We ordered wine, chocolate and fruit and spent the day getting to know one another. Venera had brought pictures and I showed them pictures on my laptop and camera. Between Lada and Venera I began to understand a lot more about the plight of women in Russia.

According Lada, who was translating for Venera and me, Venera, though a Russian citizen couldn’t prove her citizenship because she had lived in the Ukraine for some time before returning to her native land. Venera is an excellent swimmer, but now there was no use for her skills. Venera was in a bit of a predicament, and was in between living places at the moment. Though told me Lada helped me to understand the stamp placed on my flight ticket assured me a space on the 8pm flight.

When I finally boarded my flight I sat next to the most delightful gentleman. Neither one of us could speak each other’s language, but we were able to piece together information about each other. He was so curious to find out why I was going to Archangelsk. He thought I was a performer! It turned out he was a pilot and was in route to next job. He told me about his son in school for architectural engineering and how much his son liked to race cars. It was fun “talking” to him, but quite an arduous process. The Pulkova airlines served a cold sandwich with a pickle slice on wheat type bread and a cup of tea or coffee without cream. The temperature was -30° Celsius. Irina, my host, and her father met me at the airport very concerned about the temperature. They insisted I get in the car immediately. Having been in extreme temperatures before, I was not concerned or cold. I had enough layers of silk and wool underneath my coat that the cold barely affected me. I also had a warm wool scarf covering my face so I was not cold and really I was surprised that they were as concerned. I did get a little cold waiting in the idling car while Irina and the driver retrieved my luggage. The thirty minute trip to Irina’s home flew by. She had prepared a virtual feast. Having spent the bulk of the day in Moscow’s airport with very little food I welcomed her preparations. There was chicken with fresh mushrooms she found in the forest, a dish made of potatoes, corn and croutons mixed with mayonnaise called “student’s salad” because it is so easy and inexpensive to make, tomato and red pepper salad, fresh canned pickles, dried bread with slices of cheese and cinnamon flavored wafers and lots of red wine!

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