03.09.2015 - 03.09.2015
At last I am able to write my journal of the last gulp 11 days. OMG. What an adventure. So happy to be on this trip. So, at present waiting to depart Gare de Lyon in Paris for Mulhouse in Eastern France.
Long flight from Sydney to Moscow via Dubai. Arrived at night. Getting through Immigration was a nightmare. Only four gates open for non-Russians. Those travellers "in the know" pushed and shoved their way in front of the rest of us but the whole process of "being processed" took forever and some people were escorted to rooms by officials wearing ginormous hats. The larger the hat, I guess the more official the person. I found out later that If Russians smile, it is an indication they are "crazy"! Therefore no-one smiles. The Russians in official positions appear unfriendly and unhappy though they may not really be that way with their family and friends. I met a two Australians in the "queue/mosh pit" waiting to be processed and and a lovely girl who teaches English in Moscow. She told me (in really good English) that this queue was common in Moscow. All the time waiting, I envisioned my luggage rotating on the carousel and perhaps even being taken by someone. Relieved to be processed after one hour in the mosh pit, I located my luggage in a row of other bags from the same flight .... taken off the carousel by a porter. No one was there to check if the luggage belonged to the right person! Scary stuff, but all OK. Left the airport to walk in the rain, the 250 metres to the Airport Hotel where I was to spend my first night in Moscow. Tired and exhausted, the hot shower was a relief. Breakfast the next morning provided an insight into Russian food. Some was recognisable but the suspect tiny sausages I chose to leave in the bain-marie. Coffee and the usual muesli and yogurt was all I felt like. had to pay by debit card as I had forgotten to get rubles from one of the ATMs in the Airport.
It was a recovery morning and the receptionist said ..... "you stay until midday" in a tone that was very strict. I think she really meant that I could leave at midday. It was authoritative and very typical of Russian tone of speech. Checking out and heading to the Aero Express Train to Moscow was the easy part. Absolutely no signs in Moscow (except brand names) are translated to any alternate language. I relied in symbols to get around. However, arriving at Moscow Central Station and remembering to use an ATM for rubles, I couldn't locate the entrance or ticket office to the Metro to get to the station near the Holiday Inn in Suschevsky. Showing a few ticket officers the address of my hotel and the name of the station didn't help. I queued up and a window that looked promising. It was a few minutes before 4pm and I needed to be at the hotel by 6pm to meet the Tour Director. Getting two the window to buy a ticket, it was just after 4pm and the ticket lady spoke only Russian and very quickly told me it was after 4pm and she was closed. When I shrugged my shoulders to indicate I didn't understand, she got her sign and moved it to the window, pointing furiously. I asked some security where was the Metro and they pointed. After going up and down in a lift and into an underground shopping area, I gave up trying to find the Metro entrance and got a taxi. I never did find where to buy a ticket. The traffic on the road was horrendous. It was Friday afternoon. I was to find out later that a large number of Moscovians live in the city in flats during the week and leave work at 2pm on Fridays to go to their houses (dumas) outside the main city for the weekend, travelling back in on Monday mornings. I felt a bit apprehensive about this journey and if the driver knew where I wanted to go. Thank goodness for "google maps". I'd checked before leaving Australia what the surrounds looked like so I was relieved to see a "familiar" elevated roadway and then the Holiday Inn. Day 1 was not over yet ... it had only just begun!!!