Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Travel to Russia Feb 2015

My plan after leaving Russia last May was to return on a regular basis in order to continue moving towards academic cooperation and cultural understanding.

I bought tickets to Moscow(very inexpensive) and planned to travel Monday Feb. 16 in the evening to Moscow---then traveling Tuesday evening to Saratov(15 hours by train), arriving Wednesday morning.

Monday, weather got I the way. it began snowing round 2pm as Janet prepared to deliver me to Dulles airport----the weather reports had begun to change, predicting 6-8 inches of snow. My wife said good-bye to me at security and I prepared to embark on a 2 week trip to Saratov. I was worried about her drive home....the airport is an hour drive from our home in Hyattsville, Maryland, but Janet was driving our Subaru which is great in snow. The same cannot be said for other drivers in the Washington area. The worst culprits are those who drive the BMW( an oxymoron--the ultimate driving machine). Something about driving german cars makes DC residents complete idiots.

Anyway, I boarded my plane, a United/Brussels Airlines flight at around 5pm. The ordeal then commenced. The plane was supposed to take off at 5:45pm. First we waited an extra hour for a bunch of high school kids on some kind of school trip to Europe----then invaded by hordes of noisy, stinky Vermont teenagers. Snow falling outside was at around 4 inches. If this had been Moscow, nobody would have batted an eye, but in DC, 4 inches is a national emergency. Pilot began to come on the intercom every 15-20 minutes explaining that we were in a line for de-icing. Minutes began to turn into hours. I tried to breathe deeply. I needed to catch a flight to Moscow Domodevo Airport in Brussels where I had a two hour layover. I watched that two hours go by. They opened the door to the terminal so people could bail out. I did not bail, but I remained calm knowing that at worst I would go home. Snow continued to fall. The. cue for de-icing began to grow. It was 10 F outside and snow falling heavily. Finally around 11pm, 5 hours later, we taxied to de-icing, the plane was deluged with the solution and about 11:30pm, took off. I knew I was now not making my connection to Moscow nor was I making my train to Saratov on Tuesday evening.Those train tickets were going to be a loss.

We arrived in Brussels at around 1pm, several hours late. I'd missed my connection by 4 hours. United was waiting at the gate----they'd re-booked me on Lufthanza to Frankfurt, then an Aeroflot flight to Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport, arriving at wrong airport at 11pm. I now needed to take a taxi, get a hotel, and try to escape to Saratov the next day.

I got some cash from Sverbank ATM in airport---found a taxi driver--negotiated an approximately $50 fare to an Ibis hotel near the paveletsky station where I could get a new train ticket to Saratov. My driver was all fired up about a football/soccer game involving Chelsea---they have a good Russian player---I was able to carry on a reasonable conversation about football with him though he spoke no English. He kindly drove me around the city center, pointing out the Kremlin and the Bolshoi theatre before depositing me at the hotel. I slept like a dog, waking at around 9am. I then got up, walked to the Voksal, bought a ticket to Saratov---all in Russian!!!(I am improving at glacial speed but improving nonetheless). I must check out this afternoon, train leaves at 6pm. Then 15 hours, arriving in Saratov at 9am.
Moscow is a bit balmy-- not much snow or ice---temps around 20F. This city is like London---everyone busy and hurrying, but my second time here is low stress.

All for now. I miss my wife and pups but will see some dear friends soon.

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