Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Russia and Its Airports...A Tale of Epic Proportions

Alright so I apologize that I haven't written in close to 47 years. I'll make up for that this week, this is just the first one many (read: one or two more) to come this week.

This first post, while I won't go into detail about what I did over my break, will chronicle my amazing trip trying to leave Moscow. 

We last left off after I had spent Christmas Day on a bus/train with an alcoholic, lots of beer, vodka and dried fish and a train stuck for four hours, just 20 minutes away from the final destination and it would seem that Russia wasn't done with me, did not want me to leave....

We pick up as I begin getting ready to make my way to Domodedovo airport to catch my flights to Santo Domingo!

It was December 27 and I was sitting in my nice little hotel room, showered, shaved, packed and generally ready to make my way on a few longs flights to end up in a nice, warm, beautiful Santo Domingo!  

First you should know that my flight was supposed to leave on December 28 at 7:15 in the morning and if you've ever been to Russia, trying to get to the airport, with luggage, before the metro or aeroexpress (express trains from Moscow airports in the city) open, you know what a giant pain in the ass it is.  I figured my flight was going to be late or delayed some because it was winter and, well, c'mon it's Russia. Ain't nothing on time here.  So I wanted to get to the airport nice and early since it was an international flight and a bunch of flights had been canceled to the day before so I knew it would be packed.  To prepare for this early arrival, I figured I'd just stay up all night so I didn't miss my alarm to also start to adjust to the time difference between Russia and SD.  

To keep myself awake, I chose to read a book that had been given to me by some Scottish woman.  It was about spies and the KGB and Americans trying to get out of the Soviet Union alive.  Now if you know you're history, you know the KGB were good at making people disappear and readying a book of that nature the night before you're scheduled to leave country is NOT a good idea. Sure the USSR is gone and the KGB is now the FSB (more or less) and things are different, but it doesn't change the fact that you will freak out (alone) in your hotel room, waiting for some big guys with bad haircuts in black suits to burst into your room, make a joke at your expense (in Russian of course) and whip a black bag over your head and carry you away only to wake up in a windowless cell or worse, not wake up, but be found floating under the ice of the Moscow river.

Anyways, I went downstairs to the lobby at about 3:15. I had ordered a cab for 3:40 and waited diligently. But as I somewhat expected, there was never any cab, so the hotel people called once more, a nice 40 minute wait. Luckily though, a man whom I still maintain was drunk, had just brought a guy to the hotel and was willing to take me to the airport. So we threw my stuff in his car and speeded off.  

As we made our way to Domodedovo, I noticed that whole trees were bent nearly in half with the weight of ice, many hanging out onto the road and several had caused accidents already.  Miraculously we made it the airport without dying and I paid the man and left.  Now I should have taken the missing cab as the first bad omen, but I didn't.  I get inside to find that my flight, along with every other flight, had been canceled. So I made my way to the Lufthansa desk to see what could be done and here, dear Readers, is where the fun began.  

I got in line, with maybe 30 people in front of me.  This was at approximately 4:30 in the morning. By the time I reached the Lufthansa desk it was about 9:45. I had officially been up for 25 hours at that point.  Since there were no flights leaving that day, the lady managed to reroute me an Iberia flight through Madrid leaving at 7:15 the next morning.  So I had another 24 hours to kill with no hotel.  I decided to spend the evening in the airport.  

I rode the aeroexpress a twice as I found it a nice place to sleep: warm, comfy, and fairly quiet, though a bit expensive, but I didn't care since I hadn't slept in (at that time) about 27 hours.  I spent that day/night in a mixture of sleeping on the tile floors, reading and wandering about the airport drinking coffee and looking for outlets to plug my phone into.  It was pretty fun! (read with as much sarcasm as you can muster)  

At around 4:30 the next morning, I waited for my check-in to begin and begin it did!!  Again, if you've been to Russia, you know the Russian aversion to forming, and waiting, in a line.  This is normally not so bad at places like the airport but that morning was an exception.  I spent another 2 hours literally pushing my way to the front in order to check my bags and get my tickets. There was lots of screaming between people trying get in front of others, yelling between the guy at the desk, customers and other customers as to who deserved a ticket first or at all (my personal favorite was this idiot lady screaming about how it was her friend's birthday a few days ago so that entitled him to get tickets before the rest of us and then some Belorussian guy responding that she was, in fact, a bitch and he could give a shit about her friend's birthday).  There were a lot of douchey Russians without luggage coming and pushing their way to the front since they could without luggage. They would then proceed to whip out their passport, along with 5 of their friends and then their friends who actually HAD all the luggage would split the waiting crowd like Moses did the Red Sea, causing a tumult among the waiting patrons as our positions were continuously reshuffled.  My backpack kept smacking some short girl in the face and despite repeated requests to move it, I stayed my course, said nyet and sweated my ass off until I was finally able to get my bag checked and get my ticket.  

Security was a breeze which was great and once I got through I realized that Lufthansa had been quite kind and put me on first class...allllllllllll the way to Santo Domingo, including the 9 hour flight from Madrid to the DR, but I'll get to that in a second.  Anyways, our flight left two hours late (of course) and I thought for a time we wouldn't make it as the snow was coming in sideways and from 8 different directions.  Yet we made it and we were up and up and up.  

I slept from Moscow to Madrid and didn't take much advantage of the first class privileges, though being a short flight there weren't many.  My flight from Madrid was also delayed for an hour, but we made it and there was where first class really strutted its stuff.  Have y'all ever flown a trans-oceanic flight on first class? If you haven't then I pity you because it is ridiculous. We've all seen the seats as we make our back to the poor man's section as we look on with jealous and hatred and those dumb enough (and rich enough) to fork out the extra thousands of dollars to seat and live with like gods.  

Yes my seat made into a bed and it was glorious! Yes I was given all sorts of free alcohol and it was glorious!  Yes I had delicious Spanish and Italian meals on the flight and they. were. GLORIOUS! Marvel at me as you walk in my wake; in the path of a man who has sat in the heavens, dined with lords and drank the nectar of the gods! Yes! MARVEL FOR I HAVE ACHIEVED IMMORTALITY!!!

Okay not quite, but seriously, it was amazing and sitting economy will forever be even more depressing than it normally is, what with its crying babies, fat, smelly people, terrible food and overpriced alcohol and broken TV screens.  

So Dear Readers, I wish I was rich so I could once again fly with winged gods, but alas I shall forever be stuck among the peasantry of the skies, waiting hopelessly for my name to be called and immortality to be restored....

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