Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Russia Trip 25th & 26th June

Monday 25th June,

David, Struggling with his bags, being Yelled at to hurry by mother, knocked over a tin of blue paint. It went all over his shoes and the tiled floor. As the train was due to leave, he had to leave in on the floor to dry.

- Train was late, the starter was at stop with nothing in front of thr tain, as we were waiting to leave the train, the lady in front of me collapsed against the door. I dropped the bags I was carrying to grab her and had to yell at a man to help me get her off the train so other commuters could alight. The guard was no where to be seen. (They are supposed to monitor the passengers getting on and off) Got passengers, David and Mother to help carry her to the platform seat. Called Garry (Signaller @ Campbelltown) to get a station assistant to go and sit with her.

- The map in the travel diary has the funniest errors.

- Discovered Singapore Airlines have great uniforms. The ladies are a best a size 2. TVs in all the seats so the 5 hours to Singapore was a breeze. Films I managed to watch were Ghost Rider, and La Via En Rose.

- We saw a live Volocano.


- Singapore Airport is HUGE! It has a little Train (It is a bus really) to shuttle the passengers from T2 to T1. Has 24 hour food courts and accept any currency as payment but give Singapore Dollars as change. XL in Singapore is a size 12 and the sales lady insisted that it would stretch to fit, but David told here that would be indecent.. Chuckle...

- There are free foot and leg massagers in the airport, but finding an unoccupied one is a challenge.

Plane to Moscow stops at Dubai. 33-38oC and me in trackies! David was lucky and got off the plane.

They said I would have to take ALL the hand luggage so I baulked at this idea and stayed on the plane. The Russian lady next to David also stayed when she found this out, and she and I managed to have a inpromptue Russian language lesson. She was happy with the words I used. :) The Dubai Sercuity team swept the plane and asked us the passports and boardoing passes. Singapore Airlines boarding passes are tiny and are hard to find quickly. We were asked three times by different people if the luggage near us was ours. The luggage that was unclaimed by us was removed from the plane. You would have thought that this information would have been given out but no. David returned with some badly needed shorts from the sports shop in Dubai. Dubai airport is undergoing renovations and so had only one runway open. We had to join a queue to take off. (And land we circled for ages before we got a slot). Cabin Staff (new ones) were strict with the blinds, they had to be DOWN! (The sun is coming you see hmm in 5 hours time) but they were obsessed. Tell an Aussie you can’t do something and we rebel. I had the blind part way up and watched the sun rise over Iran. I hate all the wondows closed. It is so much smaller in the plane.

Tuesday 26 June 2007

Arrived at Moscow on time

(Actually 10 minutes early). As our luggage was booked through to St Petersburg, we walked to passport control and then past the baggage claim to Customs. We found you only have declare anything over the value of US$10K so we just passed through. They waved us through actually. David was amazing. He read no Russian but had this blood hound ability to find our flights check in counter, where we pretended to be British and queued. I watched the flights tick off as their boarding closed. The queues are very slow and most things are done manually. NO high tech check in here. They had to put stickers on the hand luggage for some reason. We almost ran to the next security check point where they checked our tickets, passport and boarding pass. Off to security (Another one) where we had to take off our boots and but on booties. We almost had to pass through nude but we managed. We looked hysterical in our little blue booties.. After that checkpoint, David dragged an exhausted me up hill to the gate, where we only had to wait for 10minutes for the flight to board. Another small check point (No 5) with the passport and boarding pass only and we made it to this very OLD tupalov plane. It was so small David and I had to duck to get into the plane. We found the hand luggage did not fit in theoverhead lockers, them being the size of a small handbag. I shoved my backpack under my seat only to find my seat did not stay upright. David looked and fixed that. (Go David handyman) We jammed ourselves into this little plane finding that our legs were too long for the allotted leg room. Both of us had our knees in the back of the seat in front, which then fell forwards by themselves. David and I got sore knees and it was the longest Hour flight ever. Next time the bus! I have travelled in Cessnas with more leg room. We were surprised that the Russians all had their mobile phones on and were received and making calls during the flight, taxiing and takeoff/landing. The no smoking sign has to be turned on and off anf people smoke in the terminal. We got a sandwich, yoghurt and coffee with a bar of chocolate for lunch.

St Petersburg

Arrived missing 4 kneecaps and stubbled off the plane grateful for surviving the flight and also not to be on another plane for 5 weeks. YAY! We finally met a rep from the company. He took us to the baggage claim where our bags totally failed in their duty to turn up. Go luggage!. We asked lost and found and she tracked the luggage to Moscow. It was going back on the plane for Singapore. ARRGHH! She arranged for Customs in Moscow to hold it in Moscow and we would meet it in 3 days when we returned to Moscow. Goodie! 4 days in the same underwear. I don’t think so! We left the problem with her plotting all sorts of revenge on the airline who lied to us.
Stupidly got into a mini bus. All the people in the in this city are totally insane. They use none of the road rules and have no respect for even the direction of the road. Ie in a one way street, they drive anyway that they choose. We later go into a car that ended up doing 160km/hr in a 60km zone. We asked if there was a speed limit in Russian cities “Oh yes! It is 60km/hr”....”for most people. This seems to be the thinking when on the roads.** A tip for travellers** Stay off the roads! The drivers see a green light and go. If pedestrians are in the way, well that is too bad. A Volvo driver nearly took out some of our fellow travellers and they were on the foot path. He decided the footpath was a good place to drive. Nuts!

The locals are lovely, friendly people. They also want you to have a favourable impression and will fall over backwards to help you, except if you are dawdling. There they push you along. David was upset with the lost luggage and I was so tired that I was nearly in tears and we were nipping at each other. (Ok I was nipping David was trying to remain calm) We found a Supermarket where we could buy cheap Russian t-shirts, undies and socks, but our credit cards didn’t work! Horrors! We slunk off to find either a clothes store OR a bank/money exchange. We were lucky, we found a bank. With Roubles in hand we hit the franklins (OK it wasn’t but it was that level of quality) David, then went to the Metro, as we had missed our first tour. He managed to find a friendly security guard who explained in part sentences and sign language how to ride the metro. We are not allowed to photograph the system, as it is still used for storing food, and emergency bomb shelters, but as I said before, tell and Aussie NOT to do something and we will find a way. David managed to get a few photos. Dunno how but he did. The trains that run in the city are 2 minutes apart and you can travel anywhere for 14roubles (US$0.56) .

We arrived back at the hotel to find the tour operator waiting for us. The lovely man had argued our case and I found out later the whole local office where helping to retrieve our luggage. The combined efforts got our luggage to St Petersburg Airport but that was all they could do. A luggage claim chit was needed to get them from the airport, so at 2100hrs local time made another hair raising ride to the airport (see 160km/h story above)

For the people who care, a breakfast at MacDonalds here is 10roubles (US$0.50) The public toilets at also 10r in the city and 15 at tourist traps. (Free the pee!)
It is 1am and St Petersburg is in it White Night season. Amazing! It is as light as day at 1am 2am etc. Whilst the sun does set, it doesn’t go low enough to let the night go dark. I am very glad to have seen it. When they say this city doesn’t sleep they are not kidding!