Our last flight, before Beijing, to get there and very pleasant it was too
28.06.2011 - 28.06.2011 30 °C
Chişinău, Moldova – Moscow, Russia
Taken back to the airport by the Hertz rental car agent the One World airline we were flying, S7, sounded more like a girl band than the operator of an extensive flight network throughout Russia and neighboring countries. Indeed, their advertising proudly bore that they had the most extensive network of any Russian carrier.
Arriving at check-in our respective Emerald and Sapphire status within the One World family has us treated as veritable rock stars, just without the groupies! A private escort through security and a special VIP bus to take just the two of us to the airplane, whilst the massed hordes crowded onto large purpose built buses, had us wondering how pleasant the service would have been if we had been travelling business class and not the heavily discounted economy tickets, that we were. On board the CSD (Cabin Services Director) introduced herself and did all she could to ensure we had the pleasant flight the whole team wanted. With S7 being the newest member of One World but having flown on all the One World airlines the remainder could learn a huge amount, in generating customer loyalty, by copying S7s treatment of passengers.
After a pleasant flight passport control at Domodedovo airport could only be described as a free-for-all scrum. Suddenly, thankful of the passenger organization at large airports all over the world the Russian authorities appeared to have decided that these simple measures, the prudent use of a few posts and rope were not required. In their place 300 plus people, most recently arrived from a variety of –stans, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, simply pushed and shoved for the attention of a handful of immigration officials. Periodically, a sternly suited official would shout at everyone, forcing the crowd back. For some time we remained at the rear of this throng of people. Unused to pushing and the lack of order we were a little outside of our area of expertise.
Finally, accepting that the situation was not improving and wondering if the best cause of action might be to throw a handful of dollar bills in the opposite direction of the immigration booths I flashed my UK passport at an official, near the rear of the hall. He immediately gestured that we should go upstairs to the section marked ‘Russian and Belarus nationals only’. The upper hall proved to be the haven of tranquility we had sought. The expected, western, queuing system was in place but hardly required for the handful of passengers that were using it. We were soon through immigration, bags collected and on our way into Moscow.
To avoid the ridiculous taxi fares of 100 USD, plus we opted for the Aeroexpress train into Moscow. This was straightforward, cheap and comfortable. From there the Metro would take us to our hotel. Yet with all signs posted in Cyrillic, only and maps of the Metro being limited to one per station or so it appeared we had more than a little fun figuring both the line and platform we required. Once on board our only option for determining our station was to count stops with announcements being made in Russian and no station platforms being marked with the name of the station on arrival, which would have been nice!
Yet, without getting lost or too confused we arrived at our hotel, checked in and soon prepared to explore the city with what time we had left. With tickets to collect for later stages of our Trans-Manchurian journey we completed administration tasks before heading for the classic Moscow sight – Red Square.
Surrounded by relatively mundane, Soviet style buildings and extensive road systems, which appear to be used as both car parks and travel routes simultaneously, Red Square is an oasis of spectacular sights in the centre of this sprawling, perpetually moving city. Our first surprise on reaching the square were the marauding packs of tourist taking their tour guide led trips around the sights. Whilst these had been a familiar sight in the Baltic’s our last two countries had not been the tourist magnets that clearly Red Square was. During our time in Moscow we were to see these tour groups passing through the square at 11pm at night, a sight I cannot remember seeing in any other major tourist city before.
Our second, not unexpected surprise, was the price of entry to the museums and the sights of Red Square. 15 USD seemed the starting rate, raising to nearly 50 USD for the Kremlin. Not without reason is Moscow labeled the most expensive city in the world.
Yet, with evening approaching we decided upon a tour of that classic Moscow sight, St. Basil’s cathedral. The crazy confusion of shapes and colors is a constant sight in Red Square. This ultimate symbol of Russia was created between 1555 and 1561 to celebrate the capture of Kazan by Ivan the Terrible. The misnomer ‘St Basil’s’ actually refers only to the northeastern chapel, which was added later.
Inside, each of the domes of the cathedral essentially house a chapel dedicated to a saint that, usually, inspired victory in some long distant battle. No longer a practicing church, the museum, houses fresh and vibrant frescoes and murals that impress, even after the many similar style churches that we have visited on this trip, to date. Visiting in the evening the tourist hordes are minimal and at times we are able to enjoy an entire church to ourselves.
Outside the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky bridge takes us across the Moscow River for a classic view of the Kremlin and Red Square.
With pictures taken and twilight fast approaching we return to our trusted Metro and head to north of the city, tracking down a recommended patisserie…for research purposes only, you understand.