Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Moscow Day 3 - Novokuznetsk Day 1 Morning

These two days ran together, literally. By the time it was all said and done, we were up for 31 hours with sporadic 30 minute naps.

The third day in Moscow was not that exciting. We had to check out at noon, but our driver was not coming until 5:00pm. We slept in as long as possible, and then hung out in the lounge for the afternoon eating the complementary snacks - it became clear we were unsure when our next meal would be.

Traffic in Moscow is horrible as mentioned. We asked our driver about the typical "rush hour." He replied from about 6am to 10am, and again from 3pm to 8pm. And we thought Cincinnati was bad. The airport was 46km from the hotel (about 28 miles), which is about how far the Cincinnati airport is from my house. The drive took over 2 hours, and there were no accidents, no rain, just traffic.

We arrived at the airport and checked in with plenty of time to spare. Fortunately, all the airport signs were in English so it was easy to locate the gate and restrooms. Unfortunately, none of the menus at any of the cafes were in English, and few employees spoke English, so we settled for some bottled waters, coca-cola, and Russian chocolate from one of the shops.

Russia has a very loose open container policy, in that if you can open it, you can drink it. One of our guide books actually said that Russians love their beer as much as they love their vodka. It's true. We especially enjoyed the airport vending machine that dispensed the canned beer along with the coca-cola. We didn't get a picture of it, but laughed none the less.

There are 3 major airports in Moscow. One handles primarily international flights and is the major hub for Aeroflot, the Russian airline. Delta flies into this airport. One we didn't see, and the other handles primarily domestic and some international flights. This airport was very unique in that it had gates for planes to park, but didn't use them. All the plane parked on the tarmac, and passengers were shuttled to and from. Russia has similar airline policies as the US, including to stay in your seat until the plane is parked and the captain turns off the fasten seat belt sign. Well, since Russians are used to the plane just stopping and parking in any location, 95 percent of passengers are up, in the aisle, ready to deplane as soon as the wheel hit the runway.

So we start boarding at 10pm. We walk out the door onto a bus, which takes us out to the tarmac, up the staircase (I felt a bit important at that point), and onto the plane. The planes were the same larger aircraft you would expect to see in the US. We left at 10:30 for a 4 hour flight that would get us to Novokuznetsk at 6:30am (or 2:30am if we are still talking Moscow time). This particular airline served a full meal about an hour into the flight. The Russian "red eye" is not the same as the American counterpart. The flight attendants spoke enough English to know that I didn't speak Russian, and to tell me my choices were chicken, beef or fish. I went with chicken. The food was airline food, nothing spectacular.

Russians like their airplanes hot. About halfway through the flight Steve and I could no longer sleep and were shedding as many extra clothes as possible. All those around us seem to be completely ok with the temperature. We finally arrive at our destination and welcomed the cold Siberian air. All others on the plane had heavy coats and hats on before the plane landed.

Novokuznetsk is an industrial town of about 700,000 located in the Kemerovo region of Siberia. This area is tucked in between Kazakhstan and Mongolia. Our translator would tell us that the town is one of the largest steel and coal producing towns in Russia, but since the global economic downturn, the jobs and the industry are drying up.

The drive from the airport to the hotel was about a half hour. The countryside reminded us a bit of Montana mixed with West Virginia...wide open spaced, rolling landscapes, mountain in the distance, small houses that by American standard would be considered dirty and dilapidated. The city itself is what I imagine Pittsburgh must have looked like just after the height of it's steel hayday. There was nothing that stood out about the city, no fancy buildings, no bright signs. Most buildings were high rise apartment buildings that reminded me of the southside of Chicago. To be honest, it was a bit sad. Very few cars were on the roads as public transportation or walking are the preferred methods.

We arrived at the hotel at 7:30am, and by the time we got checked in it was almost 8:00. The orphanage was expecting us at 10:00, so we needed to leave at 9:30. We had an hour and a half to prepare ourselves for the days adventures.

The hotel room was nice. It was a suite, by American standards, two rooms, bed in one, couch and tv in the other, fridge, tea pot (would prove to be gold later), bathroom. The showers in Russia were very small, at all the hotels. Russians do not have traditional tubs like in American, and the shower often is located in a corner, and is the size of a matchbox. One wrong move of the elbow while washing the hair and you could get freezing or scalding water. For those who don't know Steve, he is a larger man...6 foot, 270. I'm pretty sure that when he stood on the diagonal, he touched both the door and the shower control knob. For those of you who know Steve, you just realized how small this shower really is. Needless to say, I heard many joyous shouts from the bathroom.

Ok, there really is too much here for one post. There is so much that happened at the orphanage that I want to capture is all. Stay tuned...I promise the photos are coming!


jabillups85 said...

Thanks for the unsettling images of Steve. I have tried to purge those after being his roommate in college.

Snobound said...

So glad y'all made it home safely. I am anxious to read the rest of your trip story and see the photos of your boys. Thank you for sharing this adventure with the world.