Adopting from Russia (2003)
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Toronto, Sunday night, 7PM, August 10th
On arrival at Terminal 1 in Toronto, we found our way to the Lufthansa line to check in. It was quite long, but was moving fast. When it was our turn, the clerk asked if we wanted to check our bags all the way through. He had initially said it wasn't a good idea, but that was when he thought we were staying a few days in Moscow. When he realized we were moving right on to Ekaterinburg he said no problem, he'd check them all the way through.
That sounded like a good idea, and it would mean we wouldn't have to pick up our bags in Moscow and drag them around the city for the 7 hours while we were in the city.
That was mistake #1.
Our flight departure was delayed ½ hour, but we got underway at 10pm. It was a 747 and they really had crammed rows in, so there wasn't a lot of leg room in our row, 2 from the back of the plane. We were on the left side of the middle section of seat config 3-4-3. It was an uneventful flight, and was scheduled for 6 hours 40 minutes. Drinks, dinner, movie and a rest, but not really sleep. Not enough room to get comfortable.
Frankfurt, Monday Morning, 11am, August 11th
A quick 2 hour stop in Frankfurt was spent in the waiting lounge, with enough time to buy some toothbrushes and a drink.
On to Moscow on the 2nd leg, which was uneventful, and in the middle of the day, so no ability to sleep, though we tired..
Moscow, Monday Afternoon, 6pm, August 11th
In Moscow, the immigration was pretty uneventful. In some lines, couples got to go up together, but in our line our immigration officer was very "by the book" and we were distinctly told "one only".
There were no problems though and after checking our visas against the computer, we were waved right in to the baggage area.
With no luggage, and less than $3000 US cash, and no mobile phone we headed right through the "nothing to declare" exit. The officer asked "no luggage?". We said no, and went right through.
Searching for our rep Olga, we quickly saw her Nash/Riley sign and went over to greet her. She immediately asked "where's your luggage?". On answering that it was checked right through, she wisely decided that that was not a good thing and she quickly searched out the Lufthansa representatives, who checked their computer screens, walkie talkied their baggage people and started to trace our bags. Soon they were turning the computer monitor so we could read the warning on the Lufthansa screen that says, "Under no circumstance, book luggage through, or severe consequences will be had with Customs"!
Long story short, we had to go back into the baggage pickup area, and retrieve our bags that were sitting in arrivals beside the belt. We then had to go through the red flagged "to declare line" since we had broken protocol and our Visas and customs declarations were checked and our bags were x-rayed. Once again we passed, and we were off to meet Olga again.
We were out, and we were in Moscow, Russia.
Despite being extremely tired from lack of sleep on the plane(s), we decided that we would like to see some of Moscow in the few hours we had. After a brief chat with Olga, we headed to downtown Moscow. The terminal is situated outside the city about 20 miles or so. We were quickly in the city, going opposite the rush-hour traffic which was leaving the city. The city is 11 million people, but you wouldn't really think that.
We drove past the Christ the Saviour Russian Orthodox church that was recently built on the spot where a church had been torn down by Stalin and a swimming pool put in its place. We drove along the Moscow River, past the Peter the Great monument, and Gorky Park, and made a quick stop at Red Square and the Kremlin. Red Square is now closed due to terrorism, which means no visit to Lenin's tomb on our return trip, let alone the square itself.
After pictures in front of St Basils, we were back in the car for our return trip, past the Bolshoi, KGB Headquarters, the Victory gate, and the monument to Yuri Gagarin.
A whirlwind tour, but well worth it, just to be able to say we'd seen some of Moscow. We headed back to the domestic terminal for a short rest, and a cup of tea (no American style coffee to be had!!!) and a bag of chips.
Olga waited till our flight was announced, and watched as we went through the metal detectors, and got our boarding passes. We still had a 60 minute wait till our flight boarded, and that time was spent reading and people watching.
We boarded our Aeroflot plane, and were on the window side of seats "D-E-F". The lights in the cabin, were never dimmed so no real chance to sleep. The plane was full, and after take off, there was drink service, then "dinner" (at 2am "pickled salmon, cream cheese, rye bread, vegetable salad, roll and butter.."). Although we both tried to sleep, I don't think either of us slept during the 2 ½ hour flight.
By the time of our arrival in Ekaterinburg at 5:30am, we had gone through 10 hours of time change, 12 hours of flight time, and 9 hours of waiting. We were there, in one piece, but we were exhausted. Plus we had "lost" a day, since we had left at 10pm Sunday, and it was now 5:30am Tuesday. Toronto time, it was still 7:30pm Monday!!
... to Ekat First visit