Sunday September 23rd, 2012 will be a day we remember for a long time. On this day we exited holiday mode in Dubai, and made our way to Moscow, arriving mid afternoon. Well, nothing could have prepared us for Moscow, after the modernity, cleanliness, efficiency and order of Dubai, we found the direct opposite in Moscow. After disembarking we made our way towards passport control, expecting a few difficult questions to get through, but it all went rather smoothly, just took a while as the officious young customs officer made sure that we all looked like our photos and I signed all the right documents. From there it was onto baggage collection. Well after having been through Sydney and Dubai, this seemed totally chaotic, you basically had to walk to the opposite end of the baggage terminal to collect a trolley then all the way back to collect your bags, you then made your way all the way back past where you picked your trolley up from, in a baggage hall where they didn't leave much extra room for manouveuring a fully laden luggage trolley around.
Now in a normal international airport it is generally pretty clear cut what you have to do next, you fill in an immigration form, hand it to an immigration officer they scan your bags or ask you to open them up and then you are on your way. Well Moscow is no normal airport, here you only fill in a form if you have over $US10,000 cash on you to declare, if you do this you go through the Red lane and they obviously check you out, but if you don't have this amount of money on you, then you don't need to fill in a form, you then choose whether to present your bags to the customs officers or just leg it through the door, so we just made a bee line for the door and slipped on out into the chaos that is the arrivals lounge. We were met by a couple of the girls Angela will be working with and whisked out the door. It was a rainy day in Moscow that day and unlike most other significant international airports we have encountered in our travels, there are no awnings or shelter at Domededovo Airport once you walk through the door, so it was straight out into the rain.
Welcome to Moscow....
One thing that struck us in the car park which was a warning as to what life in Moscow was going to be like was the utter chaos, there seem to be rules in Russia but only if you can be bothered to follow them. There was no set route for vehicles entering and exiting the park or for picking up and setting down, it is just a free for all. A driver will park a car where ever they can find a space and the rule of the road seems to be done by horn, so there is a constant cacophony of horns as everyone demands to be let through, in, out, around or wherever. Anyway after waiting about 20 minutes in the rain for our bus, there is a 1 hour ride into Moscow along roads crowded with Muscovites returning from their weekend Dachas.
Finally we arrive at our apartment block, an imposing looking Stalinist style monstrosity, and are taken up to our 4th floor apartment. Our little lift shaft serves 4 units on each floor, there are 17 floors and I would estimate at least 4 such lift shafts in our building, so I am guessing there are over 250 separate apartments in our complex alone. We go up the lift and enter a little lobby where we have to unlock this solid steel door, enter another lobby and lock the first door behind us, the second lobby serves 4 units, we unlock our door, walk into our apartment, drop our bags and head down to the nearest Supermarket to pick up some food for tea. Here we find that we can't understand a word anyone says, can't make out what 90% of the items on the shelves are, and anything that we can recognise has generally passed its use by date by a couple of weeks (or more). So we settle on a Pizza that had only just expired. Back up to our "furnished" apartment and assess our situation, our furnishing consists of;
- 3 beds with 1 thin duvet, a bottom sheet and a pillow each
- a sofa and a couple of chairs in the lounge
- dining room table and chairs
- TV's with Russian channels only
- 4 forks
- 1 knife
- 4 dinner plates
- 4 pudding plates
- 4 cups
- 4 table spoons
- 1 teaspoon
- 2 fry pans and 2 large pots
- 4 handtowels (to be used as towels...)
After travelling all that way, and finding this was all we had, Molly couldn't take it and broke down, and wanted to go back home. Admittedly that first night was rather difficult to see out as we slept in what felt like a fourth floor jail cell and potential death trap as we were only aware of 1 way out and that was down the lift, which I am sure wouldn't work in an emergency. I don't think any of us really slept that night, so were still rather exhausted the next day. Luckily on Monday we managed to find a fire escape from our floor so put our minds at ease at least on the safety issue.