Advertisements

From Russia with NO Love

2 Feb

Walking down the never-ending hallway of LEFT luggage....

I suppose it is not really fair to use the phrase “NO Love” when, in fact, we did feel a Dr. Zhivago and Lara kind of love during our time in Russia.  That said, it is very fair to say that immediately upon arrival, we felt NO love.

It all started when Aeroflot decided to cancel the redeye flight from Beijing.  This forced us to take the morning flight 12 hours earlier than intended and add an overnight in Moscow.  Honestly, we were thrilled.  Our original plan was to visit Saint Petersburg only. Now we had the opportunity to see their capital city and experience some serious Russian nightlife!  I immediately booked a hotel  – just feet from Red Square and began chatting with the concierge about bookings for the evening.  Thanks to our great friend, Michael Davitiashvili and his wonderful recommendations, we were set with a 9PM dinner at Pushkin on the 2nd floor in their romantic Library room, 11:30 after dinner drinks and dancing at Karlson, and a 2AM reservation for dessert and more dancing at the Soho Rooms.  It could have been the perfect evening…but as you may have guessed by now – we never made it.

Perhaps it was excitement that clouded our judgement or perhaps it was just plain ignorance, but neither Brett nor I thought about the implications that arriving to Russia 12 hours earlier might have on our Visas.  You see – getting into Russia is not a cake walk.  The visa application alone is quite comprehensive – requiring all sorts of personal history including details of education, employment, and family.  Somehow – even after completing this lengthy process, it still did not occur to us that our Visas would have such rigid arrival and departure dates.  After all, every other country we have visited that requires Visas (which of late has been almost all of them) offers a window of at least 30 days for arrival and departure.  We now know (after learning by way of quarantine) that Russia is an exception.

The truth is – we noticed the specificity of the dates on our Visas for the first time as we were filling out our immigration arrival cards at 30,000 feet just 30 minutes before landing in Moscow.  Initially is seemed like a cause for concern, but our flight attendants assured us that everything would be fine.  In retrospect, I believe that they were just trying to shelter us from our inevitable fate; and that they didn’t want to disrupt our last glass of champagne before being thrown to the immigration wolves. I may have done the same thing…I mean – who wants to be the bearer of bad news if you don’t have to be?

When we got to the immigration hall, I received a text message that our car service was waiting for us just outside of baggage claim.  We believed (thanks to the false positives of the Aeroflot Crew) that are trip was off to the perfect start.  Immigration was blowing people through the lines, and in no time at all, it was our turn.  Unfortunately, “our turn” turned out to last for almost 10 hours…

While our plane landed at 4:40PM – we were not allowed into the country until midnight.  After flying for 8 hours, the last thing you want to do is hang out in the airport for another 8…especially when you have already reached your destination!  We begged and pleaded to no avail.  Finally, a member of the security crew of the airport  came to our rescue – sort of.  He agreed to escort us to the First Class Lounge and free us from immigration purgatory where there wasn’t even so much as a water fountain.  Unfortunately for us though, the Olympian skilled speed walker was already out of sight when we discovered that our previous first class boarding passes did not currently qualify us to relax in the lounge.  So – from immigration purgatory, we had now entered duty-free purgatory.  Bad duty-free purgatory –  liquor and cigarette only duty-free.

What else could we do but laugh?  Perhaps I laughed after I shed a couple of silly girl tears…but I assure you that the laughing came fairly soon!  We decided to get something to eat, have a beer, and then try to find a place to get some rest before our freedom would ring at the stroke of midnight.

Not exactly Belluga...and not exactly the Blinis or toast points we were hoping for! But we did have pre-packed butter and plastic knives so that's something.

I am not sure why we thought airport caviar would be a good idea…but when in Russia, right?  It was definitely not the caviar tasting experience that I was expecting…but that would come later.  Looking back, I kind of love the way it turned out.  I mean – at least I didn’t fall into a fire or anything!

At 11:30, after several hours of terrible sleep piled up like two puppies on a park bench, we trekked back to the security office to wait for an officer to escort us back to the immigration hall.  At 11:50, a half-naked man poked his head out of the office door to say he would be with us in 5 minutes.  A man of his word, the three of us were on our way to immigration at 11:55PM.  We arrived at 11:57 and were told to wait for 3 minutes.  3 minutes became 10 – but at 12:07 we were released!  Not without being fined first though –  for breaking their immigration laws. 2000 Rubles each (about $75 USD).

I received yet another text message alert that a second car service had been sent and was waiting for us again just outside baggage claim.  (FYI – we had to pay for the first one as well – which is awesome!)  We thought we had reached the promise land…but we were wrong.  Apparently, it is just too easy for them to leave your bags in the terminal in which you arrive.  So they sent our bags to a far, far away Moscow airport land.  For those of you who have spent anytime in the Moscow International Airport, you can appreciate what this meant.  It meant a 10 minute drive plus an hour-long walk down what seemed to be the longest, most disturbing hallway (outside of a mental institution) that I have ever seen.  Eventually, we were reunited with our bags – but there was no shortage of paperwork filled out in order to claim them.  And why have a copy machine when you can just re-write the 3 page bag-reclaim application by hand 3 times?

It was after 2 AM before we reached our hotel.  According to our original plan, we would have been sitting down for a delicious dessert at The Soho Rooms…instead we opted to share a Ritz cheeseburger and hit the sack.  We drifted off to sleep with prayers for a brighter tomorrow.  It’s affirmative.  God does answer prayers!

Stayed tuned for the rest of our Russian tale….I promise it get’s better – and so do the pictures!

TRAVEL TIP:  When we return to Russia (and we will because despite the above story – it is absolutely lovely) we will most definitely allow for wiggle room in our agenda.  The fact that it is necessary for an American Tourist to be sponsored by a hotel (or other travel institution) makes this a bit difficult.  If we had it to do over, we would have initially booked our stay in the hotel for a longer period of time, obtained our Visas, and then altered the reservation for our actual intended stay.  There are probably even better ways to do this…just be sure to look into all the details before you take-off!

Royal Russia Up Next!

Advertisements

3 Responses to “From Russia with NO Love”

  1. Jean Blankenship February 2, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

    I was so glad to hear from you. I was telling everyone who asked (And everyone in Murray does ask “Where is Morgan Now?” ) “Russia, I guess”. And they just roll their eyes. What grandmother doesn’t know for sure where her beautiful granddaughter is? …anyway, I’m especting the rest of the story soon. Love you, Mama Jean

  2. Anna Rudashko February 3, 2012 at 12:25 am #

    I really hope it got better though…when i read the title I was like what did “my people” do to you guys:)

    • Morgan Hutchinson February 3, 2012 at 1:06 am #

      I assure you that it got WAY better! We absolutely loved it and had a great time 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: