Sunday Oct 20, 2019
I book car transfer to Budapest Airport. I elect to get to the airport many hours (5) before boarding time. Yes, I’m nervous about this. I get into the correct terminal, but cannot find the Aeroflot ticket counter.
I learn that Aeroflot does not open a ticket counter until two hours before the flight. So, I have to babysit my bike for a few hours. I find a comfortable spot and hang out with Allen from Ghana, Africa. He has many hours wait for his flight to Madrid. We get to know each other. He is currently living in Ecuador.
Trapped in Moscow
So, here I sit in Moscow airport. Trapped there by my own lack of planning. As it turns out, there is no problem to change planes in Moscow. Without the required transit visa, it is not possible to leave the secured area of the airport.
I did make a trip to the Russian Embassy in Budapest to try to secure this visa. It turns out the application must be filed from the Russian Embassy in my home country. So serious advance planning is required to visit Russia.
The closest I get is to watch the planes come and go through the window within the airport. I do get to observe Russians at work. They behave in a rather stone faced way when hit with something outside their duties.
For instance, as I was getting off the plane, I was interested in getting the help of a flight attendant. I had a few postcards with Hungarian stamps that should have been mailed before I left Hungary. I figure the attendants will be back in Hungary in a day or so, maybe I could get them to do me a favor and mail them for me. I waited to be one of the last to leave the plane. I explained my proposition to a flight attendant. She replied that she was married. Um? Married? OK, so I figure she just misinterpreted my request. I pulled out the cards and showed them to her. Harmless postcards to my family and friends? She eventually agreed to mail them for me. It will be interesting to see if that actually occurs.
I come across another passenger from California, Mayma who just got off the same flight. She has the same problem as I, no transit visa with many hours before her next flight. She was pretty sure it was possible to get a transit visa in the airport if you can just get to the right people. She had found something on a website to support her position.
We worked together on this. Asking lots of people along the way to customs. So to be fair, it was about midnight Moscow time, we did not speak Russian. Many times we asked folks questions they could not answer. In most places this would invoke a shrug with a statement that begins, “I would like to help you but I really don’t know…”. In Moscow the more typical response is a stone faced stare as if the fact that a question had been asked was not acknowledged.
Mayma and I were undaunted by this. We were at times backing up through a checkpoint so that we could search for more useful people. On our third pass through the checkpoint, we actually got the staff to laugh at us. So, it is possible to get Russians out of the stone face mode. Laughing at Americans is good bait.
We joke about our predicament. When they make the movie about this, there will of course be a car chase, then we get arrested and falsely claim to be friends of Putin. There’s a narrow escape and a spectacular get away. Yeah that’s how James Bond would spend a day in Moscow.
Eventually we conclude that there is no way out of this airport. Not at this time of night anyway. Mayma cancels her hotel reservation in Red Square. We find that the airport restaurants are no longer serving food, though we can still get a beer and do so.
The one hotel in this part of the airport has no vacancy. They point out that there are rooms in the other (inaccessible) part. There are capsules, like little pods available for sleeping at about $10/hr. There’s no way Mayma is going for that. Something about not changing linens and ick factor. Things are not looking good for us. As we drink our beer, Mayma announces dibs on the restaurant couch. It has a pillow! I think she’s joking, but we really don’t have many options.
As we slowly finish our beers we share our life stories. Mayma has done many impressive things in her life. She at one time started and maintained a thriving stationery business in New York, back when people actually sent paper invitations. She has had multiple blogs and knows how to make them get favorably recognized by search engines. She is now a team leader at Facebook. They had to court her twice before she finally gave in and took the job.
Without knowing what to do, we go back to the only hotel and ask if there is any vacancy. Amazingly the answer is yes. There are two rooms available, where only 90 minutes earlier there was nothing. A new hour is like a new day here. We go to our rooms. I get a good night sleep. It’s not cheap, but worth it.
Cutting Room Floor
Here is a bunch of stuff that I find worth documenting, but may be a little esoteric.
Moscow airport cost of living is like San Francisco, but without the really good beer. Tim, your not in Eastern Europe anymore.
Crows in Eastern Europe and also in Moscow are two toned. They have black wings but grey bodies. I have not seen any all black crows since before Vienna.