Today we said goodbye to Kamchatka and started the long series of flights home. This time, however, we were going to break the monotony of flying 3/4 of the way around the world with a nice three-day layover in Moscow.
We packed our bags into the van and headed out to the Petropavlovsk airport at 9:30 am for our 12:20 pm flight. Everything went smoothly until we tried to check in at the airport. For some reason, they didn’t seem to have our reservation, even though we confirmed the flight the night before. The attendant asked for our ticket, which of course we didn’t have because we had electronic ticketing. Fortunately, I had remembered to bring a copy of our itinerary to show her. She went back-and-forth three times with another agent before she figured out what to do, after which we were awarded our boarding passes.
We boarded the same Russian-built Ilyushin Il-96 behemoth that we had the pleasure of flying to Petropavlovsk in two weeks earlier. Like the previous flight, we were once again treated to a sauna-like environment in the cabin before the jet finally took off. The takeoff itself was a little scary; I have never seen a plane take so long to get airborne. I was starting to wonder if we were going to have enough runway (see video below taken by a member of our group).
As was the case on our arriving flight, Aeroflot provided a very quick service with the food and beverage service. Unfortunately, this plane also had the same problems with the excessively reclining seats. It was a bit worse for me on this flight as the gentlemen in front of me was quite persistent in maintaining a horizontal position for most of the journey to Moscow.
We arrived in Moscow the next day. After our group retrieved their luggage, we walked out the gate to our awaiting driver from a Moscow car service who would shuttle everyone to the hotel. Valerie and I told the group to go ahead with the driver to the hotel while we stayed behind to look for Valerie’s bag. Not being sure where we needed to start our search, we first tried the Left Luggage area of the terminal; a very nice employee gave us directions where we were supposed to go. We followed his directions into the bowels of Sheremetyevo airport to an unmarked door with a buzzer. We rang the buzzer and were let into a small warehouse with some customs officials, a large X-Ray machine, and racks of unclaimed bags. After much stamping of paperwork, the bag was located. A customs officer ran it through the X-Ray, stamped our paperwork a few more times, and handed us the bag; no explanation was given as to why it had been held up.
Our next stop was the Aeroexpress Train Station for our trip into Moscow and finally our hotel. To get to the station from our terminal required a rather long walk to the adjoining terminal. This made it necessary for us to make a much-needed stop along the way at an ice cream stand for a tiny scoop of ice cream. First ice cream we’d had in over two weeks, which I think is a record for us.
The train ride was a very comfortable and quick (20 minutes) journey to the end of the line at the Belorussky Train Station. From the station it was another 20 minute walk to the hotel. As tends to happen when you enter a city from a train terminal for the first time, we had some trouble getting our bearings to find the right road to follow to our destination. A very nice passerby pointed us in the right direction, and we were off. We arrived at our hotel just as it started to rain.
Our hotel was quite nice and we had a great room with a view overlooking the Central Moscow Hippodrome, the largest horse racing track in Russia. After showering and getting unpacked, we decided we were just too tired to go exploring, so we just hung out in the room and later had a nice dinner in the hotel restaurant with a couple other group members. Everyone else in the group scattered into the wind to explore the city. We’ll have plenty of exploring time tomorrow.