C. A. Milson in Samara, Russia
Saturday, September 6, 2008:
Last Monday we prepared to say farewell to Japan, and we went to check-in our baggage with Aeroflot. As expected we had a long wait ahead of us, but what we didnt expect was the service we experienced at the check-in counter. Apparantly it seemed that Aeroflot didn’t have Anna’s updated E-ticket that we purchased in Sydney, and so after alot of unnecessary stress to us both, the attendant went to go find out from her supervisor what could be done as the computer she was using was “not working”. It once again showed that Aeroflot is as efficient as a fart in a dust-storm.
The situation was not pleasent for us both, but after about 20 minutes they found Anna’s updated E-ticket and we prepared to say our farewells to Japan.
I can remember the last time I flew with Aeroflot, back in April. Although they try to seem that they are a world class airline, they are still anything but. Granted, the meal we had was a definate treat from my last experience (day old ham and cheese crossant), but still, the airline could really do with much needed upgrades. Like, how about a better class of airplane, instead of ones designed and built during the Eisenhower Admininstration 🙂
After 11 long hours and little sleep (did I forget to mention the entertainment that was limited to a crackling radio?) we arrived in Moscow. Apart from the extremely long line-up at Customs Control, at least this part was alot easier and very standard for Russian Immigration. The process is this: You go up to Customs Control officer and hand over your passport and visa and say nothing. These people are trained to ignore any questions anyway, rather opting to engage in idle chit-chat with the other officer who is almost sat on their lap 🙂 They look at you, (another words, they give you “A look”) and give you back your passport. No “Have a nice day” or “Welcome to Russia”. No, just a somber look and you are admitted. Thrilling…. But hey, this is Russia and things here work differently.
When we got our baggage, you have to go through another inspection. This time a second baggage inspection. Goodness knows, we went through baggage inspection in Japan, so God forbid if we somehow managed to sneak top secret documents into our baggage in the cargo hold during the 11 hours we were in the air 🙂
Okay, so once we get through the formalities, no sooner had we exited to the main area, when we are greeted by Russian taxi drivers. Not one, but all of them. It seems that these guys have nothing better to do with their time than ask you ten times if you want a taxi. Granted, I find it a pleasent change compared to Sydney where you have to go on a hunting expedition to find a taxi driver who will take you ten minutes downtown. No, infact compared to Russian taxi drivers, Sydneyite taxi’s are downright rude and lazy.
So, after being hounded by several taxi guys, we agreed to use one who would take us to the train station for a price we were both comfy with (Note: If you want to go downtown or anywhere else by taxi, always haggle. You will be surprized how quickly they will agree to a price. Note: Dont haggle to low. Taxi drivers need to make money too 🙂
So our journey did not stop in Moscow as we soon had to board a train for Samara. Not a short trip either, but a very LONG 18 hour journey, on a train that was obviously used during the Stalin years 🙂 (Note: On such a long journey by train, it is always advised to get food before leaving, as the food they sell on the train is VERY limited and extremely overpriced) So once Anna purchased goodies (not all that good either), we boarded the train and set off for Samara.
Another restless night was in store… For more reasons than one 😉 Good thing we had a sleeping booth to ourselves 😉
The journey by train had some nice scenery, but nothing worth writing home about. So I wont go into details about that and how we passed the time 🙂
Finally at around 5 the following afternoon we arrived in Samara. And none too soon either as after 18 hours I had “had enough”. It was a relief to finally get back to Samara. But it wasnt over yet as we got “another” taxi and journeyed for 40 minutes to our apartment at the other end of town. Of course while Anna and mama joked with the taxi driver and listened to his stories of his adventures overseas, I felt like a fish out of water as my Russian is limited to just a few phrases. So you can imagine how many songs I played in my head during those 40 minutes. 40 LONG minutes. Needless to say, our taxi driver was extremely friendly and offered to take me fishing (I hope he meant fishing and not use me for bait).
Okay, so Wednesday came along as it normally would do each week. That day was pretty much resting after such a long trip. Thursday was pretty much the same.
Oh, did I forget to mention dinner? Dinner on Thursday was pancakes and liver. A Russian specialty and quite delicious! Ah how I have missed Russian food!
Friday came the day that we went to OVIRS. In Russia it is mandatory to go into an OVIRS (Immigration) office and notify them that you have arrived. A good system, but note that in most places OVIRS only works 4 days a week, and limited hours, so it is best that you arrive first thing in the morning. This process can be a real headache if you have no idea what you’re doing. But to break it down: You walk into an office where there will normally be 3 people working. They will tell you that you need to get photocopies of your passport, your invitation, visa, sponsor’s passport. (Note to the wise: Do this before you go there to save time). After registering, you will be send to another room where they will stamp your visa. Sound easy? Yes it should be, but it is anything but. In OVIRS there is no such thing as “take a number and wait til your number is called”. No, instead, it is “First in best dressed”, so to speak. When we were there, we waited for ages before we were seen, and then after that we had to wait another 30 minutes before we could get my passport stamped. Although standing around can be about as fun as watching paint dry, there are some moments that can be priceless. Like, when we were waiting, we saw a fellow who thought he was Captain Ahab (And smelt as bad too). This champion of efficiency took it upon himself to start “a list” of people who were “next in line”. Of course, this list had no real meaning in the real world anyway, and Captain Ahab would have been much smarter to invest in a bar of soap rather than paper and pencil 😉
Then there was his “recruits” who joined in on his idiocity and out their names down on his list. Hmmm, seems Ahab would have been brilliant in recruiting people for Amway. Pity he doesn’t know the meaning of cleanliness. (Yes, I mentioned this before, but this boofin looked like a darn idiot pirate wanna-be .. Arrgghhh! 😉 )
It is a good thing mama knows someone in OVIRS otherwise we would have been there all day. After mama had a chat to this person, we got ahead of Ahab and his “pirate recruits” and got my passport stamped and we were gone… Leaving Ahab and his crew to continue arguing ….. about their list!
Okay so the rest of the day was spend sightseeing. For 15pyt (About $0.80AUD), you can go from one side of Samara to the other by taxi-bus. But before I go on I better explain afew things here.
Taxi Bus is a yellow cab mini-bus. These come along about every 5 minutes and go to various parts of Samara. These seat about 12 people. Getting on and paying is on a trust system. You get on and hand your 15pyt to the driver. If you happen to get a seat up the back, you hand your cash forward and the lucky passenger who is sat near the front will hand over your 15pyt to the driver. (See what I mean by “trust system”. Not something that would work in Sydney or Auckland!)
Trolley Bus is much like a tram. Except it is a bus that runs on electricity. Buses run frequently and also go to various parts of Samara. Trolleys or buses cost 10pyt. The only difference here is that on a bus or trolley they have a conductor who will come up to you and give you a ticket.
Russia certainly has alot to offer and so much to see. I highly recommend those who like to travel to visit this country. It certainly is a wonder.
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