Day 1 of a trip back in time.
I am on a trip to England to attend a regular family gathering which I have not been to in 13 years. It is in the village my mother was born and grew up in (Bamford Derbyshire) and the last time I was there was to inter my mother’s ashes (which I had transported on the back seat of my car carefully secured with a seat belt). So it should be interesting.
I am on the “areoexpress” going to Domodedovo airport (remember to pronounce the second “d”). I have of course forgotten to sit on the left side of the carriage and sweating like a pig. I know full well I should sit on the other side of the compartment but never seem to remember when I get on. I think it is a panic to actually find a seat in the crush and I just take the first thing I see.
The train is packed with people mostly going on vacation. The Russians go on vacation like anyone else although given visa requirements the easiest places for them to go are Turkey and Egypt and they do in their droves. Multiple jumbo jets every day of the week all full to bursting with families with young children or groups of teenagers all vying to be the one who is wearing the least clothing (why I am not sure).
They have upgraded this train recently from the 1950’s model originally plying the route every 30 minutes to something perhaps built in 1951 which as you can imagine does not make a whole lot of difference. There is actually nowhere to put your case?. The original train had a space where they had removed a couple of seats so you could leave your cases there. This one has the seats still in so as you can imagine the aisle is full of big heavy cases all bound for sunnier places. Russians seem to have little faith in the security of the baggage process and possibly every other bag is covered in some form of tape to keep its contents away from prying and curious fingers.
Negotiating this semi assault course should be one of those TV shows like “wipeout” or “survivor iron curtain edition”. As the train fills up it gets worse and the 15 or so Japanese business men in their smart dark suits don’t seem to be helping by trying to find a carriage where they can all sit next to each other. Walk on my boys, 20 carriages on this train and my money is on “not” finding what you are looking for although it’s your own fault for inventing these games in the first place.
Once moving the ticket girls come along to check we all have out stubs. Given you need the bar code on the stub to let you onto the platform it seems superfluous to need this but hey in Russia there is always room for improvement. One improvement they could contemplate is a ticket punch which does not cut out a hole in your ticket which it then deposits on the floor. This confetti serves to show their progress through the throng and once the train empties at the other end there are a group of cleaners who get 15 minutes to remove these bits from the floor so the conductors can do it all again on the way back.
The “Dolly with the trolley” or rather the Babushka pushing an (ex)supermarket cart makes steady if slow progress as she gets people to lift their belongings out of the way by barging as hard as she can into the next one in line. I manage to grab a bottle of rather warm water for double the normal price just to replace what I am loosing as the sun continues to sear through the windows. Air-conditioning is not one of the things you can expect for your 300 ruble ($10) trip so just sit tight it will be over soon.
Arrival at the airport is as difficult as you could imagine. There are a host of people trying to get back into Moscow who appear hell bent of getting on the train without the incumbents being allowed the time to get off so the usual pushing and pulling. It will be 15 minutes before it moves but this is no deterrent to them. “Be brave be first” springs to mind. There is also the queue to get off the platform which requires the barcode on the stub to be read to open the gates. The reason it is needed given we have been checked escapes me but maybe I just missed the logic. Those people who do not regularly use this route (almost all of the holiday makers) have discarded their tickets in the many bins around and are now frantically trying to find an escape route via a not so friendly security guard.
So at least I am at the airport and knowing better than the travel virgins I avoid trying to get in via the door which even in my limited Cyrillic I can see says “no entry exit only” to which the mass of tourist have now flocked and efficiently blocked.
I am on a British Airways flight at around 5pm one I have to say I booked for price rather than any form of brand loyalty. The plan has me meeting up with one of my sisters at Heathrow later. That is if she manages to find the place. Jo is driving from her home in Normandy via the Portsmouth ferry and a couple of British motorways in her very small left hand drive citron.
More next week.