Nauru Travel Diary

From Houston to Sydney 2013

From Houston

to Sydney



As a result of the time difference between Houston and Moscow, we lost nine hours of our lives; both yesterday and today are thus quite short days for us.

Our flight from Houston to Moscow was great, with beautiful sunset views through the window, enough time to sleep, a final taste of Texas for dinner (a ‘Tex-Mex meal!), and the chance to catch up on some excellent video viewing (the first two episodes of season 1 of “House of Cards” – I’m already addicted).  The flight was smooth and quiet, except perhaps for a while when Di was singing aloud to some Josh Groban songs with her headphones on.

I had a truly unexpected surprise shortly before landing when the cabin crew gathered around my seat and presented me with a birthday cake, beautifully made out of folded cardboard, with a card signed by all the crew, including those in the flight deck.  It seems that someone’s wife, most likely a Josh Groban fan, had informed the crew about my birthday while I was asleep. 

We landed in Moscow a little ahead of schedule at 1:40 pm, and I was thrilled to look out the window at the huge ‘graveyard’ of Soviet-era airliners parked in a large field to the left of the runway.  Sadly, very few of these Ilyushins, Tupolevs or Antonovs remain in airline service; just a couple of decades ago they were all that anyone could see at any post-Soviet airport.

Although Domodedovo Airport (where we landed) has the reputation of being Moscow’s best (and my personal experience attests to its positive reputation), it was not handling the large number of arriving passengers very well this afternoon.  The “line” waiting to enter the immigration gate was long, fat, crowded and disorderly, and was definitely not the best way to welcome visitors to Moscow.  We were in the “foreigners only” line, jostling for places among a crowd that was 90% Russian but who felt that the “Russians only” line was too long for them.  To cut a long story short, it took about one uncomfortable hour to reach the immigration desk.

Our luggage was already waiting for us, so we found a trolley and wheeled our luggage out to the pre-paid taxi stand where we arranged a fixed price taxi to our hotel.  Much as I would have loved a ride in an old Volga (not so long ago all the taxis were either Volgas or Ladas), there was none to be found, and we found ourselves in a small Chevrolet station wagon.  I sat in the front while Di was in the back, which was probably just as well as she doesn’t seem to handle trips at 140 kmh, swerving from lane to lane through urban streets, as well as I do.  The fact that she spent a good proportion of the trip with her face in her hands suggested that she was not just sitting back and enjoying the ride.

We arrived at our hotel at a little after 4 pm and found it to be an oasis of calm after the noise and speed of the roads.  After settling in, we decided to go for a walk to Red Square, which would have been a walk of about 20 minutes if I had not stopped to take any photos – but it may have been closer to 40 with the photo stops.

Red Square is reputedly the third largest square in the world after Tian An  Men Square in Beijing and Imam Square in Esfahan.  Unfortunately, Moscow was not looking its best under thick grey, heavily overcast skies.  Nonetheless, Red Square is one of the great sights of the world, and it looked magnificent despite the grey conditions.  Well, I thought so anyway, but Di said she was much less excited by it because she had seen it before.  I guess she has a different spirit for travel than I do, or maybe she was just tired, not having slept on the flight from Houston.

It is interesting how different people see cities differently.  To me, Moscow is one of the great cities of the world, an eclectic mix of magnificent tsarist, Soviet and modern architecture, once the capital of a superpower and now a city that is trying to create its new identity in a globalized world in the manner of a brash, yet uncertain adolescent.  On the other hand, Di can’t seem to get past the unpleasant smells of the cigarette smoking and the car exhausts, the grime on the streets (especially cigarette butts), the crowds and the lack of awareness of personal space.

Both are the ‘real Moscow’ in all its richness and diversity.  I can’t wait to see more of it; Di is struggling to share my enthusiasm.

Day 24 - Moscow


29 July 2013