This one proved to be a little tricky. We had to be checked out of the hotel by noon but we weren't going to be picked up by the translator until about 5 pm for our trip to the domestic airport so we could catch our 10pm flight to the region. Luggage was not a problem, the hotel had a luggage room where we could store it. Our original plan was to walk Arbat St. and the surrounding area one more time and shop a little for the afternoon. So we slept in as late as possible (which wasn't late at all) and headed downstairs for one final Arbat breakfast and all was well until about half an hour after breakfast as we were packing up. We both started to feel a bit funny in the stomach. Mine went away with a bit of Zantac but poor Erich started up with what we assume was traveler's diarrhea. So he started his prescription meds immediately but we were still stuck without a real place to stay for the afternoon. We ended up hanging out at the Starbucks on Arbat St. for a few hours until the meds had a chance to kick in- a couple of bottled drinks and books on the table and we looked like locals, sort of. Eventually we got tired of sitting so we did walk around a little and peeked in a few shops we'd missed earlier in the trip.
Around 4 or so we decided that we should probably try to eat something since our next meal was likely to be in the region and who knew when we'd have a chance to grab a meal. With Erich's tender stomach in mind we stopped here, appreciating the English menu available outside...
Since arriving home we have learned that the name of the place is literally Moo Moo which makes sense given the decor and the giant cow outside. Sorry I couldn't get a pic of the cow without a bunch of kids climbing on him. He's a popular guy:) Anyway, I wish we'd discovered the place earlier because we got a decent meal for under $10 total. We'll definitely try it again when Erich can enjoy his meal a bit more. It ended up being a cafeteria style place that served a mix of Russian favorites and some more familiar things too like the pork steak Erich tried. I went for borscht and tried some pelmeni. I would eat both again and be happy about it. So after our meal we headed back to the hotel a bit early to meet our translator and make the long drive to the domestic airport. It wouldn't have been bad but we hit rush hour traffic and it seemed to take forever to get going.
Airport security wasn't bad and we got checked in easily enough once we finally arrived. Then it came time to board the plane. We hurried toward the gate with the other passengers expecting to either walk out to the plane or walk through a tunnel/ramp combo but were instead greeted by a bus outside the gate. Apparently it is common in Russia to park the plane in some seemingly random spot and then bus the passengers out to it so that they might experience one more unique Russian driving experience. Bumpy road, lots of people, and a small bus make for an interesting ride. We were glad to get off the bus.
Until we hit the neon green plane, that is. Just as Russians like their buildings warm, they like their planes warmer. I'm not sure how warm it really got on that ride but it must have been in the mid-80's. We were also under the impression that we might be able to pull off sleeping through most of the 4 hour plane ride so that we would arrive somewhat refreshed when we hit the region at 6am (we jumped ahead 4 more time zones during this ride just in case you're keeping track). That didn't happen either. Lights were on the whole ride and about an hour or so in we were served a full meal. It wasn't bad, what we could eat of it. Some of it was raw so we were a bit leery of getting sick again and skipped some compartments of our trays. One thing I really grew to like on the Russian flights though was that as the meal was ending they'd always bring around a tray of chocolates and offer coffee and tea too. The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful until it was time to land and we had a few anxious moments where we feared we might be landing in some farmer's field but a runaway did become visible just in time.
Finally on the ground in the region, we got our first look at our baby's home town. It looked a lot like a hilly Indiana. Felt like it too, the temperature must have been in the 40's but it felt wonderful to us until we had to pile into another bus and make a few new friends on the way to the airport itself. When we finally stumbled out to the gate we were greeted by our new translator who declared that it was chilly and we should go inside where it was just as warm as any building in Moscow. Oh well, we'd had a few minutes of beautiful cool weather anyway. After collecting our bags and meeting our new driver, an elderly gentleman who seemed to know the translater well, we piled into a van and began the trip to the hotel.
And I will leave you there for tonight because it's a good stopping place and I need to fix a few of the next pictures before I go on.