Anyway, I promised Russia posts and here's the first official one of the trip. I'm really glad I made small journal type entries in a notebook during the trip, there's so much that happened over the almost 4 weeks we were there!
5/23/10-5/25/10: The best flight reservations we could get were out of Chicago's O'Hare so we were up and out the door at 5:30 AM on Sunday, May 23 to make our first flight. Everything went smoothly for the first leg of the journey.
Had a little scare at JFK as the lady we got our boarding passes to Moscow from couldn't locate our bags right away and it took us about 45 minutes in various lines to make sure our bags were actually going to make it to Moscow the same time we did. Not usually a big deal for us but this trip we decided to make the flight to the region the same day we arrived in Moscow instead of staying overnight in Moscow first so we only had a 12 hour layover and we had to switch airports for our flight to the region. I was definitely not going to be a happy camper if I made it all the way out there for a 3 1/2 week trip with only my carry-on.
The flight to Moscow was pretty uneventful except that we were an hour late for takeoff for no reason that we were ever given, we just boarded and took off late. We flew a different airline than before and this one must have had a different flight path as the flight was actually only about 10 hours instead of 11-12 as before. We got dinner and some sleep since it was an overnight flight. We were hoping they'd be able to make up a little time in the air but we arrived in Moscow an hour late too. Thankfully our driver/translator and the courier dropping off the rental cell phone were still waiting for us at the gate and we made it to the other airport without a problem.
Our original plan had been to go to a day hotel near the airport for our layover but by the time we actually got through customs, got the bags (big sigh of relief when we saw those come on down the belt!), met the translator, and actually got over there it was only about 6 hours until the next flight took off so we decided to wait it out at the airport instead. So we got some pizza from the Sbarro (way too tired to think to order anything else in Russian), napped a little more, read some, shopped, and watched people. Finally our overnight flight to the region boarded and we were really excited to be so close to our son after 6 months of waiting. The flight went well until landing when it became obvious that we were circling the airport for unknown reasons. All of the announcements up to this point had been in Russian and English but around the time we started circling they were in Russian only so we were a little concerned about what was going on. The circling continued for nearly an hour and then finally we realized we were no longer circling but had climbed higher. Eventually we landed and recognized the name of the airport when it was announced but it wasn't the one we were expecting. Still unsure of what was going on as we spoke enough Russian to ask but probably not enough to understand the answer we called our translator in the region and found out we were diverted because of fog. Eventually we arrived where we were supposed to, bags and all, and got checked into our first of 3 hotel rooms for the trip.
Overall travel time from our house to the hotel room was somewhere in the neighborhood of 42 hours and we were ready for a real bed! We spent the rest of the day unpacking and napping. That last pic, by the way, is of a sign we found posted in our bathroom in both of the rooms we stayed in at this particular hotel. We're not sure why it was there, we didn't ask. I'm not sure I really want to know what sort of behavior would prompt such a sign.