The Game Plan
When I first told my brother about my Russian layover plan, he told me I was crazy. He thought I was going to die in some insane street fight with the Russian Mob. Obviously, my brother is a little dramatic. He may have watched too many movies as kid. So, how did this plan come about? I clearly remember watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s show The Layover when it hit me. I said, “This is a great idea.” For those of you who have heard of it, the idea is simple. You fly into a city with about 24 hours to visit. That’s it. For me, I had 17 hours. It’s just enough time to take a train from the airport in Moscow, see the major sights, shop, have a meal and drink little vodka. Sounds simple right? Oh, how I have ever been so wrong in my life.
Even though I procrastinate at many things, I tend to make my travel arrangements ahead of time. Depending on the cost and where I want to go, I give myself six to twelve months. This is much like how anyone else may do it. I thought I was in the clear and completely psyched out of my mind for it. However, the U.S. and Russia do not always see eye to eye. A few months before my trip, I caught wind of a change in Russian Visa rules for Americans. I needed to send my passport to the Russian consulate and could no longer buy a visa at the airport in Moscow. Consequently, this was the exact moment I knew I was doomed. My dream of eating Pirozhki while drinking Vodka in the shadow of the Kremlin disappeared. That’s what I get for “Putin” myself in a tight travel window.
What the Aeroflot???
The terminal was ripe with Russian culture. I was getting excited. However, I had bad signs all over the place once I boarded my plane in LAX. Although, the plane was not very full. I’d hoped to have an entire row all to myself. Nonetheless, this old Russian lady with a medical mask walked in. Instantly, I knew she was in my row. Out of nowhere, she yells at me to move seats because she needs the whole row due to her highly contagious illness. After she converses with the stewardess in Russian, I was firmly told to move seats. Thirty minutes later, the old lady was unmasked and sleeping across all three seats! I should’ve bribed the stewardess with some Rubles. It worked out though. I sat next to a very nice, elderly man. We didn’t speak the same language, but we had a great time watching movies together.
Before I get to the details of my Russian layover, I have an important tip for anyone who does not know already. You should never fly Aeroflot. It was one of the worst plane rides ever. The pilots have bumpy takeoffs and landings. On top of that, the plane did not feel very stable in turbulence. The plane kind of shook from time to time. At one point, I swear we dropped like a thousand feet. However, I was fortunate enough to get all the free wine I wanted. I think the stewardesses felt bad for me having to move seats. It pays to be nice and follow the instructions of the flight attendants. Some people need to take note. Furthermore, I had never been more excited to touch the ground after landing.
My Russian Experience
Flying into Moscow, I was in no hurry to get off the plane. The excitement of travel tends to dissipate with a 17-hour Russian layover. I was actually quite surprised with the terminal. I must have passed three or four liquor stores while finding a restaurant for dinner. An elderly couple was purchasing five bottles of vodka as I walked by one of them. They certainly wanted to get the party started! There was not much variety in the terminal as far as food goes. Ruby Tuesdays isn’t a bad choice. However, I did have about another two or three meals to eat. I believe I hit every restaurant in the terminal. As I sat there eating my dinner, I did not know what was in store for me. I should have known better.
About half way into the layover, night started to descend. The terminal almost completely cleared out. I had this weird feeling that zombies would come and attack me. Picking World War Z to watch on the plane was a bad decision. One of the few things that helped pass the time was video chatting with my wife. This is especially true when no one speaks English around you. It was about this time I noticed an elderly woman dancing all around the terminal. You guessed it! The vodka finally worked its magic. She danced around the terminal five times in all. She was nice enough to come up and dance next to everyone in the terminal. My wife even got a wave hello with a little flash of skin. Consequently, this was the highlight of my trip to a Russian airport terminal.