You would think we’ve never done this before

Our first day in Russia was a true disaster.

It started off well enough. Our flights left DC okay and our connection in Germany went fine. We arrived at noon in Moscow, picked up our luggage and breezed through customs. We had an onward flight booked to St. Petersburg so we headed to the departure area and looked around for Aeroflot, our airline.

After 10 minutes of fruitless searching, we finally asked someone at another airline for help. He then informed me, with a mixture of pity and amusement, that we were at the wrong airport.

Did you know Moscow has four different airports? Did I? No. But I probably should have.

Okay, no big deal. We can just hop a cab and be there in time for our 3:30 flight.

So we find a “taxi” driver, who we aren’t even entirely sure is a taxi driver. He informs us that the other airport is 110 km away and the fare will be 3,500 rubles…which is well over $100. After some back and forth, we manage to talk him down to 3,000 and finally get into our cab.

The cab right lasted over two hours and I went through a lot of emotions during that two hours. All of them had to do with the assumption that I was going to die.

First, I assumed I would die at the hands of a murdering fake taxi driver. We had noticed that his car looked different than the other taxis so we were very concerned  - especially after some of the things we had heard about fake Russian taxi drivers.  I kept making non-sensical reationalizations to Shannon to try and make us feel better.

“Well he certainly seems like a man driving to the airport”

“I felt like the other cab drivers respected him”

I don’t think I was helping. However, after a while it did become clear that we were driving to the airport and everything seemed on the up and up.

Then I became afraid I would die from his crazy driving. It wasn’t just Moscow crazy – this man had his own personal brand of crazy driving which was evident from the many disturbed looks the other drivers were giving him.

Traffic was horrible and he seemed to think the the shoulder was his own personal free way. The word “shoulder” doesn’t even really fairly describe how little space this man drove down. It was more like the two foot gap between the road and the median. He even honked when other drivers dared be too far over in their lane to prevent his passage.

At one point, the police came by, sirens on also using the shoulder. “Busted,” I thought as he pulled back into that lane.

Then he pulled out right behind the police to use the path they created to move forward. It wasn’t until the police noticed this infraction and told him off that he stopped and finally stayed in his lane.

After two hours, I was just pretty sure I was going to die of old age in this cab. We were never going to make it to the airport.

We finally did arrive, but we missed our flight by a lot. It wasn’t even a “run into the terminal” situation. We were an hour late and the ticket counter informed we had missed our flight and our tickets were now lost. The only other option was to purchase new tickets.

New tickets for almost $500.

Obviously that wasn’t an option. So, now at a new airport, we had no other option but to head into town on the “Airport Express” train. From there we took the metro to another train station and bought an overnight train ticket to St. Petersburg.

Shannon was sad as we purchased the 100th ticket of the day:

 

We finally arrived in St. Petersburg at 5 am and made our way to the hostel.

 

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7 Responses to You would think we’ve never done this before

  1. Vicky says:

    Oh no so sad to hear what a disaster your first day was!! It definitely is pretty ridiculous how many airports there are in Moscow and airport traffic truly is horrendous. Don’t worry the way your cab driver drove on the shoulder is not out of the ordinary – you will see drivers pulling all sorts of crazy maneuvers on the roads in Russia. Hope the rest of your trip goes smoothly!

  2. memographer says:

    yes, a connection flight in another airport. forgot about that. sorry to hear about your first day. don’t relax in russia :) good luck!

  3. Dave says:

    How awesome is that! Sure it sucks that you lost the money on the flight, but to be just 1 day in and already have such an epic story… this is gearing up to be a trip to remember that’s for sure!

  4. mee says:

    well if you come to London someday, please know we have 5 airports ;)

  5. Jackie D says:

    Wow, I would have totally been just like you, freaking out in the backseat and trying to find clues that he wasn’t a murderer. Like the others said though, at least this is an awesome story? And your pictures so far are awesome, so I think this bodes well for the rest of your trip :)

  6. John says:

    Bummer! I hope the rest of your trip goes a little smoother. I’ve heard absolutely terrible things about Aeroflot…any other airline would just put you on the next flight out.

  7. Well to be fair, you have never traveled to Russia before, so in that respect, it is a completely new experience for you!

    I kept thinking at the very beginning of my trip that I should be acclimating better because I had traveled by myself (backpacking no less!) around Europe and even been to Japan once before (granted, I was 12, but still!). But now I have realized that it is just taking me some time to adjust to this new lifestyle and that is ok. Mistakes will happen, but very few of them will be critical. In then end, I would rather get off to a rocky start and having things just keep getting better than to start of great and have it all go downhill!

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