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To Russia, with Awe: Moscow, 2011, Part 1: The Overall Trip

 
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sumantra
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Joined: 28 Oct 2007
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Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2011 9:56 am    Post subject: To Russia, with Awe: Moscow, 2011, Part 1: The Overall Trip Reply with quote

To Russia, with Awe: Moscow, 2011, Part 1: The Overall Trip

This trip report can be found at the following URL:
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic11717.html

This was a trip to Moscow, the capital of Russia.
This would be my first trip to Moscow, and I was understandably
excited. The build-up to the trip was a familiar experience - a
tearing hurry to get things done, the TODO list shrinking as
things get put off to the future, sleepless times, stress, and
then finally, a groggy-eyed Sumantra making his way to the airport.
The first part of my itinerary was as follows:

Set out 25 Jun (Sat) for Moscow from New Delhi
AI 6536: Air India (SU 536: Aeroflot) (A332) [Seat: 27K; PNR: JB70M]
New Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport Terminal 3 -
Moscow Shermetyevo Airport Terminal F
New Delhi (DEL) - Moscow (SVO)
[04:10 am - 09:05 am] {06:25 hrs}

Yes, this was booked on Air India, which puts its code on this
Aeroflot flight. Initially, I was not looking forward to this
trip since this had been traditionally operated by the old Boeing
767s. I was quite happy to see the new 332s on the service (not
that I have been on board a 762/763 before: this still remains on
my to-fly list)
IGI's T3 never ceases to amaze me. I was going into the
international section after about 10 months, and I was happy to
see that the maintenance was actually quite good. The carpet was
not that dirty as one expects with that amount of use. The
vertical gardens, the signature lavatories - all looked
spic-and-span.

The flight was supposed to depart at 04:10 am -
this was a slightly light period for the terminal, given that the
huge rush hour was over - the close-to-midnight bank of flights.
My senior colleague and I were amazed at the promptness with
which we checked-in, cleared the immigration, got through the
security check, and went straight to our gate: 15B, which is just
at the Y-junction of the two long wings of the International
section. Yes, there were only a handful of flights at that hour:
an Lufthansa 744 to Frankfurt, a British Airways 772 to London
Heathrow, a Jet 332 to Brussels/Toronto, a Mahan Air 310 to
Tehran, Austrian 762 to Vienna, and of course, our Aeroflot 332
to Moscow Shermetyevo. The loads on all these flights looked very
good, except the Mahan Air flight. The only plane I could click
without too much of the reflections coming in, was the LH 744:



Our plane, `N. Gogol' came in right on time. The Economy class
(Y) loads were very impressive, indeed. We boarded from the left
front door, going past a Business Class section, and the first
part of Economy, followed by the other part. It was nice to see
the fuselage taper in, and curve up in an Airbus A330, as in some
other planes (as I figured out from this forum, to have pallets
of a standard size in the belly of the plane). The loads were
approximately 80% in economy - a healthy number. The ethnic
composition? Almost 50-50 Indians, and Russians/East Europeans. I
add the last part, since on landing at Shermetyevo, we saw a huge
crowd of people going in for international transfers.

Back to the flight! `N. Gogol' looked spic-and-span. Very new,
very neat, very clean. Boarding started at the pre-determined
time of 03:30 am, and we were `welcomed' on board by the cabin
crew. I use the term `welcomed', since the cabin crew seemed to
be what one perceives of the traditional Russian demeanour, but
with a little thaw set in. I was excited to get a 2-4-2 seating
plane (my last flight on this configuration was on an Air India
310, `Pamba', way back in 2007.) I had a window seat, and much to
my delight, the seat beside mine turned out to be vacant. When we
boarded, some vague cabin music was playing, and some vague
advertisements appeared on the PTVs. There were no power-ports. I
had worked on my laptop a bit at Gate 15B, and was preparing to
catch on some sleep on the flight. Here is a shot of the PTV in
front of me.



We departed from the gate a bit late, and saw a Kingfisher A319
going towards the new runway 11-29 for take-off. This was most
probably a charter flight to Phuket.
An Etihad 320 was to our right, and an Emirates B777 had come in,
along with a Turkish Airlines A332.
I was pleased to see the direction of take-offs and landings, and
even more, to see the plane going towards the main runway 10-28.
There were two Jet B738s at the International section, and the
remote stands had a C-17 with its seemingly weird asymmetric
tail, a Jet Airways A332, and a Turkish Cargo A310.

I had had a hearty dinner well in time at home, but staying up
that late, coupled with the burden of excitement and stress had
set my digestive juices flowing overtime. I was quite hungry when
I had boarded, and was looking forward to the first whiffs from
the rear galley. The delayed take-off saw our plane pull up and
take a right turn. The forward camera was turned on during
push-back, and we had some nice views of the tarmac, more so,
while taking off, seeing the runway lights grow smaller as they
were pushed back behind and below, as the plane rose.
I was sleepy, too - I turned on my nose to an extra attentive
mode before drifting in and out of a short sleep. The trolley
noise was only the drinks cart, and the drinks on offer were
three types of juices, water, and some aerated drinks. In my
sleep-mediated state, I could make out something about alcohol
not being served on this flight. Anyway, I took an orange juice in
an extremely tough paper cup, and downed it in no time. The
orange juice was a bit yellow, and a bit on the sour side: good,
that meant that not much extra sugar had been added to it. This
was a brand called `F7', with some Cyrillic lettering on the
cartons. This orange juice actually whetted up my appetite, and
my misery grew. Added to this was that the crew seemed to be
taking ages to serve the drinks. I was to later realise that this
trend continued in everything that they did. A true Kolkhoz is
not known to hurry - but haven't we left the 1930s some 80-odd
years behind?

Just then, some lovely reheat smells came wafting in.
Ah no - not an engine re-heat: the immensely satisfying smells of
food packets being re-heated. First came in the `Indian
Vegetarian Meals': I eyed the passengers' trays hungrily. This
seems to be the default meal choice, and travel agents have to be
explicitly told to change it, in case one desired something else.
I was pleasantly shocked to see a stewardess come up to me, and
saying, `Hindu Non-Veg'. She gave me a tray, which I hungrily
eyed. My attention was diverted from my plate just to see what
other Indians around me were partaking of - there seemed to be a
choice between chicken and fish, on the continental
non-vegetarian platter.
One always finds others' plates more interesting, right?
But not without reason.
The salad was a usual continental non-vegetarian salad, with more
meat than veggies. There were boiled potatoes and a few leaves of
lettuce in the midst of two pieces of sliced meat, curled up like
a rose, and two small meat masses. The salad dressing that went
with it was actually quite good. There were two buns - one
ordinary one, and one wheat bun, with sesame seeds (til) on top.
There was a butter chiplet (Amul), a cheese cube (Amul), with the
rest processed items all sourced from the former red country.
Interesting! My disappointment knew no end when I opened the meal
box. The food had been overheated, and some parts had got burnt.
There was some nice basmati rice in between, with an overdone red
lentil preparation (Masur/Malka Dal) to the right, and bone-less
chicken curry to the left. The Dal had lost the subtle black
cumin (kala jeera/kalonji) taste in the overheating, and had
solidified a bit more. It was a bit oily, too. The chicken curry was
also oily, and the burnt part did not help matters. I guess that
every meal box has some instructions for warming/re-heating
parameters: the duration, and temperature settings. The crew
seemed to have overdone both, on my box. The meal was
topped off with some surprisingly nice coffee (they must have a
brewer on board, and the beans seemed to have good lineage - at
least, not from Columbia, but they were not from the Divine
Indian South with the delicious chicory blend, either.) I was not
asked if I wanted milk to go with it (I did!), but the coffee was
actually good, with a strong aroma, and a nice liquor - good
enough to being me some succour. The dessert was a pastry,
with dry fruits on top. This was neither too soft, nor too hard,
and went well with the coffee. Glasses, plates and cups were
cleared off quickly.

The lights inside were dimmed just as there was light outside,
and soon snoring sounds filled the cabin. The crew then
disappeared, almost completely. Requests through the flight were
not met with smiles: water and tea are two things that we Indians
love to consume in good amounts. I had sifted through the
programmes a bit: we had been given two-pronged earphones. The
selection was very bland. I usually find the Air India selection
not too bad (especially the audio part), though the Jet Airways
one is possibly the best of the three full-service Indian
carriers. There was hardly anything to watch, or listen to.
The selection was quite sparse - not just the English ones
(movies, sitcoms), the Russian selection was extremely limited!
After getting tired of the moving map, I tried to catch up on
some sleep.

As the descent was announced, the cabin crew handed out arrival
forms in a somewhat lackadaisical manner. The captain made a
feather-touch landing at Shermetyevo airport, at which the
oft-heard Russian response was there for us to see. Yes, the
captain deserved the applause in all respects. I deplaned with a
splitting head-ache (from the descent), and was surprised to see
the the infamous 1980s look all around Terminal F, where we had
come in. The entire terminal wore a tired, dark and dingy
appearance, with the old-style creaky baggage belts in operation.
IGI's T3 spoils us rotten, of course!

My senior colleague and two others were received by a nice host,
and I introduced myself as `extra baggage'. Indeed so, since I
would not find space in his vehicle. I would have to take a taxi,
and the gentleman asked me not to try the Metro after the Airport
Express on my first day in Moscow. I would have to take a taxi!
Only two Forex counters were open, with some horrid exchange rates.
Now, one just cannot get Russian Roubles in India, so I had take
US dollars with me. I ended up encashing a good amount, since the
taxi fare estimate given by the gentleman was quite off, and I
had to go an encash yet another 50 dollar bill. The taxi counter
did not have anyone behind the counter. As I embarked on my
second foray with the unsmiling and unfriendly lady behind the
counter, this gentleman managed to find someone of the taxi
company, and at a royal fare of 1800 roubles, I set out from
Shermetyevo to Downtown, Moscow.
Now here, I will rush up the report a bit, so as to put in two
more reports on two lovely museums I visited during my stay - the
Museum of the Armed Forces (on the first day), and
Monino - the VVS Museum (on the third day)!
The rushed up trip report will be mainly through pictures.
The hotel I stayed in was quite basic, but satisfactory.
The Moscow weather was nice - cool (but rained on two days),
briefly sunny, and the city was neat and clean, on the whole.

The second day saw a quick trip to the Red Square. This is the
St. Basil's/Pokrovsky Cathedral, right in front of the Kremlin.





Here is the iconic view of the Kremlin clock tower, with the Red
Square in the foreground.



More of the Red Square, with the historical museum on the right,
the Lenin Mausoleum in the centre, and the Kremlin, behind.



I was to see the Lenin Mausoleum from the inside two days later,
and the Kremlin wall cemetery: the final resting places of many a
Soviet political figure. The new generation Russians are hardly
interested in the Lenin Mausoleum - it mostly attracts tourists
and foreigners. Inside the temperature, humidity and
dust-controlled environment, lies the embalmed body of the great
communist leader. This is currently financed by a private trust,
and the maintenance costs are quite high, as we were told. The
Russian leadership elected to continue with this public display,
amidst numerous voices of dissent, demanding a burial of the
body, laying the great leader to rest. In this dimly-lit
environment, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov or Lenin, as he is often
called by one of his pseudonyms, looked as if sleeping
peacefully. We had waited in a line for about an hour and a half
behind the History Museum at the Red Square, for this.

We had made a quick trip to the Arbat shopping street. On the
way, we saw a very impressive old Stalinist-era structure:



The contrast (photographic foreground and background, as well as
the ideological one!) is quite clear - with the McDonald's in
the foreground.

A highlight of my trip was some trips on the Moscow Metro. No, I
did not get to see much of the iconic Metro stations, but I saw a
few. There were two types of Metro trains: the new, and the old.
I got experiences of both.





Many Metro stations are really deep inside the ground! They are
connected to the top with very long escalators, which move quite
fast. Here is a view:



Here is the readily recognisable Udaipur marble in a Metro
station right on top of the Moscow river, where there are
numerous river cruises.





Legend has it that there is another secret Metro which is still
well-maintained: one from the Kremlin, to be used by the Soviet
leadership in the event of a nuclear attack.
The `nu-clear' is `un-clear' here - people say that it exists, it
does not exist in any public document.

It felt strange to be at the Red Square - once the symbol of the
world's most powerful Communist country. A country whose ideology
had deeply influenced the Indian leadership right after our
independence. The USSR got a ready partner for food supplies, in
return for arms - to put it a bit too over-simplistically.
The friendship between the two countries is best exemplified by
the presence of the Indian embassy on prime land - walking
distance from the Kremlin, on Vorontsovo Pole Street. There are
two complexes - one for a cultural centre, and the other, the
embassy itself. This could also account for the Udaipur marble on
a prime Metro station.







On a different note, the Iranian embassy is also close-by!

Here is a stadium constructed for the US-and-allies-boycotted
1980 Moscow Olympic games, where India won the hockey gold medal
after a gap of 16 years, defeating Spain 4-3 in the final. The
captain was V. Bhaskaran, and two other names I remember from this
team are Dung Dung and Maharaj Krishna Kaushik. Yes, Pakistan had
boycotted the games - at that time, the top team in hockey.



Another oddity: here is the statue of Dostoevsky in front of the
Lenin Library, somewhat overshadowed by the advertisement of a
Korean consumer electronics giant:



This was on the way to the station by the river - I forget its
name (the station, that is.) Here are some new houses in front
of the business district of Moscow, in the distance.



Close-by was the erstwhile Soviet Academy of Sciences,
distinguished by its somewhat undistinguished and tacky design.



As such, Moscow is rather indistinguishable from most other towns
such as London and major cities in the USA - similar buildings
(with the exception of some Communist-era structures), the same
cars (except for a few Fiat 124 derivatives: the Lada range, and
some Volgas), the same brands and shops, except for the language
- Russian almost everywhere, and the relative lack of credit card
payment options at many places.





Here is a picture of some traffic on Porkrovka street, with a
beautiful sky behind (of course, as good as my cellphone camera
could capture it.)



The Cyrillic letters can be made some sense of, at places - I
ended up doing a lot of pattern matching with the maps and
instructions I had, but the language was difficult to understand.
As for numerals, I found it interesting that `two' was referred
to as sounding like `Dve/Dwe', which brought back memories of
high-school Chemistry, and Mendeleev's Periodic Table. Some of
the elements he predicted included what he named with Sanskrit
numerals prefixed to the known element, such as Eka-Manganese,
Dwi-Tellurium, and the like. While the chemistry between me - the
subject (unconcerned), and the subject (Chemistry) concerned, is
not of much concern (ah, this is subjective!), I remember
struggling with the subject, more so, Inorganic Chemistry. A
little bit of interest in Organic Chemistry did not see the
light of day. Light? I am amazed at how the human mind jumps from
one thought to the other, seamlessly!
In Moscow at this time of the year, I find it absolutely amazing
that there is light by around 04:30 am, and continues till about
10:30 pm. Such long daylight hours should lead to a lot of
productivity. For people like me, such a conclusion would not
hold, since there would be a bottle of vodka in one's hand, and
its volatile contents, inside the possibly even more
volatile person, of course.

We paid a visit to the Sparrow Hills, which during the Soviet
period, was called...no guesses, Lenin Hills. This reminds one
of almost everything of importance in India's economic capital
Mumbai being gradually named after Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj,
or his relatives. The Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport
(from `Bombay airport, or `Santa Cruz/Sahar airport'),
The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (from `VT'/`Victoria Terminus'),
The Chhatrapati Shivaji Vastu Sangrahalaya (from `The Prince of
Wales Museum') - all three of the above being wonderful places,
in my opinion, at least. India's busiest airport; India's perhaps
most beautiful, clean, orderly and super-efficient railway
station; and a wonderful museum bang in the main city, in the
Fort area. In fact, it is said that usually by the time,
statements such as `platform kramanka saah var pooDhi local
Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus-la jaNali dheemi local aahe'
are made, the train would have come, stopped, and left.
Old-timers argue that `VT-la', or `even `Mumbai-la' would have
been apt replacements for such time-critical statements!
Time-critical? Yes, Mumbai goes strictly by the clock!
Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Terminal is there at Pune.
VJTI metamorphosed into VJTI: yes, keeping the initials the same,
`Victoria Jubilee Technical Institute became `Veermata
Jijabai...'. Just as from `Bombay Municipal Corporation', the BMC
became `Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation'.
Ingenuity at its best!
Oh yes, there is the slightly embarrassing `Sambhaji Beedi'
advertised on BEST buses, though.
Sorry for the digression, I continue to wax eloquent about my
favourite city at the first available instance, right?
Back to the Sparrow hills.
The view from the Sparrow Hills is wonderful - offering a great
view of many part of the city. Directly opposite is the imposing
structure of the Moscow State University.



On the other side, in the distance can be seen -
I forget, power plants, or heating
plants. At the height of the Soviet Union, the power plants
around Moscow (an eyesore to many) were an integral part of the
Communist propaganda. They said that the Communism was Soviet
Power plus Electric Power.
Some individuals interpreted the above equation differently,
Soviet Power equalled Communism, minus Electric Power.

We saw the remnants of Hotel Rossiya which had been pulled down -
ghastly, said many residents. This was at one time, the world's
largest hotel, and right next to the Kremlin. This was also right
behind the `English Court', the official house of the English
ambassador for 5 centuries - back then.





The first image above, shows the remnants of the place where
Hotel Rossiya had once stood. My father has some memories of this
hotel, circa 1968. He and his friends had gone out through a back
door to see the Kremlin nearby, and on coming back, a lady at the
reception had fearfully told them not to go out without an
authorised official escort, as her job would land up in trouble.
To add to it, their baggage had been thoroughly examined in their
absence, when they had gone out with an official guide, on an
earlier day.

Another interesting irony was bang right on in the heart of the
city: just behind St. Basil's Cathedral (correctly, the
Pokrovksky Cathedral) and right in front of the symbol of
Communism, was a series of really huge billboards, advertising
products of Capitalism - NesTea.





These also serve to remove from much of the public gaze, the
place where the huge Hotel Rossiya was raised from the ground,
and recently, razed to the ground. Dust thou art...

Just behind the English Court (looking from the direction of the
Kremlin), is the old house of the Romanov Dynasty, where the
Romanovs lived, before the patriarch assumed Tzar-ship.





The last day had us doing a trip of the Kremlin - the inside,
that is. We did the to-and-fro journey on the Metro, with some
good dollops of help from some passengers who understood a bit of
English (young people, typically), who pointed out the correct
directions. This is one really impressive structure. At the
entrance, is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We witnessed the
changing of the guard - a simple and impressive ceremony.



The gardens around are really beautiful!



The Kremlin compound has many a cathedral, which were places of
worship in the pre-communist era, and have the mortal remains of
many a saint inside them. Many of them have some extremely
impressive paintings, and architecture. Some of the jewellery of
the Tzars and their personal effects were also displayed, in one
of the structures.





Here is a piece of history that many of us had come looking for:
The Tzar's Bell!



The Palace of the Nations is where Gorbachev had hosted Reagan,
when the latter had visited Moscow.



There is a cannon close-by: here is a `canonical' view:



An impressive light-post greeted us, towards the end of the
journey, as we would now have to rush back, pick up our luggage,
and head back to the airport.



The return itinerary was as follows:

Set out 01 Jul (Fri) for New Delhi from Moscow
AI 6535: Air India (SU 535: Aeroflot) (A332) [Seat: xx; PNR: JB70M]
Moscow Shermetyevo Airport Terminal F -
New Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport Terminal 3
Moscow (SVO) - New Delhi (DEL)
[07:25 pm - 03:00 am, 02 Jul (Sat)] {06:05 hrs}

We had got together as a big group, and were to set out from the
official accommodation provided to the `important' people of our
group. Taxis had been booked (at 800 Roubles apiece - a
fantastic deal!), which were supposed to come in at 3pm. There
was no sign of any conveyance at around 3:30pm, when we started
getting worried. As the reception frantically tried some other
numbers, I recounted our host's comment about a class of taxis
available in Moscow called the `Black Taxis'. Yes, you guessed
right - the chromaticity of the monetary benefit (or the lack of
it, rather) denotes the illegal-ness of the entire affair.
According to him, if one stood by the street waving his or her
hands, some cars would invariably stop, and one would have to
strike a bargain with the driver, and get a ride. For dropping
our luggage in the morning at this place (before the Kremlin
trip), three of us had come to this place in such a `black taxi'
from our hotel, where the driver's rash driving, and sudden
desire to make a fast buck had left us poorer by 1600 Roubles -
an incredible sum, for the short distance. The negotiation at our
hotel was for a clear 200 Roubles less. He had also come in
half-an-hour late - this did not seem out of the ordinary, and
there was no hint of any apology, or any remorse, on the driver's
expression-less face.

The reception finally managed to get a `black taxi' and as the
negotiations with him continued, a senior lady in our group got
into action. She picked up threads of the conversation with the
hotel reception, and got back at the driver in chaste Russian.
We were clearly getting late, and seeing a senior lady in a sari
speaking his mother tongue had some effect, and finally a deal
was clinched at 1600 Roubles. We were on the other side of Moscow
(from where the AeroExpress train leaves), and the senior people
in the group did not want to do any more walking, that too with
all their baggage with them. So we set out in the two vehicles.
The road to Shermetyevo airport had a massive traffic jam - this
route is shared with the exit out of Moscow for St. Petersberg
(Petrograd/Leningrad) as well, and the two vehicles inched along.
I managed to snatch some sleep right there in the car, amidst the
other worried people all around me. We landed up in front of the
ageing Terminal F with just about two hours left for departure
time.

If the land-side part of Terminal F was bad, the air-side was just
terrible. At the check-in desk, there was no choice as far as
seating went: this would be a full flight (yes, 100% full in
Economy, without a single empty seat), and none of us were
assigned any window or aisle seats. After the baggage(less)
experience of one of the group from Calcutta, none of those going
onward to Calcutta wanted their luggage to be through checked-in
to their final destination. This person had his luggage through
checked-in at Calcutta itself, and reached Moscow without a clue
as to where it was, or who to complain against. The 6 days at
Moscow had drawn a complete blank, as Aeroflot did not have a
clue. Some 10 days after he had got back to Calcutta, Aeroflot
was finally able to trace the baggage to its area in Delhi - this
took another four days to get back to him.

Thanks to the thoughtfulness of a senior member
of our team, we got our Roubles exchanged for Dollars right
there. There is no exchange counter air-side. Some of us, that
is. Those who did not - had a Hobson's choice. The over-priced
duty free items ensured that their shopping would not be the
window-kind that some of us were doing. And what else would we
have done? The terminal was bursting its seams with people. To
add to our miseries, the air conditioning was either off, or the
heating could not be stopped. We were sweating hard, and the
place was suffocating. The waiting areas have very few chairs -
most of it is occupied by the over-priced shops. There is very
little ramp action to be seen, as shops are everywhere. People
were asking around for the toilets - there was one set at a
remote corner of this area. There were long lines for boarding,
which refused to budge.



When we finally were able to board, we thanked our stars as we
entered a cool aircraft. It was the `N. Gogol' again, and the
plane was nice and clean. The view out of the windows would
have been fantastic - but in a middle seat of the middle row, I
did not have much view, or choice, either. To complicate matters,
as the reader would have rightly guessed by now, I was hungry,
too. Here is a picture of the interior of the plane, shortly
after boarding.



The captain made a powerful take-off into the skies above Moscow.
The service on this leg was also as inefficient as the onward
flight. The beverage service took ages. The IFE (In-Flight
Entertainment) continued to be a complete joke, with hardly
anything to see or hear, for me. There were no power ports in the
Economy Section, so out came my laptop, and I started working.
I had thought that at least, the food would come in early, as the
cabin crew would like to be divested of one duty - and look for a
chance to disappear. In came the menu cards, after a while.
Interestingly, while there were some red and white wine
selections on the card, this was not on the cards. Yes, literally
so, as a fellow passenger asked about it. He was handed over the
duty-free list, with the rate list for the beverage in question.
And yes, they would appreciate payment in US Dollars, or Euros.

The Asian Vegetarian Meals came in first, as in the inward leg. I
was sitting with my fingers crossed, as to what carbonised dry
meal I could expect. I was surprised as I was asked whether I
wanted the fish or the chicken option. There were no other
special meals on board. Our travel agent had inserted the Hindu
non-vegetarian option for me on both legs (as I had guessed after
what I got on the inward trip), but thankfully, no requests for
any other special meals had been catered to, both literally, as
well as figuratively. The meal was at least filling,
if not very tasty. Most of the items were the same as on the
inward leg, with the main course replaced with a fish-based item,
surrounded by some boiled vegetables. My mind wandered off to
some fish-based items I have had on long Air India flights -
Norwegian Salmon fillets and Grilled Hake - and I looked at my
box in a distasteful manner - just as the tasteless preparation
stared back at me. While continental fare often has many boiled
and steamed items, many items are often well-marinated, or
lightly fried, and have some nice accompaniments (dressings, and
accompanying condiments) to go with them. Many items can be
steamed instead of being boiled, to preserve some of the original
flavour, colour and texture. It is not that I crave
for spicy food - I have admired the continental fare for
instance, on some Air India and Cathay Pacific flights.
This was a big let-down.
I was hungry, and let thoughts of the Air India
continental fare fill my mind, while I gulped down the offerings.
The long flight did not have anything eventful to report, as the
cabin crew disappeared, as expected. I got quite thirsty towards
the end, and went to the galley area, expecting to find some
drinks and snacks. It was bare. I chanced upon a gentleman there,
and requested him for some orange juice. He looked around, and
finally located a carton. The gentleman gave it, without even a
hint of a smile on his face, as I uttered a formal thanks.
The captain made a very soft landing at IGI airport, New Delhi.
We had come in on the new runway 29-11 from the east, and the
cabin (which had mixed ethnicity - about half-and-half South
Asian, and Russian/East European), applauded the Captain's effort
with some loud clapping.

And that takes us to the end of this report. I hope you enjoyed
reading this long report as much as I enjoyed penning down my
memories. I will have separate trip reports on both the Central
Museum of the Armed Forces, and of course, the air enthusiast's
exotic dream: Monino!
Cheers, Sumantra.
---
Links to my previous TRs, in reverse chronological order:

10. The City of Lakes: Mother's Heart, Heart of the Motherland
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic11556.html

9. Mostly Indoors, in Indore:
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic11533.html

8. Inter-metro Shuttling on AI: DEL-BOM on AI810, BOM-DEL on
AI888
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic11449.html

7. On the cusp: DEL-BOM on IC863, BOM-DEL on AI660
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic11160.html

6. DEL-BOM on IT308, BOM-DEL on IC166
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic10986.html

5. DEL-MAA on IC439, MAA-DEL on IC802
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic10809.html

4. DEL-PNQ on IC849, PNQ-DEL on IC850
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic10510.html

3. DEL-MAA on IC429 (A321), MAA-DEL on IC7602 (CRJ7)
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic10401.html

2. DEL-NAG-NDC, NDC-BOM-DEL on G8
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic10169.html

1. IGI T3, AI 314 DEL-HKG and AI 311 HKG-DEL
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic10018.html


Last edited by sumantra on Fri Oct 07, 2011 1:39 pm; edited 1 time in total
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texdravid
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2011 10:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for your extremely detailed and fine report. I must say, that has to be the most comprehensive report I have ever read on this site.

Good job, Sumantra. Hope you had a good time in Moscow. Alas, I have never been....

By the way, nowadays with the 777 and 380, the 744 engines look positively small (and of course, fuel inefficient).

Tex
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2011 10:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for your kind words, Doctor. Yes, I had a nice time in Moscow, and got to visit two wonderful places (from us aviation enthusiasts' point of view, that is), the CMAF and Monino. Parts 2 and 3 will cover those places.
With warm regards,
Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2011 1:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice report - thanks for posting. I'm absolutely intrigued about the lack of free booze on SU - I thought that would be a give - and with some nice vodkas prominently displayed. The food being botched up did not surprise me too much though, neither did the "sullen crew".

Still surprising that SU's managing to get such good loads on their flights. Makes me wonder if Russia is a possible destination for a LCC from India, considering it's only 120 miles further than SIN (so 6E's 320s should be able to fly there)? Given the service on board SU - there's no reason to prefer it to a friendly LCC I presume Smile
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shasi1711
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2011 7:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great and detailed report, Sumantra! Thanks! Gave a wonderful description of Moscow.

Nimish wrote:
Still surprising that SU's managing to get such good loads on their flights.


Though, on one hand, they may have traffic to Russia, another reason for good loads may be that they are consistently one of the cheapest carriers ex-JFK to Del. During the winter peak, when other airlines were going around $1400, I was able to find tickets on SU for $1000 - 1100.
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Spiderguy252
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 1:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great report of a trip on a rare airline, sumantra. Thanks for the share. Smile
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 2:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the appreciation, Nimish, Shasi, and Varun!
Shasi: yes, that often has been one reason, since approximately the last decade or so, at least: a cost-effective option for transit from DEL/BOM to JFK.
Nimish: I am not sure if the sectors DEL/BOM-SVO can support other carriers. Air India has hesitated to fly this sector on its own metal (except perhaps a long time back: I remember seeing an Air India advertisement showing the Maharaja painting a red square), and has usually had a code-share with Aeroflot. Given the history of warm relations since the times of the erstwhile Soviet Union, Air India itself may not have found it profitable to operate this route. I have not analysed any statistics - may be someone in the know can comment on this better?
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 9:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Finally!!! You deliver yet another piece of well-articulated, detailed and "food-centric" Very Happy trip report! Really liked it and the pictures made me nostalgic! Having lived in Moscow (during Yeltsin years), I can relate to your observation on the Taxicabs, grumpy-faced FAs and problems encountered by a curious tourist who is not conversant with Russian language!

Quote:
A true Kolkhoz is not known to hurry - but haven't we left the 1930s some 80-odd years behind?

Hmm...Kolkhoznik would be more appropriate
Quote:
This was a brand called `F7', with some Cyrillic lettering on the cartons.
I think its J7, quite popular brand in Russia, drank a lot during my time Very Happy

On SVO-DEL-SVO route, As far as I remember SU flew: IL62/ 763/ IL96 & the current 332
AI flew a wet-leased IL-62 (not the code-shared SU metal) during early 90s. Once I went to AI's downtown Moscow office to buy SVO- DEL-CCU ticket, after 2 rounds of visit, they issued me 2 separate tickets!

Eagerly waiting for your next part!
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 09, 2011 9:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Anyone flown IAH-SVO-SIN?

That is one exotic flight!

I still can't believe SQ flies this route, or flies to IAH at all.

I love the power of oil and Texas.
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 09, 2011 3:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

PAL@YWG wrote:

Quote:
A true Kolkhoz is not known to hurry - but haven't we left the 1930s some 80-odd years behind?

Hmm...Kolkhoznik would be more appropriate

Ah - thank you! I guess I read too many cold war-era spy thrillers in my school days, and my nebulous memories are...exactly that, nebulous.

PAL@YWG wrote:

Quote:
This was a brand called `F7', with some Cyrillic lettering on the cartons.
I think its J7, quite popular brand in Russia, drank a lot during my time Very Happy

See? a hungry and thirsty belly prevents the mind from registering important pieces of information. Yes, J7 indeed - I surprisingly experienced this once on my recent Beijing trip!

PAL@YWG wrote:

On SVO-DEL-SVO route, As far as I remember SU flew: IL62/ 763/ IL96 & the current 332
AI flew a wet-leased IL-62 (not the code-shared SU metal) during early 90s. Once I went to AI's downtown Moscow office to buy SVO- DEL-CCU ticket, after 2 rounds of visit, they issued me 2 separate tickets!

Mr. Pal, this is a very interesting piece of information! A wet lease would mean that the plane was in the original Aeroflot colours, with the original Aeroflot crew, and not the dry-leased Il-62 which did the BOM-SVO route, some pictures of which can be found in the following thread:
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic3774.html
Would you happen to remember the registration of this Il-62, and might you still have some nice pictures of the bird(s)?


PAL@YWG wrote:

Eagerly waiting for your next part!

Mr. Pal, I think it is we who should be eagerly awaiting gems from the Yeltsin era Russia, from you! The more we read of your stay there, the airlines flown, the types of planes flown, and more, the more one gets greedy to demand you to put down your memories, attach a few superb pictures, and send share some more gems from your closet, with us!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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me111993
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 09, 2011 4:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the lovely TR Sumantra!
Moscow is a place that I'd love to visit someday, exotic - cold places always appeal to me alot!
Aeroflot has improved, atleast in terms if hardware. Plus, an A332 in their colours is breath-takingly beautiful! Can't wait to see their 77W's! Smile
Taking phots at night in T3 is impossible, experienced it myself a couple of months ago, specially in the domestic section, which is right beside the taxiway off the runway, you see exotic traffic coming in, taxing so close to you and still the pics come out very bad Sad
Apart from JFK, aeroflot along with finnair provide dirt cheap connections into continental europe too!

Thanks again for sharing.
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2011 4:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, Rishul! Yes, the new Aeroflot colours are very nice, and look great on almost any plane. Night shots are difficult at most terminals, with the internal glare obscuring most other details. Among other things, low-light photography is always challenging, more so, without a tripod!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2011 6:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Mr. Pal, this is a very interesting piece of information! A wet lease would mean that the plane was in the original Aeroflot colours, with the original Aeroflot crew, and not the dry-leased Il-62 which did the BOM-SVO route, some pictures of which can be found in the following thread:
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic3774.html
Would you happen to remember the registration of this Il-62, and might you still have some nice pictures of the bird(s)?


Sumantra, as far as I remember, it was wet-leased (with only the tail painted with AI logo) with full Russian crew for once a week operation. Whether the same aircraft/arrangement at certain point of time was used for SVO- BOM run, I don't know.
In those days taking pictures at airports were prohibited Smile and there were no Anetter's forum then!

Quote:
Mr. Pal, I think it is we who should be eagerly awaiting gems from the Yeltsin era Russia, from you! The more we read of your stay there, the airlines flown, the types of planes flown, and more, the more one gets greedy to demand you to put down your memories, attach a few superb pictures, and send share some more gems from your closet, with us!

I wish if I had some pictures taken! I have some interesting trips on soviets beasts. SVO- BUD on Malev's TU-134 (one of the most generous leg space I ever got) or SU's LHR- SVO on IL-86 (it's very slow climb after long roll got some Brits really panicking!). I wish I took some pictures (even on those Kodak film rolls)!
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2011 10:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Now THAT is interesting news! An Aeroflot Il-62 in a hybrid scheme with AI titles on the tail - I really wish someone had clicked a picture.
As regards the other point, can we still persuade you to put down your memories, even if they do not have any accompanying pictures? You write very well - it would be a treat to read your words alone.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2011 5:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow! Moscow has been on my hit list for a while now. Need to do it soon I guess.
Thanks for putting together A nice report. Pls, next time get photos of the PLANE FOOD doesn't matter how PLAIN it is.

Is Moscow, A value for money destination if one visits as a tourist or is it just another rip off ie: London,Paris etc... Ofc I read the taxi bit, but how do you rate it generally?
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2011 8:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, theflyingsikh! As I have written, my only digital pictures are from my cellphone. This has a `Flight' mode, but I do not use it as some people are a bit apprehensive about cellphones being used in flight. Hence, no pictures of the in-flight service Sad
Yes, Moscow is a costly city, some attractions are a rip-off. Heaven forbid if one tries to buy tickets in the black, as a colleague tried to do, for the Bolshoi Theatre. However, London would be much more expensive.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2011 5:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Really amazing TR. It must have taken you ages to pen down all that much. Nice pictures of Russia as well.

Cheers
Shivendra
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2011 7:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks a lot, Shivendra! In most cases, I try to put in some basic details during the trip itself, and then flesh it out, later, or in a moment of creative flash. As for pictures, I take my analog SLR along, and after taking a particular snap, I try it with my cellphone camera also.
Thanks, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 8:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another nice excellent trip report both in terms of aviation and the city itself great details on the tourist spots.

You dont get to read much report on Aeroflot that easily, but seems like Aeroflot has a lot of catching up to do in terms of customer excellence as I see that was missing on the flight.

Did you manage to buy any Russian Vodka if yes are they really cheap?

I understand that you are using an analog SLR as well do you easily get camera rolls for the same?

I find it funny no matter what time it is you always feel hungry Very Happy
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 10:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you, Srinivas! Yes, Aeroflot is way behind many carriers in terms of its service, but since I did not have too many high expectations, I was not that disappointed. Russian Vodka? I never got much chance to find out as I was a bit short of time (and I did not want to explore the costly city with widely varying prices, that much). However, that was not an impediment, as our hosts presented us with an unexpected souvenir - a bottle of the original Smirnoff Vodka! (This is not the American Smirnov one). I have still preserved it for `occasions', lest I get thirsty the moment I pass by the cup-board in which it is securely `hidden'. Russian liquor? I got to taste a bit. There was a Russian Champagne, which was quite hideous. A white was better, and a red was quite nice. I did not get to try the famous Baltica beer, though.
Camera rolls? Yes, I can get 400 film readily in Delhi - that is a saving grace. Some of my ex-colleagues in Mumbai find it a bit hard to get, especially in the suburbs.
Yes, your last observation is very precise - food has been more of a passion with me ever since I had my senses around me. My rapidly expanding middle - bears testimony to my excesses!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 23, 2012 11:13 pm    Post subject: Re: To Russia, with Awe: Moscow, 2011, Part 1: The Overall T Reply with quote

A very enjoyable photo journalism! Very Happy

(edited by Nimish to remove the quoted thread starting post)
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2012 12:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Sabyasachi!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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