25.04.2016 - 25.04.2016
For once this was not a long journey, neither in distance nor number of days. This was a four-day trip back and forth to Nizhny Novgorod (Russia) with a spectacular adventure just waiting for me over there. All planning and preparation began over 8 months ago with medical check-up and applying for Visa etc. All this with help from Andreas at Space Affairs, who helped with organizing and support both pre-, during and after the flight.
So departure day had finally arrived and I was for once finished with packing in time, which is unusual for me. But I had actually planned for only a carry-on bag to avoid having to bother with check-in of luggage, so then you do not have so much room to pack too much stuff. I even had time to download new playlists on my mp3-player. Before I left home I had time to check like 17 times that I had all papers with me… travel insurance, flight tickets, train tickets, medical papers and all other necessarily papers for my trip. With only a carry-on and a purse it was easy taking the bicycle to the train station. This morning it was chilly -3 °C so I got slightly hypothermic in the waiting for boarding the train. In the neighborhood city Borlänge I had to change train and imagine my surprise when it departed on time (!). But it was another 2 hours left to Stockholm Arlanda Airport so still anything could happen. And it was onboard this train it started to tingle in my stomach that it was so close now to fly the fighter jet… and not any fighter jet, but a MiG-29!
Disembarked the train at Arlanda Airport and rode the escalators up to Sky City and took the opportunity to exchange some cash (Russian rubles). Even though all my hotels, transfers, lunches and dinners, guide etc. was paid for in advance it’s always good to have cash for tips and so. Was in good time but still lined up for check-in. I could all stand a little after that 2 ½ hours train ride and soon another 2 hours onboard an aircraft. When the staff finally arrived at the check-in counters I was positively surprised that they were Swedish. I had expected Russians since I was flying Aeroflot. Got my boarding passes (window seats of course) and cleared security check easily, even though I was wearing in a large hoodie I wasn’t checked extra. Previously I have been forced to x-ray that very same hoodie but apparently not today. I bought a simple Caesar Salad Wrap for shameless 83 SEK (about €8). But you don’t have too many options at an airport.
The non-stop flight to Moscow was delayed by 15 minutes according to the information screen, which was fine as long as it didn’t get any more delayed than that. Since Russia doesn’t belong to European Union there were like a thousand extra passport checks before entering the gate. Eventually the Swedish staff arrived at the gate and let us passengers onboard the aircraft. But once on the aircraft I was greeted by Russian cabin crew in handsome uniforms. The Russian crew spoke very well English though so I had nothing to worry about. When boarding was completed the plane was only half full of passengers and the two seats next to me was empty. During the almost 2 hour flight to Moscow it was served both a huge sandwich and optional beverages along with wet wipe and toothpick. Was really impressed. The plane landed at Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO) just before 4pm. It was easy getting around at the airport since all necessarily signs texted in Russian (with Cyrillic letters) also are texted in English with Latin letters. Though I have studied some Russian years ago and still remember the Cyrillic alphabet and its pronunciation, so with nothing else to do before my next flight to Nizhny Novgorod I walked around and read different signs. So with knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet some words are understandable and quite similar to English and/or Swedish.
The passport control officer in the booth at Sheremetyevo International Airport was moderately interested in his work but checked my passport and handed over my tourist card that must to be returned when leaving Russia. To apply for Russian Visa requires some preparation with papers, but it was not as hard as I first thought it would be. But you must be prepared to pay a lot of money (€150).
Neither the flight to Nizhny Novgorod was fully seated with passengers when boarding was completed. Duration of flight was about 45 minutes but despite this Aeroflot offered both a sandwich and beverages during the short-haul flight. The aircraft landed at Nizhny Novgorod International Airport around 8pm. Since I didn’t have any checked-in bags I could go straight to the meeting point where the driver was waiting to transfer me to my hotel. The transfer was supposed to take about half an hour but due to roadwork it took an hour. At arrival at Hotel Alexandrovsky Garden I could just check in and attend to the dinner awaited in the hotel restaurant. Later in the evening it was not so easy falling asleep since I was quite excited about tomorrow.