When we last left you, we were deplaning in Moscow and getting our luggage. Given the challenges of making our flight from JFK to SVO, we are pleased to report that our 32 pieces of luggage all arrived in Moscow without incident. This included our 20 bags of personal luggage, as well as 12 additional bags of supplies of the orphanage. We are particularly thankful for Delta who actually sent our extra luggage ahead of us to JFK to ensure that there would be no balance and load issues on our small plane out of RDU– which ended up being a brilliant decision on their part. But that’s another story for another blog post.
Our visit to Moscow was pleasant in all aspects – the day was overcast and cold, but that seems typical of Moscow this time of year. Given that we had some new travelers and repeat travelers, we enjoyed a mixture of activities in Moscow, including visiting Christ Our Savior Cathedral; unfortunately, Red Square was closed on this particular day for “cleaning.” We did learn from some locals that there was a peaceful “flashmob” planned for Red Square that day and that was likely the source of the closing…especially as there were no street cleaners in sight during our view from the fences surrounding the iconic location.
We tried a new place for lunch and it was delicious. We also visited two new locations in Moscow, including a famous cemetery and the highest elevation in Moscow where we were treated to some beautiful views of the city. Overall, it was a nice way to start our trip on Russian soil and without much incident.
Our stress-free day continued as we boarded our train to Kirov. Thanks to our uber-organized travel coordinator, Patsy, our loading process was a well-oiled machine and everyone commented on how smooth and easy this particular process was. Little did we know of the challenges that awaited us 14 hours to the east in Kirov.
As we pulled into Kirov at 8:00 am Moscow time, you had to be in awe of the amazing landscape filled with fresh snow. It was gorgeous and breathtaking….just as you might imagine a scene in a movie filmed in rural Russia in the late winter.
Our traditional welcome breakfast at Asya’s restaurant – ham and cheese blini (crepes) this time – was followed y a productive and relatively short shopping trip for our last minute supplies. Then started the trek on the weavy and bumpy road to Slobodskoy.
Unfortunately, this is when the beauty of the snow began to present the realities of a winter in Russia. For our large and packed bus could not get us to hotel – there was just too much snow, slush, abandoned cars and the like for the bus to maneuver. So we had to park about two blocks away and walk to our hotel, trudging through 6-12 inches of slush, ice and interested Russian citizens watching the parade.
Moreover, we actually had to carry all of our bags and supplies – which included 20 personal bags, 12 supply bags (all hovering at the 50 lb limit), 23 5L bottles of water, 23 1.5L bottles of water, 120 photo albums bought as gifts for the kids in Kirov, one plant for Galina and various and sundry things still on the bus. As I type of all this, it sounds pretty comical…and it was. But at the time, it was quite the task that gave us our morning workout despite the fact that we had not slept much over the last 40 hours.
It took all 20 of us three trips to get all of it to the hotel. I wish we had a picture of the process but candidly, at that point, none of us were in a picture taking mood 🙂 But everything – and everyone – arrived in one piece, so we were thankful for that.
We were greeted by warm showers in the hotel, which buoyed the spirits and the energy of the group. Armed with the power of the world’s most talented group of interpreters, we boarded the bus to the orphanage ready to be reunited with the staff and kids in Slobodskoy. But were they ready for us?
[Note: The Internet is not working in the hotel, so we will be posting from the orphanage during any breaks in the day. We will do our best to post a mixture of updates of our activities and personal reflections from different travelers. These may be sporadic, so thanks for understanding.]