Sunday, 29 August 2010

Back from the Russian Federation

You will have noticed my absence from the blog scene for the last couple of weeks. That's because Mrs Trebian and I have been out of the country enjoying the sites of the Russian Federation. We've just done a 10 day river cruise from St Petersburg to Moscow.

The trip deserves some detailed blogs, - oh! the sites we have seen, the places we have been. And the photos that I've taken. These are currently uploading to my laptop's hard drive, - it's taken 40 minutes so far and it looks to me that I've got another 30 minutes to go - so this blog is being written on my netbook.

As I've got no pictures as yet for the moment this initial blog will just be a bit of background. We were a bit worried before we went for three reasons:

1) Moscow weather looked too hot and the smog wasn't good.
2) British Airways were threatening strikes.
3) The BAA workers who run Heathrow were threatening strikes.

As it turned out none of these things were a concern.

To avoid any traffic problems we drove down the night before the flight and stayed at a hotel. The drive on the M25 was through the worst rain storm I've driven in for a very long time, made worse by the increasing darkness. So bad was it that even the outer lane nutters in their Audi TTs dropped down to below 50 mph. We eventually found the hotel (no thanks to the SatNav - TomToms have user map corrections to upload and I think someone has been playing silly b*gg*rs with the locations of airport hotels as this is the second time we've been sent close toan airport hotel but unhelpfully the wrong side of a dual carriageway or motorway with no turns).

At the risk of being controversial I have to say that our experience at Heathrow Terminal 5 and with BA as well both going out and returning was universally excellent. The staff were cheerful and helpful, T5 was well organised and efficient, the plane left on time and the food (particularly going out) was perfectly edible.

This contrasted with St Petersburg airport. We got caught the wrong side of another plane arrival and got separated from the rest of our group. It took us nearly an hour to get through passport control. We were not the most popular members of our party when we finally got through, - they were almost at the point of sending a coach off without us.

(Edit #1 - Pictures have just finished loading. Here's the Soviet era terminal building at St P)

Coming back out of Moscow was chaotic. The whole scanning thing is a shambles compared with T5. Trays for putting your shoes and bags in are all over the place. If anyone has a problem they're not taken to one side, - they're dealt with in the queue which then backs everyone up. Once you get through security (oh - nearly forgot - our assigned security gate was shut with no explanation so we had to wander off to another level of the building to get through) there's virtually nowhere to sit. The duty free shops are scattered about all over the place. There's no location maps. For a new building it really hasn't been thought out at all.

Back at T5, despite having to wait on the plane for a coach, arrival went like a dream. Extra passport booths were opened up as people arrived. Luggage arrived quickly. Short walk to the hotel buses. A bit of a wait there, but otherwise very efficient.

Right. Photos have nearly all loaded, so I'd better close and start editing.

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