Today was the first leg of the journey from London to Moscow. I’m staying at the somewhat grandly titled “Airhotel – Domodedovo”. Eleven years ago this airport didn’t exist. Domodedovo was a ramshackle terminal building that used to instil the very fear of God into me upon arrival. I used to barge my way through a mass of grubby, pawing taxi drivers, bribe some officials to get my bags on board an aircraft and then endure the three hour flight west, often accompanied by livestock or a slobbering dog with halitosis in the adjacent seat.
It’s all very different now I’m glad to say. British Airways will bring you straight here from London Heathrow with a G&T and a smile and the terminal building is bang up to date - can’t be more than five or six years old. Of course five is a magic number in Russia. I think it’s about as long as most things last before they start to fall apart. I don’t think anything, anywhere has ever been serviced properly, which means that once it passes that magic number, it instantly has an impending sense of doom and failure about it. Not particularly comforting when the lift doors shut and the lights go off.
Still, even with a new airport building and a hotel nearby, it’s good to know that something’s never change. The queue for check-in at the hotel took around half an hour. There were only seven of us and five of those were a party enquiring about internet access. The other lady however seemed to be a friend of the receptionist so it was nice that they had a chance to catch up. I smiled quietly to myself as I listened to the mumbles and complaints from those in the queue. I refuse to let such minor inconveniences bother me on this trip. If I do, what state will I be in a week from now?
After the receptionist had said her last goodbyes, I finally got my room card and headed upstairs via the previously mentioned lift. Unfortunately, although my card opened the door to room 616, the lady and two children that already occupied it weren’t all that keen on sharing. I don’t blame them. I hadn’t shaved, the rooms aren’t big and I did have a large case. I headed back to reception where I was promptly given the key to room 716 instead. The temptation to try this new key in every door on the seventh floor was almost overwhelming but I resisted. After all, I have all day tomorrow to kill and I’ve only brought two films along with me.
Russia is indeed a funny old place. Eleven years seems like only yesterday. The familiar sights, sounds and unfortunately smells, bring back so many memories. The strange mix of people: some rude, some utterly charming. It will be an interesting return I’ve no doubt. I only hope you stay with me – I’m going to need all the support I can get. I’m heading off to the bar now I think, where I’ve no doubt there will be beer. Wish me luck…..