Friday, 7 June 2013
The Accidental Diplomat - Day 3 - Moscow to Perm
The rain beat heavily against my window as I opened my curtains before leaving my room to head to a breakfast of pancakes, coffee, fruit and yogurt. Almost as if the city were sad of our departure to Perm later that day.
Following check out it was time for a coach excursion around the Russian Capital. The plan had been to get out at various locations, however due to the rain this was only possible at Sparrows Hills near Moscow State University. Our tour began at Dinamo then we drove down to Tverskaya, on to Red Square, along the Moscow river past the Kremlin then on the Olympic Stadium, Sparrows Hills, Yuro-Zapadnaia, then back round and up to Red Square and the Church of Christ the Saviour. In short we saw all of the key site before heading off to Sheremetovo Airport.
The trip to the airport should not have been too long a journey, in theory. However, our driver didn't seem to have either a sense of direction or any kind of patience. After getting lost near Khimki (a new technology park near Moscow), having a race with another coach, doing a u-turn across 12 lanes of traffic he then got lost again near the airport. Eventually we arrived near Sheremetovo and could at last see the hotel where we would have lunch and the airport we would depart from. Sadly, at this point the driver's patience finally ran out after he got the coach stuck between some parked cars. Upon discovering this he threw up his hands and shouted rather loudly words to the effect of 'buggar this! I'm off! I'm not driving you any further, you can walk from here.' then promptly left for a cigarette leaving our group to walk to the hotel for lunch.
After lunch it was time to check in and board the Aeroflot domestic flight to Perm. Now, I was always aware of how Russians love their security and paperwork but simply getting into Sheremetovo was an adventure in itself - passport control and security just to enter the place. Then more security, check in and passport control. Before I knew it I was boarding.
The first thing that struck me about flying with Aeroflot was the two stunningly beautiful air hostesses who greeted us on the flight. It turned out, however, that they were reserved for the first class passengers and that those in economy were left with the slightly more homely looking hostesses. The second thing that struck me was that alcohol was not to be served on domestic flights - somewhat ironic for a country with a reputation for drinking. Luckily I was befriended by a lovely middle aged man from New Delhi who distracted me from the fact I was on a plane, and sober, by telling me all about Perm and how for him flying for a luxury.
Two hours later we landed at Perm airport and were then driven to our hotel near the Kama River. Perm could not have been more different from Moscow. Where Moscow felt historic, busy and was filled with tower blocks and churches, Perm was rural, calm and exactly as described by Pasternak in Dr. Zhivago.
After dinner and more unpacking, well upending my suitcase onto the floor, we were given our itinerary for the next day at which point I heard my name called for taking part in a discussion that I had not prepared for. I went to the organiser to check this and was informed that this was in fact the case and I would be in a discussion but not to worry as I would be sat in the audience and would only have to speak when asked to.
Following a mild panic I went to my room to write my speech on 'the influence of SMI (Mass media) on the preservation and development of Russian Language'. Even though I had been told that I would only be in the audience I wanted to be prepared.
Around 2am Perm time (9pm GMT) I had finished and had just enough time for about 3 hours of sleep before needing to get up for the conference the next day. Luckily this was also around the time that the sun set meaning that despite being in the middle of the White Nights I was able to sleep in a darkened room.