A small adventure in Kazakhstan
(Yes I know I have jumped a few weeks but I have to catch up sometime, I have 3 wedding to report and will do them when things get quiet again but this was an interesting trip)
We arrived back in Moscow at midnight last night and are now at 6:45 am we are on our way to the airport off to Kazakhstan. This time Sheremetyevo which has been improving as of late. There is an express train (I say express but it does not go fast it just does not stop) going direct from the center of Moscow to the airport in 45 minutes and it has new carriages which makes it an impressive ride for your 300 rubles ($10). We catch the 7:00 am train for a 9:55 am flight giving us lost of hanging around time.( Judi is logistics for this trip).
We are in a brand new terminal “F” only opened a few days ago. I went out of “E” another new one the other week on my way to Paris. F is very very new, so new they have not taken the wrapping of the big screens everywhere and empty spaces where the shops should be. A vast hall of a place with lots of nothing in it. There is a café which is serving coffee (you can order black, white or espresso nice) and is acting as a smoking area as they have not finished building the official one and don’t look to be making much progress from what I could see the builders were all in the café.
Russians are an interesting group, they instinctively queue so every time someone went up to our departure desk they would impulsively get up and move toward it. When the person moved off they would all disperse. It is a very interesting phenomenon and I am not sure if it is an unconscious or involuntary thing. Probably a hangover from when they had to queue for everything you know see a queue and you must join it. Anyway with no screens working there is no way to check if everything is ok and on time so people go and ask and others form a little queue. I am watching whilst drinking my white coffee.
The flight is to Almaty once the capital of Kazakhstan it is now the second city which is Astana and we are on “Air Astana” a new carrier for me but we are on an Airbus so not nervous about it, the only drawback is the flight is around 5 hours. 3100 kilometers and remember yesterday we were in London 2500 kilometers further west so quite a lot of travel for 24 hours. Now I am a tourist on this trip but unfortunately Judi has to work. The only perk she gets is to fly business but I am ok with the rank and file. I get an aisle seat which is fine for me and have a fairly elderly couple by my side. I have to be careful here as they may be my age but they look older. The plane is quite full and another trait of the Russians is to always take between 3 -6 plastic bags as hand luggage. They are enthusiastic duty free shoppers and always seem to board planes with lots of extra items they cannot live without.
The companions by my side may not be frequent fliers as they are collecting souvenirs and seem to be putting the magazines, the seat safety card and the sick bags into their carriers. I wonder what they will do with the food tray when it comes around later. The film is “Date Night” which strangely enough I saw on a plane so I get chance to sleep with my iPod playing country and western softly in the background.
If you look up Almaty you will see it is close to China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and a couple of other “Stan’s” one of the Turkic States (whatever that means)an ex-Russian state it claimed independence on Christmas day 1991 which is interesting as it is a Muslim country. There is a large mountain range to the South of the city but the wet weather means I will probably not get to see much of them as we land.
Once on the ground we get through customs very smoothly, far more smoothly than when it went to get my vise the other week which will get a blog of its own. 10 minutes waiting for the bags and we are outside. We have a taxi organized with a rather large chap driving and talking on the phone the whole way into town. I think he should have been paying more attention to the traffic so I calm myself by looking at the buildings. Giorgio Armani, Mexx, Maxa Mara, Mmmmm. The town seems to be all glass and steel and almost brand new. There are some older buildings but mostly new malls and hotels. Our Hotel is a brand new Holiday Inn which appears as we turn a corner.