Day 182 - From Russia to Kenya
Trip Start Jan 10, 2011
221Trip End Jan 08, 2012
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Where I stayed
Cairo Airport - in Transit
We enjoyed leftovers of a Mia's spaghetti Bolognese for lunch leaving some for the young proprietor: a quiet man of maybe 25 who had opened the place only a year ago. He is a perfect example of grassroots Russian entrepreneurial spirit not to mention the ubiquity of Ikea's appeal for inexpensive contemporary furnishings.
It was a quick walk to the subway. We remarked at how 48hrs after arriving we had already grown familiar with the local landmarks and the 'commute’ to our hostel. It seems to us that we are getting faster at this…
After arriving at the station we wanted to switch to the direct Airport rail link. It took us a few minutes to figure out the queue. As with the Trans-Siberian tickets, the individual booth's hours as well as the specific break times were posted on the glass dividers at the ticket kiosks (both helpful and reasonable).
As one would open, the crowd would shift, quickly stepping without concern for any existing lines. Eli was adept at this reaction and quickly got to the front of new line to get our tickets. The train was vintage, to be sure, but had been recently been completely refurbished inside and out. We took in some of the Moscow suburbs as we sped out to the airport.
The train to the airport and the terminal itself actually had a fair amount of English and the gates were labelled with our latin based alphabet (a nice change from the Russian Cyrillic). We ordered a couple of Irish pints at a pub to spend our remaining rubles that were obviously burning a hole in our pockets.
Unfortunately, our flight was delayed so we retired to another pub (this one Australian themed) where we had Belgian beer and a Russian pancake to tide us over. Tucked away waiting for our flight to the African continent, we recapped out brief and geographically expansive travels through the world’s largest country:
- It was amazing how culturally the default in public was stoic, reserved and non-smiling. Not to say we didn’t meet some very friendly and helpful people but the nuance of ones 'public face’ was definitely obvious to us.
- We have grown used to interacting with people who speak limited English and weren’t disappointed that so little English was spoken in Russia. We were however, surprised that often NO ONE in a given ticket office or restaurant etc did speak what we have seen is clearly the default international language. We willingly managed with creativity, symbols, sounds and our cheat sheet of Russian vocabulary.
- Russia is a huge country that spans an incredible geographic area. Similar to Canada there are vast stretches of isolated area filled with nature (and their resources…) as well as a diverse culture and history beyond the overshadowing legacy of the soviet regime.
- The capital city was very well ordered. The subway system was expansive. The arterial roads were wide and relatively uncongested. Large pedestrian underpasses facilitated street crossings and an escape for harsh winter conditions.
- Although extremely modern, Moscow seemed like an Eastern Paris (cosmopolitan & snobby with expensive cafes by the river) however, with pockets of influence held over from the Soviet Era.
- The invitation, visa process was incredibly convoluted and fraught with literally useless administrative process.
- We didn’t experience any of the rumoured police pressure – they are allowed to stop anyone at any time and request to see your ID (though we did see some blatant racial profiling particularly in the subway by the omnipresent Politsiya).
- The trains all ran on Moscow time (there is some logic here but it also created some confusion). The controlling influence of the capital is obvious.
- Icons of bygone eras are everywhere and there seems to be a latent acceptance of past as such while simultaneously embracing the present/future.
And with those thoughts, we said ''see ya, Russia!"
We arrived in Cairo for our layover but only had time to check out the airport. It was dark but we still peered out the window hoping for a glimpse of Pyramids.
The Cairo airport was one of the nicest that we have been in (alongside Singapore’s).
The problem with our itinerary is that our 3hr layover is sandwiched between a 4hr and then a 5hr flight. Good times. Good times.