Monday, October 11, 2010

Back in Rostov, Lots to Celebrate

Switched into gypsy mode on a recent Wednesday morning and headed Dallas to Atlanta and then on to Moscow. Caught an overnight train Moscow to Rostov-on-Don, arriving that Friday afternoon just in time for the Day of the City, Rostov's birthday. Oh, and here are some sights from along the way, especially for you. . .

But first, Happy Birthday Rostov! The city celebrated its 261st birthday that weekend, September 17-18. The bank building above overlooks Theatre Square and often sports the biggest poster in town, 14-some stories high.

Oh, but hold on, hold on. . . let's rewind a bit.

First in Atlanta, encouragement to the troops who pass through that airport. Ah yes, would that every soldier who returns would come home to big hugs and yellow ribbon.

Then there's AT&T who offers the Best coverage worldwide. Say, these teapots are worth a closer look. . .

How clever is that! But pity the hand model. Imagine, going through life with such stubby fingers.

Or. . . not.

I hiked from Terminal A to E versus catching the train and finally, here's it is: the escalator up to heaven. . . or maybe up to the departure level. There's a food court up there. And a bookstore. And an interfaith chapel. I ended up visiting two out of three of those spots. . . Not saying which ones. ;)

Two hours before flight time, there's my Delta 46 getting prepped to head east across the big pond. Watching this plane being fueled and fed, I had no clue as to the surprise awaiting me. . .

But first, time to fill, pandas to shoot. Clever, those nifty little leaves in there. Wonder if these pandas are related to that of Eats, Shoots and Leaves fame?

Back to the gate, waiting with 206 of my closest friends for our 4:15 departure for Moscow. I asked the gate agent for a seat, preferably an aisle seat, preferably row F. He worked on that for several minutes which was kind of him, considering the queue.

Later on the plane, I headed through first class back to steerage and couldn't find my seat, 3F, in coach. That's because ~ and this was an absolute surprise to me ~ the gate agent had upgraded me to first class. I was positively euphoric for hours, probably the least sophisticated passenger in first class - it was old hat to everybody else.

I was so overcome that I didn't manage to photograph a single thing. Not even the fine dining with the cloth tablecloths and tray covers. Not even the fully-reclining seats with 75 or so controls and the big fluffy pillows and cottony comforters. And I certainly didn't get a shot of my traveling companion, the guy between me and the window who was in zombie mode the entire trip. You'll forgive me for that, won't you please? Who knows, maybe ~ just maybe ~ someday I'll have a second chance. ;)

Anyway, after 10-ish hours aloft, we landed at Moscow's Sheremetevo Airport, northwest of that city of 13 million people, last I heard. Next, I needed to get from Moscow to Rostov-on-Don. Not the first time I've done that, for sure. But this time. . .

I decided to try something new for Moscow to Rostov-on-Don leg, 650-miles south. Instead of taking Aeroflot and forking over thousands of rubles for my last minute ticket, for my excess baggage, I took the train. It's a time versus money trade-off. I enjoyed having nearly 24 hours to sleep and read, not to mention saving buckets full of rubles. Aeroflot, my condolences. . . I had this whole wagon nearly to myself. I'm not quite understanding why, especially because they said the 3rd class wagons were packed. Oh well, as for this nice, quiet wagon, I'll take it!

Met this cheery four-some at a stop along the way. Asked the fellow in black where he found his t-shirt (click photo to enlarge). In Holland, he said, and his companions burst into laughter. They had been drinking their way south, I rather suspect.

On the road again. Somehow now my wagon is at the end of the train. Glad somebody else is keeping track of adding and subtracting train cars. Guess it's included in the ticket price.

Heading into southwestern Russia and the distant mounds are signs of coal mining.

Another train station, the shashlik lady. Reckon these two are kin? Chicken shashlik, sounded so good and looked so good that I bought it. It was way too expensive, of course, but the chicken was tasty, what there was of it. Still, they gave me this nice photo.

Then there was the potato lady who scrubbed, peeled and packaged this herself. Later, the guys squatting in the background decided to be friendly, shouting out Hello America, or some such.

Back on the train, the attendant lady ~ I like to call the attendants stewardesses and that makes them laugh ~ brought me this pod-sta-KAN-chik with hot tea. Reminiscent of the era of the Russian czars, nowadays, on long-distance trains, hot drinks are served in these. Podstakanchik means literally, under-the-glass-thingy. Works for me.

Welcome to home to Rostov-on-Don!

Friend Misha is so good about meeting me at the Rostov train station. Here he's bumping down the steps with my biggest bag. Why are we heading down this stairway when we're within two feet of an escalator?

Here's why. . .

Some things tend to be more decorative than functional, such as this escalator. Actually, seems I do recall a time or two when the escalator was working. So come on komrads, let's buck up and head on down. . .

Happy Birthday, dear Rostov. . .

As mentioned earlier, Rostov was in a celebratory mood when I arrived back. Had nothing to do with me, I eventually realized, but rather with the Day of the City, the 261st birthday of our wonderful Rostov-on-Don. I love the philosophy here, that if something's worth doing, it's worth doing on a large scale. There's exhibit #1.

A wider view of the Stella Bank building, set in Theater Square, Rostov-on-Don. Oh, is it ever wonderful to be back in my favorite adopted city. Thank you, dear blog readers for joining me in this journey spanning 9 time zones and thousands of miles.

Credit to whom it's due:

Each time I pass through Passport Kontrol in Moscow, am admitted into Russia and end up here in Rostov-on-Don, I'm mindful of the doors that opened for this to happen. This time, thanks goes to my new best friend, Desiree of FedEx. On the Tuesday before I was scheduled to depart on Wednesday, she delivered my passport and new visa into Russia. Without that visa, there's no even getting on the plane. So thank you FedEx and Desiree!

Seriously, I'm so grateful for the opportunity to live and serve here in Rostov-on-Don. Each time the door opens, I'm thankful for an answer to many prayers.


Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Thanks for the guided tour of your trip home.

I have a lady friend who travels a lot and is now taking me along with her. She lives to be bumped up to First Class. She so wants to have me experience that. I am a peasant and opposed to all privilege and resist all such class perks. I would rather a single mother struggling with a couple of young children got the first class treatment. She needs it. I am happy sitting with the rabble in the back. I would feel so guilty and unworthy in first class.

Carisse said...

Thank you for the trip! I enjoyed reading all about it! So glad you are home again.

American Russia Observations said...

I enjoyed your recount of jet and train travel, as well as your photos. We haven't been back to the States for six years.

I write about the contrasts between Russians and Americans. Stop by and visit for awhile. Comments welcome!