Moscow’s southern domestic airport is carved out of a pine forest at the edge of the urban sprawl, a convenient two-hour drive from Red Square – four if it’s snowing. Because of an unannounced blizzard, I had been lucky enough to miss seeing the sprawl. While the few feet of pine forest I could see, a blur on either side of the taxi, gave me some assurance that we were still on the road and making progress.
My driver was enjoying a far better view, or so I imagined, as he drove with his head and shoulders out of the window. By process of illimination, I’d concluded this was due to the absence of windscreen wipers – apparently still a hot item on the black market. Though without ski goggles, it was hard to believe it was any clearer driving outside the car than in. An hour or so before, I had tried to debate this with him, as I had paid for an English-speaking driver. However it had turned out he didn’t speak much of anything and after lots of nodding and smiling he’d returned to the blizzard and we had plowed onward.
Chaos is a term often applied to airports, however the check-in area that greeted my talented driver and I gave new meaning to the word. Hundreds of travellers from almost all the former Republics made up one half of an enormous rugby scrum. Ranged against them were eight check-in Babushkas. I guessed the Babushkas were winning, as the travellers trying to climb over the advantage-line of the counter were being repelled with gusto. As we made our way through the throng I felt much like a streaker mid-way across a stadium, all eyes watched the progress of my bags and I – a colourful foreign island in a sea of brown paper packages.