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Archive for the ‘Moscow’ Category

… And it isn’t by flapping your arms!
As we had missed our booked flight because of the Moscow flight problems, we were moved to a later flight that was to leave in half an hour. At the check-in desk they couldn’t find us and after some frantic searching gave up and re-booked us. Mark requested some extra leg room and we then had to leg it (ha ha) to the gate which was 20 minutes away. To our great surprise and pleasure they had put us into premium class again.
Just enough time to get seated and we are off.
Armed with a lovely cup of English tea and fresh milk we are very glad the journey is nearly done.
No fuss, no bother and we arrive and collect all of our luggage – not a single lost item – a miracle after the affairs of the day.
The taxi is at the door and we are whisked homeward.
Tired but happy we look forward to a lovely rest in our own bed – restored and ready to plan our next big bundu bash!
I may do a post on high and lowlights of Moscow, in case there are any other wheelchair nutters out there who are prepared to face the old ‘Red Menace’ that is ‘Moscow in a wheelchair’!

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Smiling faces everywhere!

What a difference a day makes – suddenly we are on another island and the natives bear their teeth! What a welcome sight these happy people are. Welcome back to sunny England.
We are boarded on a new flight to Manchester and on the final leg of a very long journey.

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What a wonderful sight through the window of the aircraft to the sky-bridge – my k-2! It survived the Moscow flight in the hold.

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Safely back in England – we are one step closer to home. Only one flight to go but I think we missed our connection. More news to follow….

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I’m in cloud nine – literally?

Being the last on the plane seems to have borne fruit. We were put into first class but because the plane is jammed to the gunnels, the k-2 has been bumped down to the cargo hold – it does feel a little like poetic justice.
Happy flying, see you in London….

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Really- we are taxiing down towards the runway and only 4.5 hours late. I guess we have missed our connection out of Heathrow.

Up, up and away And we’re airborne.

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A baitball?

Back in the queue which no longer resembles the orderly affair the word conjours up. It is more of a bait-ball which is getting smaller and smaller almost as if predators are picking us off one at a time – did I just see David Attenborough?
Patiently waiting for our turn but I see a light at the end of the tunnel – I hope it isn’t a train!

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Delayed our delayed flight! We are now told that it is 2.50pm which is the flight that people were offered to move to. How do you fit 2 flights worth of passengers onto 1 aeroplane? I can see trouble ahead (hum along).
When the vicious mob thins out at the desk, we will find out about getting our delay vouchers – that’s if a BMI representative shows themselves with all these anger Rusky’s around!

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I believe we are now late for our promised 1pm resumation of our journey. We are however, back in a queue – with me at the back!
I have a bus and stairs to face before boarding, so I am really excited – NOT!!
Cannot understand why we aren’t going anywhere because the bus is here and the check-in staff, but somehow we all feel obliged to join a queue – baaaah….

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Four Russians offered to carry me down the stairs and onto the bus – would you have accepted? Not me!
I get hubby to assemble and bring my Trekinetic to the top of the stairs. We have had plenty of practice taking the k-2 down flights of 20 or more steps in Moscow.
Picture this – I get into my chair at the door and to the cabin crew and bus load of gawping tourists entertainment, we flick the switch to recline mode and with hubby holding me back, we head down the stairs. Bump, bump, bump x 20 and we safely reach the bottom.   I thought it was worth a round of applause from the audience but they are obviously a tough crowd.
Now just the bus left to negotiate. It is fairly full and everyone (including all the blokes) watch hubby struggle to held me up the stairs followed by my wheelchair and all our bags. Thanks for the assistance guys!!!
One redeeming male helped me off the bus and I am now back in the terminal building where this whole adventure started. Dejavu….
We are informed that we may leave at 12 maybe, or 1pm maybe. I ain’t holding my breath!

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Techies can’t fix it so clearly it takes more than 5 blokes!
Now the bus has pulled up because we are on the runway nowhere near the terminal. Damn this is going to be a pain! Ah! Now the stairs have pulled up – oh joy, stairs and a bus with no ramp to negotiate!
I am going to just sit here and wait for everyone else to disembark before I make my move.

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“due to technical problems, we apologise for ze delay but we will need to change planes”.
No! No! No! Is this their idea of a cruel joke?

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At least five under the hood and another four confering next to them for glasnost! I only wish I was joking, take a look at this….

Has the engine devoured this one?  And look, his friend just looks on with interest!

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Another fifteen minutes and they switch all the lights back on and start serving refreshments. This is a clue that we may be a while!

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Mmmm… Sitting on the runway waiting for twenty minutes. I see two men under the left engine; now they have the lid up! Two more official looking blokes arrive ouside.
Waiting a little more. Eventually, an announcement – in Russian – no English translation but obviously with my ring-side seat we are experiencing some technical difficulty!
Please don’t make me change planes after the rigmarole of getting onto the first one.

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Our flight has moved to a different gate so we set off. I have never seen a gate with only five seats but I make sure that I am at the front because they always load wheelchairs and children first.
However, this is Russia and it is a free for all and people start to converge on the gate and so I decide that from my front position I am just going to go with the tide as they don’t call me forward.
At least only one woman manages to squeeze between me and the door and we are off. I managed to get to my seat using my crutches and leave hubby to deal with the porters and my wheelchair. After ten minutes I am starting to worry because no wheelchair appears through sky-lift door on it’s way to the hold.
Ah! There he is, sporting a very amused look so I am now worried because it could be genuine or a “you are never going to believe this” grimace.
All I can say is “is my wheelchair okay?” to which he responds “great, it is flying first class”. This is a definite first as they have decided to bring my Trekinetic k-2 inside the cabin into first class – probably the first k-2 to travel up front while The occupant has to sit behind the curtain.
I wonder if they will give her some decent service?

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….London. I thought that not much would surprise me in Moscow after spending the week here and experiencing firsthand how bad facilities are for the disabled – I was wrong, wrong, wrong!
Check-in took forever because they kept looking at my wheelchair (not me) and calling someone else over to confer, then another and finally on the phone to some other person who also had no idea what procedure to follow. Eventually we explained to one of them that I didn’t need the medical crew and would make my own way to the plane – they were very sceptical but clearly relieved to get rid of me and let me become someone else’s problem.
Passport control was interesting to say the least because all the gates are for walkers and no wheelchair could fit through the gates. The woman happily stamped us through and then we asked which way I got through and she simply raised her arms skyward and shrugged ‘I don’t know’ – very helpful. The questions was then passed to her friend next door who also shrugged and shouted to another guys across the hall. He at least had enough common sense for the two girls and after a short wait he came over and led us through the restricted areas and back out into the departure area.
A quick breakfast and stroll around before we head off to our gate.
What are the chances this will run smoothly, without the need for a party political conference?

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and I therefore have to be very careful of my selection – mmm! Make that crepes then please.
The Russians make a lot of crepes and blini (little pancakes) and this chef is superb. I have a lovely selection of marmalde, jam, sour joghurt and condensed milk! No, really. I was suspicious at first but on tasting it, I was transported back to South Africa and tins of the gorgeous sweet white nectar!
Needless to say, my not so healthy breakfast just became even more unhealthy. I can’t even push myself around too far in an effort to work it off because I am surrounded by pavements that resemble a cliff edge and I have no tackle in tow!

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Passing time….

Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits…..

Today hubby has to actually go work for some of his hard earned wages rather than simply being a Russian tourist.  I know which we would both prefer, but until we are left a fortune by some long lost distant relative, we both have to pull the plough ourselves!

Just for the record, the espresso we both had after dinner last night was a very bad idea!  We had a dreadful night tossing and turning – serves us right I hear you say? Ha!

It is now lunchtime in Moscow and after sitting around in the lounge area catching up on a little crochet and reading, it was time for a refreshing latte in the bar.  Just as I settle in, the humungous clock in the centre of the hotel starts off with the hourly song and dance – very entertaining and typically Russian OTT!  This thing stands about 5 stories high!

Gosh, latte is finished already!  Life is tough….

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You have got to love the Muscovite sense of architecture because during our trip to the Europa mall and after our lovely latte we thought it prudent to find and make use of any toilet facilities they may have before our 5km trek back to the hotel.  First try was unsuccessful because there was no disabled toilet and I didn’t fit through the door (not me personally, but me in the wheelchair).

Our second attempt on another side of the mall was more successful as they had a separate disabled facility with a real wheelchair logo on the door!  Amazing as this is a first for us in Moscow.  Very strangely this has  the only three-quarter door on any of the toilets and as it was locked we waited patiently for a few minutes in case it was genuinely occupied and not just locked with a coin from the outside like they seem fond of doing in my office in Liverpool – don’t ask, I have no idea why and maintenance are meant to be rectifying this after I waited for 15 minutes one day and then found it unoccupied – man I was spitting feathers!

Anyway, back to the quirky, reversed stable type toilet door incident.  Next thing, a male cleaning attendant appears and with our Russian sign language we ask if it is locked for any particular reason.  To which he promptly drops down on all fours and puts his head under the door and gesticulats that it is empty and opens it with a coin!  What!  I am now really confident about using the toilet in peace and quiet and insist hubby accompanies me as security, with his legs clearly visible to any would be below-door peepers or extremely short Russians.  Imagine this – me on the loo taking a photo of the bodyguard for my blog – very funny Moscow; you have once again managed to surprise me – who said that the Russian didn’t have a sense of humour?  Macabre maybe?

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Sherlock Holmes is obviously on the case but why is he on the bank of the Moskva river?

Answers on a postcard to:
Baker street, London

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Tah dah! We found it!
Illy make great coffee so I have high hopes for this place. the menu is great so hopefully the drinks are as nice.

Strangely, everywhere we have had a latte in Moscow, it has been served with a straw!  Perhaps that is why a latte here will set you back almost £5! This addiction is really hurting my pocket.

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Ridiculous, but I am stared at in varying degrees everywhere we go. Some blatantly open-mouthed, others surreptitiously and the rest turn around to stare after we have wheeled past!
You would think I would be used to it by now because the Trekinetic K-2 gets a lot of stares anyway, but really this is ridiculous – I would love to get some pictures to include in my blog.

The only other wheelchair we have seen since our arrival is another visitor from America in our hotel – this is a city of 17 million – what are they doing with the countless wheelchair users who were probably created by their appaling driving? Locked up somewhere no doubt – perhaps they don’t like to air what they consider dirty laundry. In fact they cover up derelict buildings all over the city in huge decorated sheets -sound similar? Sorry, that’s me having a cynical moment.

Now we really are heading off for the coffee shop – hopefully it won’t turn into something resembling ‘the hunt for red October’….

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Day 3 turns out rather wet and windy so we decide to find an indoor centre to visit because every museum and gallery seems inaccessible and after two days of fighting our way around the city, we both need a time-out from curbs and steps!
Our hotel ordered a taxi and we go off to the mall on the river. Not really surprisingly, the British retail store is more than well represented in Moscow and the rest look the same anyway. At least we passed a little time in great company and are ready for a pit-stop at the local food court. The kebab is very big in Russia and it was really delicious even though it sits next to the Burger King!

Fueled up and ready to hit the road – hopefully only figuratively.

A decent coffee is definitely on the cards – let the hunt begin!

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Armed with a round trip ticket for the boat down the Moskva river and all we need now is to figure out the easiest way down to the boat!  A flight of stairs with my hubbies help was fairly easily handled by the Trekinetic – I did cheat by putting my feet near the floor in case I tipped out – after my stair experience on the steps of the Chateau in France, I am taking no chances.

1) Boat on the Moskva river;  2) Peter the Greats memorial; 3) Cathedral of Christ the Saviour; 4) Me and St. Basil’s church from the boat; 5) Hubby contemplating life and the river

Floating down the river on a sunny afternoon – very true in our case.  The weather couldn’t have been better and I am really pleased we went today.  The views from the boat were really amazing and I am very happy we made the effort.

On our return we struggled up the stairs to the embankment and head back down the river to our hotel.  A wonderful walk in the early evening sunshine was a great end to another lovely, but long and tiring day.

1) Me on the Moskva river embankment; 2) One of the seven Stalin sisters which were built in the 1950’s to house foreigners in Moscow (now the Radisson hotel)

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Day 2 and we head off to a Market that comes highly recommended by all the guides. Thank goodness that today’s taxi driver was not a patch on the airport transfer and I survived without removing the little that remained of my fingernails!
The Izmailovsky market is north-east of the city and the oddest mix of flea market, theme park and car boot! On the plus side, I managed to get around most of it without a need for two burly blokes as lifting tackle.
We got some lovely hand crafted gifts plus a couple of Russian hats. Finished off with a shashlik or barbeque kebab and the worst cup of sweet instant coffee.


After negotiating with a crowd of local taxi drivers we packed into a rusty old Lada which may have been around at the time of Lenin, and we are off to the Moskva river on the other side of town.

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Having been out for the remainder of our first day, I can promise you that these are three words that cannot be used in the same sentence.

All major roads use under-passes and not a single one has any facilities for wheelchair users. We found some ramps on top of the stairs which have been installed for prams! Some of these were just wide enough for my chair but the majority of the time they were too narrow. Anyway, what use was it being able to get down when you then need at least 2 Mr Universes to get you up the other side! To ensure my hubby did not suffer a heart episode in a foreign country, I had to tackle the stairs – slowly and painfully!

We definitely deserved a rest and not having access to any of the other coffee houses, it seemed safe to try McDonald’s for a latte. Refreshed and recovered from our earlier exertions, we headed off for the next round.

Innumerable subways, enormous granite sidewalks up and down and we eventually made it to the Kremlin and Red Square and it was definitely worth the effort! All the sights were amazing and especially St. Basil’s which is breathtaking and all the pictures cannot prepare you for it. The Kremlin is gargantuan and a beautiful piece of architecture.

Having faced what must have been the worst city trip we have ever done in my wheelchair, we managed the return journey without too much fuss.

Exhausted, dirty and parched, we collapsed into the hotel lounge and enjoyed a latte and cake as reward for surviving the Moscow endurance race!

Tomorrow we head for a market outside Moscow – wish us luck.

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A very long trip after leaving home at 3pm and flying out of Manchester at 7pm.  Our connecting flight from Heathrow was wonderfully uneventful and I was ridiculously pleased to see my K-2 in one piece.  We left Heathrow at 10.30pm and after a packet of pretzels followed immediately by a hot meal, we managed to get a few minutes of sleep whilst packed into our little sardine tin!  It is incredibly uncomfortable flying because I have my feet down too long, but I really felt for my hubby with his really long legs which didn’t actually fit in the space provided.  To make matters worse, the next biggest person on the flight was given a seat next to him!  They were both in for a very uncomfortable flight.

We made good time and after the usual rush to get out the aeroplane, we were left to wait for my wheelchair.  When we had waited a few more minutes without any sign of it, hubby went to investigate and found out that they did not know how to get it through the small doorway at the top of the sky bridge!  After a bit of gesticulating and pigeon Russian, they agree to let him go down and show them how it was done.  It was raining buckets but eventually it was all sorted and I was safely on board my Trekinetic with an over enthusiastic Russian youth insistent on pushing me around – I set him right very quickly and he came in very handy for getting us to the front of the passport control queues and into baggage recovery in only a few minutes – all very painless.

Everything you have ever heard about Russian taxi drivers (actually all drivers) is true, and probably under emphasised!  I am a very nervous passenger and believe me when I say that I spent the entire 45km praying for an end to my nightmare.  It was pouring with rain and he drove at no less than 80mph most of the way and I felt sure that we were going to aqua-plane at any moment.

Check-in was painless and we were taken to our room at the Crowne Plaza where we were very pleasantly met by a very modern well fitted out disabled room.  This has to be the best bathroom I have been in since being in my wheelchair.

By now it was 7am and we washed before crashing for a few hours rest before we head out for some sightseeing.

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Pre-flight checks taking place before the taxi arrives to whisk us off to Manchester airport.
Off-road wheels are our chosen tyres for this trip because we have heard that wheelchair access is very poor in Russia.
The taxi is here. I hope this isn’t the last picture of my Trekinetic in one piece!
Bon voyage….
пожелай мне удачи (wish me luck).

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Into the jaws of…..

This image just about sums up my few concerns about our impending trip to Moscow….

Believe it or not, this is a real sign in Kwazulu Natal in South Africa!

One more sleep and then we are off…

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