We had a noon flight to Moscow, Russia, so we only had time in the morning for breakfast and packing – not going to be needing those biking shorts anymore on this trip. We were flying on the Russian government-owned airline, Aeroflot (Аэрофлот in Cyrillic), one of the oldest airlines in the world, having been started by the Soviet Union in 1923.
Once in the air, I flipped through the in-flight magazine and saw that Aeroflot’s fleet was made up almost exclusively of Boeing and Airbus planes, with one exception: the Russian-built, Sukhoi Superjet RRJ-95 that we were flying. The plane was spartan, but roomy and nice. I tried, unsuccesfully, to get a photo of one of the flight attendants – they still wear uniforms and caps like I remember from the 1960s. Very retro.
Moscow is about 500 miles East of Vilnius and it takes about 1.5 hours to fly there. Our flight path took us over Minsk, Belarus:
It seems, however, that high density apartment living in the suburbs is not merely a holdover from Soviet days. We saw plenty of new buildings going up on our taxi ride into Moscow from Sheremetyevo Airport. [Travel Tip: If you ever fly into this airport, go straight out to the taxi stand to arrange a ride; the guys in the airport with the official looking “Taxi” identification badges are scammers, inserting themselves as middlemen between passenger and driver with a significant markup.]
In Moscow for four nights, we stayed downtown at the Moscow Marriott Grand Hotel. We got settled in just as it started to rain. By the way, notice the construction cranes in the background? I commented to the hotel staff that there seems to be a lot of construction going on in Moscow. I was told, “Yes, it’s been going on for years, but nothing ever gets finished.”
At the restaurant across the street from the hotel, no one spoke English, so we pointed at the pictures on the menu. We really liked the Вареники (vareniki, ie., dumplings) с картофелем и грибами (with potatoes and mushrooms). The Котлеты (Kotliety, ie., meatballs) also looked good.
While typing the Cyrillic letters into the translation app on my iPhone – which is not exactly easy to do – I noticed that the cellular carrier identification now showing up said, “Билайн.” Transcribed into English, these Cyrillic letters read “Bilayn,” which translates to “Beeline” in Russian.
As an aside, Cyrillic is the national script of Russia and several other former Soviet Republics: Belarus; Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Tajikistan; and, Ukraine. It is also the national script of: Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Macedonia; Mongolia; Montenegro; and, Serbia. Essentially, Cyrillic is the script of most Slavic languages and those non-Slavic languages that have been influenced by Russian. It is now used by over 250 million people, half of them Russian. Supposedly, Cyrillic script was created by the disciples of St. Cyril who modified Greek writing when transcribing Christain texts for the Southern Slavs of Bulgaria in the late 9th century A.D. I was told that there is a cursive form of Cyrillic for handwriting, but I have never seen it used.
It’s going to be a challenge to communicate here since it seems that not many Muscovites speak English and the signage in Moscow is nearly all in Cyrillic. Fortunately, Dale scheduled four days of private English-language guided tours for us and the menus have pictures, so we won’t starve for sustenance or information.