Yalta – Moscow
It’s the day of our departure and the last day of the mass-produced breakfast. We try to spend the last of our Grivnas but run out of time before we are uploaded into a taxi. Neil and I suddenly remember Nicola – because she’s always wanted to come to Yalta, so I send her a text. It turns out she & co. are having a very good time in Romania. So we feel better.
More queuing and form filling at the airport etc, etc. It occurs to me I’ve forgotten to lock my suitcase before I checked it in, and so did Margaret, so we panic because we’ve been told that locking suitcases is very important around here. But this turns out not to be too much of a problem – we are led through a door on the side and allowed to find and lock our suitcases which are waiting in piles on a couple of massive trolleys.
In Moscow, the taxi driver can’t actually close the boot of his car. Our suitcases are sticking out, but he just ties them with a rope. I spend much of the journey looking backwards for any lost items until he reassures me he’s never lost anything. I think wistfully of Pasha again.
It’s a straight, though longish drive from the airport to our imposing hotel called the Sovyetski. But the Sovyetski is a real Soviet marvel. It has porters and red carpets and interiors that look like they’ve jumped out of a top class brochure. As we’re checked in we are served champagne and then escorted to our rooms. There is a harp playing in the background and I’m turning around to spot the movie cameras. The rooms are in keeping with the first impressions and I can’t wait to luxuriate in here for the rest of the week. In fact I wouldn’t mind staying here indefinitely.
I take the stairs on my trip down with my camera. I meet a portrait of Stalin on the landing of the second floor, and all the while the harp is playing.
On a mini landing in between the first and the ground floors, a double door opens out on what looks like a balcony, and behind the curtains flowing in gentle breeze, I spot – Neil, with his camera. We complete the tour, all the way down to the Yar Restaurant – a major Russian establishment surviving from the 19th century and situated here since 1910. Its prices – we are told – are very high.
Within this oasis of sumptuousness, Neil, Margaret and I proceed with yet another working session while browsing through the menu and picking some delicious sounding items to accompany our by now regular order of beer (Neil), vodka (Margaret) and G&T (me).