Day Thirteen — Epic Odyssey
Moscow, Russia — Today, as usual, we targeted an early departure, as our time in Moscow was very limited. It’s a one-hour flight, so it should have been an easy transfer with plenty of time for some activities in the afternoon. But, as we have come to respect, Mother Nature will have her way (not that we can complain too much on this trip!). Today, she decided to plague Moscow with morning thunderstorms, so severe that they had to close the airport for several hours. Luckily, we were able to camp out in the very comfortable VIP Business Center while the weather settled. This delay put us at least 2-3 hours behind schedule, but finally we were off and quickly into Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport (UUDD).
The S7 team welcomed us and provided ample support services to help unload, refuel, and swiftly get us on our way to the planned afternoon activities. The group split in two this afternoon, with about 15 going to tour the S7 Training Center, while the rest headed to the hotel for tours of the Kremlin and Red Square.
By the time we arrived, it was nearly 4:00 p.m.; thankfully, our trusted tour guide, Anna, was waiting with an enthusiastic smile. At our request, the hotel prepared some sandwiches, as everyone was quite hungry. Then, we were off to convince the Kremlin to allow us to take our tour, even though we had been scheduled for 2:30. Luckily, things fell into place and we completed the tour in record time, leaving us with time to wander around the famous Red Square.
Once again, we stayed at a Four Seasons Hotel, this one ideally situated next to Red Square. There is an interesting history about the design of its building, which was commissioned by Stalin in the late 1920s. The architect came up with two design options for the wings that frame the central portico. But the drawing submitted for Stalin’s approval showed both designs on one sheet of paper, with the intention that he would choose the preferred option. As Stalin placed his signature directly in the middle, it was impossible to know which one he preferred. And since no one wanted to question him, the building was constructed with its distinctive asymmetrical façade, the silhouette of which is still featured on the label of the prestigious Stolichnaya vodka.
This evening, we had a grand celebration dinner with our S7 colleagues, hosted in one of the Four Seasons’ ballrooms overlooking Red Square. In addition, we were honored to host three famous Russian aviators.
Just prior to dinner, the suggestion to extend our stay in Moscow by an extra night was met with unanimous approval. Of course, there were a few complications to sort out with our next few stops, but all was resolved. After dinner, the festivities continued well into the night in this “city that never sleeps,” knowing that tomorrow will offer the opportunity to rest, relax and enjoy sleeping in for a change.