July 18, 2016

Day Thirteen — Epic Odyssey

Today, as usual, we target a very early departure, as our time in Moscow is limited. It is only a one-hour flight, so we should have plenty of time for afternoon activities and sightseeing. But, Mother Nature will have her way, and today, she decides to plague Moscow with morning thunderstorms that are so severe they close the airport. Luckily, we are able to wait out the weather in a very comfortable VIP Business Center, but the delay put us at least 2-3 hours behind schedule. Finally, we are off and quickly arrive at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport (UUDD). The S7 team welcomes us and provides ample support with unloading, refueling, and swiftly getting us on our way to our planned afternoon activities. Half the group opts for a tour of the S7 Training Center, while the rest proceed to the hotel for tours of the Kremlin and Red Square. By the time we arrive at the hotel, it is nearly 4:00 p.m. Thankfully, our trusted tour guide, Anna, is waiting with an enthusiastic smile. The hotel quickly prepares some sandwiches, as everyone is quite hungry by this time. Then, we are off to try and convince the Kremlin to allow us to take our tour, which had been booked for 2:30. Luckily, the stars are aligned, and after the tour, we have time to wander around the famous Red Square.

Our hotel, the Four Seasons, is ideally situated right next to Red Square and there is an interesting history about its design, which was commissioned by Stalin in the 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 design options on one sheet of paper, with the intention that he would indicate which he preferred. As Stalin placed his signature directly in the middle, it was impossible to know which one was favored. And since no one wanted to question him, the building was constructed with its distinctive asymmetrical facade, the silhouette of which is still featured on the label of the prestigious Stolichnaya vodka. This evening, we enjoy a grand celebration with our S7 colleagues, hosted in one of the hotels exquisite ballrooms overlooking Red Square. In addition, we are honored to be introduced to three famous Russian aviators. During cocktails, it is suddenly suggested that we extend our stay in Moscow by a night, which was met with enthusiastic and unanimous approval. Of course, there are a few complications to sort out with our next few stops, but all is resolved. After dinner, the festivities continue well into the night in this “city that never sleeps,” knowing that tomorrow will offer the opportunity to rest, relax and enjoy sleeping in late for a change.