|Philadelphia, New York, Dublin, Riga, Moscow
||[Aug. 26th, 2006|11:23 am]
Well after a long trip back, I finally arrived in Moscow a few days ago. After the program at Middlebury, I drove with a teacher (Masha) to Philadelphia. We were on the road for about 11 long hours... |
While it rained part of the time, we got to drive up through beautiful Vermont to Burlington, where we got a rental car at the airport. We got to see some fighter jets flying around the airport just before the rain started. We left and hit the road for New York - we had to take a ferry across into New York and that was interesting. From there, we drove all the way from Plattsburgh from the very northern tip of New York down through the mountains, passing Troy and Albany, and entering New Jersey.
The drive was mostly uneventful except for the rain. We finally got into Philadelpia at about 12 or 1 in the morning. Masha lives in this big old house with another lady; I think the house has at least 6-8 rooms and in its 3 storeys! Well, the next day, we went and had lunch and then I left for New York City, from where I'd fly out of JFK. As luck would have it, I left 2 hours late and had to pay an extra day's worth (about $60) for the rental car. I didn't mind that, but...
The ride to New York was fine until I got into New Jersey. I HATE driving through New Jersey. There are SO many people there that jam the freeways. From New Jersey and into New York it was bumper-to-bumper traffic the whole way. It took me about 5 hours just to get to the airport. Driving through Brooklyn and Queens on their freeways was even worse. Due to a wreck, the roads were backed up for miles and at some points, it didn't even move.
Well, I finally got to the airport just under 2 hours before my flight. With luck, I was able to get on my flight with Aer Lingus to Dublin with very few problems. Unfortunately, I think all of the heightened security caused all flights to be delayed; my flight was supposed to leave at 1940 but didn't leave until about 2100... Needless to say, we got into Shannon and later into Dublin about 2 hours later than we should have. Since we were late, I didn't get to visit Dublin, as I had originally planned. Oh well, that's all right.
I had a flight planned from Dublin to Riga, Lativa with Ryan Air. I will NEVER fly with Ryan Air again. They charge low rates for adding a piece of luggage, but they charge extremely high rates for each kilo -- $10-12 per kilo! I had to pay about $120 to those bastards because of their sneaky wording. Why would I have to pay for the baggage and then the weight? I flew with another cheap airline, EasyJet, and had NO such problems. On top of that, Ryan Air's customer service and customer service workers just plain SUCK.
All the workers at Dublin Airport do know just how TERRIBLY Ryan Air is and they all hope that Ryan Air will be shut down soon. The lines at Ryan Air's counters are long and disorganized, they claim that they charge low rates but really up it with a bunch of little fees, and in the end you pay just as much as you would have with any other airline. Ryan Air : you're a bunch of thieving bastards! :-) Oh, and waiting for luggage at Dublin's airport takes an hour at least as well...
I got into Riga late in the evening. Luckily, I ran into 2 young guys from Ireland who were going to backpack through a few countries in eastern Europe, starting with Riga. It turned out that we were all going to stay in the same hostel -- Riga Hostel. The hostel itself was nice and had free internet, it was also cheap too, about 5 euros a night for a dorm room. Well, I ended up staying in Riga 2 nights. I hung out with these guys both days, and we just wandered around Riga by day and in the evenings we'd go to the bars and have some drinks.
Riga itself is a very nice little city with an old cobblestoned part of town called the "Old City". It kind of reminded me of Prague, but perhaps a little bit smaller. You can walk to most of the sites, since they're located within a few minutes of each other. The area's filled with hostels, cafes, bars, and restaurants, but still keeps the small town atmosphere...
On Wednesday, I saw the guys off to the bus station and I went to the train station to buy my ticket to Moscow. I paid about $65 for a 'platzcart' place on the Latvian train to Moscow. Platzcart means that you are in a wagon that has no closed compartments, so basically everyone has a place to sleep, but you also see them and your other neighbors around you walking around and what not. It's a good way to meet and chat with people along the way to your destination. The train ride was about 18 hours long... It wasn't bad. For part of the way, I pulled out the computer and we watched a couple of DVD's in Russian -- Heart of a Dog (Bulgakov) and Ivan Vasilivich Changes his Profession (also by Bulgakov). The trainride was mostly uneventful. We went through Latvian and Russian border customs/immigration and that was about it.
One thing I never understand: why Russian customs/immigration people can be so inquisitive or just weird in the way they act. They don't seem to understand that other people in the world exist other than Russians and those in the republics of the former Soviet Union. They seem to treat other foreigners with disdain, for no clear reason. It was funny too -- there were only 2 or 3 Latvian customs and immigration inspectors altogether... there were at least 10 to 12 Russian counter parts. Bureaucracy! Two old ladies and then several young men and women. Why do you need all of those people? The train wasn't even full and we still sat at the border for an hour, just as we had in Latvia.
I guess bureaucracy and bureaucrats make the system work better in Russia.