Flight to St. Petersburg
We flew from Samara to St. Petersburg. As we approached the airport, we had to go through at least one check point. The check point consisted of a guard shack and a barrier across the roadway. Since communism was dead, the check point was no longer staffed by officials who checked papers and guards with machine guns.
A lone woman was there and all that she did was lift the barrier for us to drive through. This was her job and she did the job for which she was paid. Most people would have just tied the barrier in the up position and stayed home.
We first went to the waiting room. It was a concrete block room with no amenities of any kind. It had no toilet, but the back of the room was used as the toilet. Of course it smelled to high heaven, but this is Russia and this is what you get.
Larry, our host somehow got a bus to come and pick us up, take us to the waiting area for the pilots. There we were offered food and snacks. It was not fancy, but toilets and was a great improvement over the previous area.
When it was time for us to board the airplane, a bus came to pick up our group of four persons. When we arrived at the airplane, two busses filled with people from to stinky waiting area we seated. It was hot and humid, so they were suffering.
We pulled up and boarded the airplane. We took whatever seats that we wanted. One seat wasn’t even bolted to the floor of the airplane. After we were seated, the rest of the passengers were allowed to board.
I was afraid that these passengers would be quite hostile to us. After all, we had gotten out of the stinky area to who knows where and now we had priority seating while the sat out in hot busses.
That isn’t what happened at all. First off, they were used to “important people” treating them like dirt. As soon as they discovered that we were Americans, they were very friendly and curious about us.
Larry was our translator and I suspected that he filtered some questions. Knowing that people would be curious about us, I had a small photo album with back to back single photos showing a bit about our life.
Our house was built by us and I mean by our hands. That wasn’t impressive because Russians were used to building their dachas for gardens by hand with materials from any source possible. Later a Russian Ham radio visitor stayed at our house and commented that a high official in the communist party didn’t have such a nice house.
One photo was taken from a personal friend’s helicopter and it showed three cars at the house. Russians were astonished by three cars. I tried to explain that all three were old cars and not worth much. We were told that to have a single car in Russia was the same as being a millionaire in American, and we had three cars.
The flight had an attendant that we might be tempted to call a stewardess. Her only action was to try to sell passengers her jewelry products.
The toilet had no towels or running water.
Since I have a pilot’s license, I have some knowledge of how a plane is operated. I was quite impressed with the high quality of every landing.