- 1. The introductory chapter including the Preface, some notes on the booking process and the flight from HAM to DME on a Lufthansa A320
- 2. The daytrip from VKO to MRV on Kuban Airlines' Yak-42D and back on KMV Avia's Tu-154M
- 3. The flight from SVO to LED on Aeroflot's A320 and the daytrip from LED to CEE and back on Severstal Aircompany's Yak-40
- 4. The overnight trip from LED to SCW and back on UTair Express' Tu-134 and the flight from LED to ARH on Rossiya's An-148
- 5. The long return journey from ARH via HEL (on Nordavia's An-24) and CPH (on Blue1's B717) to HAM (by train and ferry) (this chapter)
Having completed my mission in Russia, it was time to head back towards the West – however, travelling is more fun off the beaten paths, so the selected routing is somewhat unusual.
The alarm was set to 4:45 in the morning and the taxi was waiting for me at 5:00. I stumbled out of the door and yawned "Pulkovo-1" to the driver, but my tiredness shouldn't last too long: The driver was one of the crazy sort. He put the music to full volume, held a cigarette in one hand (at least he exhaled towards the wide open window) and a cell phone in the other (making the occasional phone call), and when he noticed another taxi heading for LED, they started to race each other at about 120 km/h through the nightly St. Petersburg. Great stuff!
Monday, 29 August 2011
RA-61702 (delivered in November 2009)
With a big grin on my face, I bid the driver farewell at Pulkovo-1 and made my way to the check-in counter, which was shared by Aeroflot and Rossiya:
I had checked-in online the previous night and reserved a window seat in the back, but due to the lack of a printer, I had to get a boarding pass from the counter. No self-check-in machines for FV at LED (or maybe I didn't find it). FV – the home carrier at LED – uses the main departure hall of Pulkovo-1.
Security was a breeze and I soon found myself in the gate area downstairs. I took out my book and got quite a fright when the door of the nearby smokers' chamber fell apart with a loud bang. Some occupant had leant against it:
Soon, a boarding call was made and we were allowed to walk the few steps to the waiting plane:
As expected, the cabin was modern and there was barely any difference to any current western aircraft type. A look outside towards the gate neighbour, another An-148:
The load was almost full today. Taxi soon commenced, followed by an average takeoff and climb:
A steep left turn followed:
A legroom shot in the morning sun:
LED below us:
And St. Petersburg in all its glory:
I took a cabin shot during the tea and coffee service; previously, cold drinks had been served.
Soon, descent started – once again over endless forests:
Landing was rough and bumpy – ARH's runway is made out of concrete slabs:
We taxied into an apron parking position with old-school ground equipment:
And a last look at the interesting An-148 with its rather huge engines:
All passengers were led to a door in the fence which led to the street – no idea where those with checked-in baggage were supposed to go. I headed to the other terminal, where I saw a mashrutka minibus to Arkhangelsk's centre.
The ride was quite interesting. Already at ARH, the driver was fixing something in the engine, and at every other stop, the engine died. Quite a lot of passengers hopped on and off during the 30-minute ride into town, giving the conductor, an old lady, lots of work to collect the fare from everyone.
I got off somewhere downtown and tried to find my hotel from there. My first impression wasn't that bad – compared to Cherepovets, at least:
It turned out that I was heading in the wrong direction, and when a heavy downpour started, I took shelter in a nice café for some breakfast. They even had computers with free internet there and I waited for about two hours for the rain to stop, using the time for checking some e-mails and some reading in my book.
When the worst part of the rain was over, I asked for directions to my hotel and got an idea of the general heading. On my way, I discovered that Arkhangelsk isn't that spectacular:
Another wrecked amusement park was on my way – it was quite creepy, as all those old-school rides were open and attended by an employee each, but only one mother and her child were spending their day there.
I went further towards the shore:
It became even creepier when I walked along this promenade all by myself. Loud music came out of the speakers on the light masts:
Further down the promenade, I noticed some soldiers and a monument. Apparently, it was the 70th anniversary of Operation Dervish, a supply shipping mission of the Allied Forces around the German blockade during WW2.
I watched the festivities for a while, of course without revealing the fact that a German is among the roughly 15 spectators of the event!
My hotel, the Pur Navolok, wasn't too difficult to find – it was the largest building at the waterfront:
I checked into this acceptable place and took a nap in my large but boring room. Then the problem started: It was only noon, and my book was finished after another half hour. What to do next? I watched some TV, but the hectic BBC news programme isn't that amazing after a while. So I walked around a bit more outside – the sun had come out, and a few more people were walking on the promenade. I then opted for an early dinner at the hotel's panorama restaurant, which was quite tasty. I had a fish soup and some salmon as a main course and ended up paying about 30€, half of which was for the glass of French white wine I had selected in a moment of stupidity... Anyway, a nice dinner to round up my stay in Russia.
I went to bed early and asked the receptionist to arrange a taxi for the next morning.
Tuesday, 30 August 2011
RA-46667 (delivered in 1974)
Scheduled 08:10-09:55 (-1)
Actual 08:00-09:40 (-1)
With the sound of my alarm at 5:30 in the morning, my last day in Russia had begun. The taxi was waiting at 6:00 – an awesome Wolga, the Soviet luxury car which I had always wanted to try. It was quite worn out but still interesting. I thanked the driver and gave him a rather generous tip as I still had some RUB left. My ride in front of ARH's terminal:
I went through the security check inside the terminal...
...where I quickly realised that only domestic flights were handled here. So I went back outside and walked over to the international terminal:
The entrance took me directly into a staircase which ended in a small room with some posters – in Russian – explaining the customs procedures. The door towards the security check was closed and so I waited with about 5 other people. There was a Norwegian dude, G., who had broken both arms, and he asked me if I could help him with his two bags and the check-in procedure.
Maybe 10 minutes later, the security staff opened the door and the handling procedure for Nordavia's flight to HEL began. The first security check was followed by the check-in procedure, where my request for a window seat in the back was answered with "free seating". After G. had checked-in too, I proceeded to passport control which took half a minute and I got my emigration stamp without problems. Right behind that was the second security check. I had a look at the small duty free shop with ridiculous prices and sat down in the small waiting room. All these last steps from the first security check to the waiting room took place within maybe 30 meters. The waiting room:
I had a look outside and saw that an An-24 was already being prepared:
In one corner of the waiting room was a wooden door which was soon opened without further comment – boarding had started. I took my backpack and G.'s bags and off we went to the bus which drove us with eight other passengers to the waiting An-24.
I stowed the bags in the cargo compartment behind a net and while G. took a seat in the back, I chose seat 1A up front to see some propeller action.
It took a while before the engines were turned on. Time for a shot of what would normally be the legroom:
The two (!) flight attendants did a safety demo and then disappeared in the back. I assume that we had to wait for the arrival of this company An-24 before engine start was approved:
After the noisy engine start-up, the An-24 then made its way to the bumpy runway...
...and accelerated with an enormous roar:
After liftoff, the local maintenance facility and aircraft graveyard came into sight:
Shortly thereafter, we overflew the city of Arkhangelsk:
One of the city's main employers (and polluters) was visible below: A large wood processing plant.
Another view at the city:
I liked the An-24's old-school interior:
After another look at endless forests...
...I sought more legroom and less noise further in the back. The exit row wasn't taken, so I settled there for the rest of the flight, without forgetting to take a legroom shot:
If I saw it correctly, heavy forestry activity led to some erosion down there:
The crew then came around with another old-school trolley and offered drinks and a meal:
They even asked actively if I wanted a glass of white wine. Not at this early hour for me. The meal was ok, however. I checked whether G. could manage to unwrap the meal, and he seemed ok with it.
Some time later, I wanted to explore the aft cabin and hoped to secretly shoot a cabin photo, but to my surprise both flight attendants had made themselves comfortable on some seats in the back, covered themselves in blankets and took a nap. Good for me – I took some pictures of the cargo hold...
...the one galley...
...and the other galley...
...and the cabin:
When I returned to my seat, I dozed off for a while. I woke up again and saw another mix of forests and fields – since we were already descending, this must have been Finland:
The gear came down soon thereafter...
...and we touched down not much later:
Taxi was quite rapid and the plane came to a stop close to the terminal.
The flight attendants said goodbye and handed me the bags at the door.
After a short bus ride, I found myself at the passport control, which was a breeze as there were only 10 passengers, of whom G. and myself were the only EU citizens. We proceeded to the baggage claim, collected his checked bag and sat down on a bench. G. still needed a booking for an onward flight to Oslo, so I helped him browse the web – HEL offers free WLAN – as his attempts at typing were rather clumsy. He took an afternoon flight on SAS, so we went on to Terminal 1 to re-check his bag. He found a baggage cart for his hand luggage and went outside to smoke, and we bid farewell.
Tuesday, 30 August 2011
OH-BLO (delivered in 1999)
Scheduled 12:00-12:40 (-1)
Actual 11:55-12:20 (-1)
I checked in for my onward flight on Blue1 at a self-service kiosk. A few days earlier, I had received an e-mail stating that my Optiontown upgrade (see part 1 of my report) had been granted. So, I selected seat 1F and went through security.
Terminal 1's check-in hall:
I had plenty of time left and thus went to the SAS lounge. It reminded me of an IKEA store...
...and the food offering wasn't spectacular, but sufficient for a light second breakfast.
A nice feature were the Apple computers with free internet in one corner:
When it was time to go to the gate, I left the lounge and walked down the airside area, which was modern but unspectacular:
My plane was waiting at the gate, and so were the fellow passengers:
Boarding was quick and the welcome on board almost friendly. The cabin's first impression was ok, but not that great – some dirt here and there, and the seats and floor looked a bit worn. I took my seat and found the apron to be quite deserted:
Legroom at the bulkhead wasn't that generous – my own mistake by choosing the wrong seat.
Takeoff followed soon – it was very quiet up front – and the scenery below was beautiful:
Soon, clouds blocked the view...
...but above Sweden, they allowed some views again:
A view across the first row (there were about 5 passengers in the Premium cabin, Economy was maybe half full):
Service took quite a while, but I noticed the nice smell of a hot meal. So my expectations grew, along with my appetite. I hadn't really expected a hot meal, but the smell triggered my hopes. However, when the meal was distributed – without too much of a smile – I saw a cold wrap and some salad, plus a coconut dessert:
So it seems like the hot meal was either for the pilots or the cabin crew. Well, of course they deserve one, but I was still disappointed in the "Premium" service on KF. After offering me a drink, the crew disappeared and performed the buy-on-board service in Economy class. They didn't even care to ask for another round of drinks, just tea or coffee was offered. Let me think – was this extra service, along with the lounge access and the priority line at security which I didn't use due to the lack of a queue, worth 49€? No. Lesson learned!
I went to the back to take a cabin shot:
The flight was over quite soon, and some nice views on the Swedish coast and the Öresund bridge (that picture was taken through the window across the aisle) were offered:
Short before landing, Copenhagen came in sight:
Landing was a bit windy but still soft:
After disembarkation – not even the farewell was overly friendly – I made my way through the shopping mall with departure gates that is called CPH:
I took the metro into town, but realised that it doesn't stop at the central station. As I had about three hours to spend in Copenhagen, I thought about what I should do for a moment. Having been to the city before, I decided to check out Christiania, the famous autonomous district of the city. I left the metro at Christianstad and walked to Christiania.
It was really interesting. A peace- and colourful area with some weird people, but all seemed friendly and relaxed. After passing some artists' workshops and some cafés, I came to the Green Light District, a street full of open weed stalls. Amazing to see those huge amounts of pot and hashish for sale! Photography was forbidden in the Green Light District and I didn't want to be too much of an intrusive tourist, so a picture of a canal near Christiania has to be sufficient:
I walked on in the direction of the city centre and stopped at a nice café for a sandwich lunch. Afterwards, I headed to the central station, where I walked around a bit, and after buying a copy of the latest SPIEGEL from a newsstand, I stumbled upon a 1st class lounge. I asked the friendly attendant whether I was eligible with my German 1st class ticket for the ICE, and she said sure and waved me in. It was a nice-looking lounge. On offer were coffee, tea, water and apples.
When I had taken a seat with a cappuccino, the lady came over and offered some nice chocolate.
Five minutes before my train's departure, I left the lounge, bid the nice lady farewell...
...and went downstairs to the tracks, where the ICE to Hamburg was already waiting:
While the 2nd class of the ICE trains isn't really uncomfortable, it can be crowded with people and the 1st class is slightly more comfy and a lot more peaceful. Normally, I wouldn't care to pay more for it, but the 10€ surcharge for this special offer were worth it. Here's a legroom shot – the last one of my trip:
The train departed – it was actually quite full, with some 1st class passengers without reserved seats ending up sitting on the floor – and stopped at all kinds of smaller stations in Denmark. The landscape was nice and some threatening grey clouds were looming in the sky, but it got better soon:
After maybe 1.5 hours, the train reached the ferry harbour at Rødby, with this building welcoming the arriving passengers:
After a short stop, the train rumbled onto the ferry's combined car and train deck:
All passengers were asked to leave the train for the 45-minute crossing of the Fehmarnbelt and everyone went to the deck.
Moments later, the ferry's cargo door closed:
I also went to the upper deck and enjoyed the fresh sea breeze.
The conductor in the first class section handed out vouchers for a hot drink and a snack in the train restaurant. I went there and got myself a tea and a Twix bar – so here's the final on-board meal picture of this trip...
...and a final cabin shot:
It started to become dark outside:
My journey came to an end at Hamburg's central station. It has been a fascinating, but also tiring trip, so I was glad that I could relax in Hamburg for a day before flying back to ZRH.
This is the end of my TR series. Thank you very much for your interest.