To Russia by chance

In November 2015, I realised I had many days of my annual leave pending; which I could not carry forward to the next year. There would be no use taking annual leave if we were not travelling. So, we decided to go to Nepal.

After booking the air tickets, we came to know that there was a shortage of fuel there which had resulted in steep prices of tours and civil unrest in some regions. We cancelled the tickets. We were given a credit note which had to be used within 12 months from the date of cancellation.

We could have used those tickets to go to our hometown, Mumbai. However, the departure terminal was very far from our house in Dubai. Which were the other places the airline flew to? Somewhere we have not been before, somewhere we wished to visit, somewhere that is not very far, where the weather would be pleasant and the flight to which departs from the terminal close to our house? And hurray! Vinod found out that the airline flies to Moscow!

However, I wasn’t keen on taking an urban vacation. Urban vacations are not relaxing vacations. They involve waking up early, planning about where to visit and what to see each day, figuring out routes, taking public transportation, queuing up at museums or monuments and coming back to the hotel late and tired. However, what option does one have when Vinod makes up his mind? So, in the Eid Al Fitr (also known as Ramadan Eid or Ramzan Eid) holidays of 2016, we used the tickets to visit Russia.

My brush with Russia started at an early age with reading Russian fairy tales such as Sonia and the King December, reading the children’s magazine – Misha whose stories introduced me to tsars and cauldrons, tapping my foot to Boney M’s ‘Ra Ra Rasputin’ and studying about Taiga in geography class. Mikhail Gorbachev was in news at that time.

I remember playing with the colourful matryoshkas which my elder sister got. She was studying in Ukraine. It’s because of her that I got to know of some Russian words and phrases such as: dobre din (good day), maat (mother) and braat (brother) which co-incidentally are similar to those in Hindi/Sanskrit. She also told me that Russians were big fans of Raj Kapoor, the biggest showman of Indian cinema. I also learnt that names such as: Natasha, Nikita and Tanya were common for girls in Russia as they were in India.

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My personal collection of matryoshkas

Later, India’s association with Russia was in news again because of AK-47 rifles and MiG-21 fighter planes.

More recently, I had another Russian connection. I saw a picture of some colourful domes. I thought they were part of a magical and mystical land such as that of Aladdin. 🙂  I was surprised to know that they are real domes of a real St. Basil’s cathedral in a real world! So, of course, I had wished to visit Moscow! It is just that I had never thought I would get the opportunity so soon and under such circumstances!

I had just returned from a trip to Mumbai and I wasn’t keen on taking another trip soon. As much as I was hating it, I started looking up Viator.com for places to visit in Russia. However, we couldn’t book any tours because we were waiting for our family friends who were to join us on the trip to get their visa. Finally, they did and I think one or day two days before we were scheduled to leave, we made the bookings.

To be continued…

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