You will probably have been to Moscow before, to look for a flat or for your job interview, so its not so new to you. You will have to wait in line in a dimly lit custom's area. You will wait in line clutching your passport feeling apprehensive, guilty as drug trafficker, although you are not a drug trafficker, will you pass through customs OK? Your visa is all in order, you checked the visa dates before you left, people queue silently, pushing and jumping spaces in attempt to save time, anger rises up in you, keep calm and breath. The customs man or woman seems to spend ages looking at your passport examining it as if you had just arrived from Mars. Unsmiling, they eventually scan it and stamp it and you are on your way, 400 pinball points. Ping. You have bounced off the first marker on the Moscow pinball machine, you are on your way to a top score. You shoot up to the next marker, to the baggage claim, 200 pinball points.
Hopefully, all your luggage will have arrived, you will see an area near the baggage belt full of unclaimed or lost baggage, this is the baggage grave yard. Its all wrapped in cling film (magic wrap, see link) looking like food aid bound to Africa. You wait and wait, nervously looking at he belt for your black or brown Samsonite suitcase that's been with you to so many countries before, like an old best friend. You hope your baggage is not in the cling film grave yard, that's near the baggage claim. Praise the lord, your stuff arrives, perhaps a bit scratched but everything is here, open the champagne 50 pinball points. Ping. The next step, is to pass through the arrivals section, yet more Police wait by the door smoking and looking at you suspiciously, walk past them, don't look at them, eyes fixed ahead, the door is in sight. Ping. You pass through and are now free and in Moscow. Taxi drivers hassle you, 'taxi' , 'taxi' they say. Ignore these locusts and look for your pick up driver, he should be there holding up a coffee stained bit of paper, with your name scribbled on it. You can take a taxi but agree the price first or see your wallet emptied of its cash or take the train into the city centre, (if you have arrived at one of the airports that has a city link). Load up the car or train and get it in. Ping. 100 pinball points.
You will notice, probably not for the first time, the smell of traffic smoke and see the thick traffic. It takes a few hours to get into the centre, so be patient your long journey is not over yet. You shoot up the pin ball machine and bounce and ping around on you way down to score a final Moscow hit. Ping. Arrival! You are here, past the passport control, past the baggage collection, into the arrivals, not blown up, outside the terminal. Game over.
A lot of your pinball arrival experience and score, will depend on the following factors:
- A driver has been arranged to meet you - 50 points
- If you have a pet or pets (see link) to collect at the airport - 100 points
- Your luggage is not lost or damaged - 50 points
- If you take a taxi, bus or train to your flat or hotel - 100 points
- If you have a flat - 300 points
- Pre-arrival organization - 400 points
- Correct visa dates and the correct type of visa - 400 points
- If you have a pram (stroller) it arrives at the airport with you and is undamaged - 20 points
- Your kids or wife/husband arrives with you in Moscow and not in Mongolia- 5 points
- Survive possible bomb attacks - 25 points
- You read this wonderful blog before you left home - 500 points
After arriving, here your journey is just beginning. It will take you several months to get used to Moscow but you will get used to it. Be organized, be brave and all will be fine. Your score: Top score !