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Bern, Berlin, and Bbbbrrrrr! Crossing the northernmost border in the world

Bern, Berlin, and Bbbbrrrrr! Crossing the northernmost border in the world

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Old Mar 15, 19, 7:44 am
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Originally Posted by Hoyaheel View Post
Hockey, craft beer & khachapuri - so jealous! Trip looks amazing. Cold, but amazing!
Right?! How could a trip be any better?!

Originally Posted by nequine View Post
Great to see you back writing another TR again, and just catching up with all the parts.

The temps you are referring to, is that Celsius or Fahrenheit?
Celsius, sorry. I usually make a point to say.

Originally Posted by offerendum View Post
One thing I wonna ask: Was it cold outside
Nah...downright tropical!

Originally Posted by YuropFlyer View Post
Hurray for Comrade Lenin, defending the world from the evil Nazis (or so I learned here )
I mean, even a broken clock is right twice a day, eh?
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Old Mar 15, 19, 11:33 am
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Originally Posted by ironmanjt View Post
Celsius, sorry. I usually make a point to say.
Cheers for confirming.
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Old Mar 15, 19, 4:58 pm
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Moscow, Part 2

As regular readers will know, I've been to Moscow many times going back all the way to 1988 when it was still the capital of the USSR. When I went back for the first time post-Soviet Union about 10 years ago, it was hard to believe it was the same country...but in some ways it still was. The familiar sites were still there: Red Square, the Kremlin, St. Basil's, GUM, etc, but all the western stores and hotels made it feel the same...just more globalized.

In the years since then, I've traveled all around Moscow, seeing all the major sites many times. This trip, we really wanted to take the advantage of having a long period and explore some of the more out of the way and less usual site, starting with the Central Air Force Museum way out in Monino.

Now, saying "way out" is a bit relative, given the museum is only 40km east of Moscow, but it's nowhere near a metro or train station, so this means either multiple bus and tram connections or taking a taxi. I checked Yandex and it was only about 1200 rubles (less than $20) so we opted for convenience. Unfortunately, the traffic was brutal that morning and it took us nearly two hours to get to the museum!

The Central Air Force Museum in Monino is absolutely huge, with over 170 aircraft on display, some indoors in two large hangers, and many outdoors. There are also over 100 engines and other aircraft related memorabilia on display. It was an absolute airplane geek's paradise.

Few words if you're considering it: the staff speak absolutely no english at all (though I'm guessing if you speak no Russian they can do the basics like toilet, go here, etc) but that said, they were some of the nicest, friendliest, and most helpful people I've ever encountered at a tourist venue in Russia. More on that as I go along.

After purchasing our tickets, the first stop was the hanger with older WWI and WWII aircraft. Upon entering, the ticket taker very helpfully explained the layout of the museum to us, and gave us all the details about the layout of the museum. She clearly loved her job, and slowed down her speech speaking very clearly so we could understand every word. I was impressed - it's not common that non-English speakers in Russia make an attempt to make it easier on tourists, and she gave a super positive first impression!



An Ilyushin 10M from World War II - 1944. The displays (mostly in Russian only, although some had English as well) not only had details on the plane, but on the types of missions they flew, and often about Hero Pilots who had flown them. Really cool!



After spending about 45 minutes wandering the two large indoor hangers, it was outside and maybe a 200 meter walk until we got to the outdoor part of the museum. Sure, it was a little cold, maybe about -15C and super windy, but how bad could/would it be. Wrong thing to question...



After walking the first part of the outdoor section, there was another non-climate controlled hanger with some larger pieces. Like this "Volga Stratospheric Balloon Car."



Back outside, and an Aeroflot Mi-2 Helicopter:



Myasischev M-17 Stratophera - aka what happens when you forget to de-ice the plane before takeoff...mainly took this photo because I loved the look of the plane with huge sheets of ice hanging off the wings.



Posing in front of a Tupolev Tu-144 aka Concordeski...it was cool to see this given I had just seen another one in Germany the month before. 17 were built in total, two suffered fatal crashes, and only five every saw passenger service. At this point I was absolutely freezing, and it was "take hands out of pockets for two seconds, snap quick pick, and move on."



Mi-12 Heavy Transport Helicopter...one of the most unique looking aircraft on display :





After walking around outside and freezing (dozens of more photos I didn't share here) it was time to head inside and check what I expected would be a very dangerous giftshop. But first, I had to take a flight...



Fortunately, the gift shop wasn't too dangerous, although the proprietor was quite a character. She was extremely chatty, impressed by Americans who spoke Russian, and wanted to make sure she showed us every possible thing in the gift shop, as well as telling us all about upcoming special events at the museum. She even encouraged us to come back in the summer when we might enjoy it even more!

Overall, a super cool experience, and if you're an aviation geek at all I recommend it very highly!

That night, out for more delicious Georgian food. Starting with a jug of house wine...which apparently is poured into a bowl for drinking! Chug, chug, chug!



Khatchapuri again, this one being way more delicious than the previous restaurant.



We decided to branch out for after-dinner drinks, and found another pretty cool pub. Craft Republic was kind of in the basement of a building, but they had a Pac-Man machine, awesome beer list, and even some Cypress Hill blasting from the speakers!

http://www.jasonaroundtheworld.com/w...3/IMG_1512.mov

The next day, it was off to Bunker 42 to see where the Soviet Missile Command would retreat to if Moscow was under nuclear attack in the Cold War days. I've been to Canada's version, the Diefenbunker, but figured the Soviet one being right in the middle of Moscow would be super cool. But first, you walk down 16 flights of stairs to get to the depth which engineers calculated could withstand a direct hit from the earliest nuclear weapons:



At the bottom, through a metal-clad corridor into the bunker itself:



Guard-post at the entrance to the bunker complex:



The Anteroom to Stalin's personal chambers in the bunker. I was cracking up at all the mannequins:



Da. Comrade Stalin is right upstairs:



Oh, hey Broseph! Ironically, Stalin never even ended up visiting the bunker, as its construction wasn't complete until after he died. Oh well!



Meeting room for officials in case of nuclear attack. The room was only used one time, however, during the Cuban Missile Crisis.



A mock-up of the Soviet Union's first atomic bomb...although our guide assured us it was real...



Missile command center...we even got to press the button and then watch a simulation film of missiles screaming towards the US...it was the ONLY time on the tour we weren't allowed to take pictures...supposedly the consoles were the original ones, although the electronics were not.



After the launch room, we were told to go down the next corridor while the guide closed the doors behind us. Of course, he locked the door, turned out all the lights, and the red lighting came on while air raid sirens blasted. It was a pretty cool thing to see!



Standing outside the Bunker.



We ran into the metro right at rush hour, where it was packed...yet orderly in that way that people looking out for everyone else is. In DC, the metro is a disorderly mess with people stopping at the bottom of escalators, cutting each other off, and generally having no communal motivation at all. There's a reason why it's at capacity at a much lower point than Moscow, Tokyo, etc...



Next up our last few days in Moscow!
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Old Mar 15, 19, 5:57 pm
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Nuking the US? Sounds like fun

great trip. I love the food in the former USSR.
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Old Mar 16, 19, 1:06 am
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Fantastic trip report.. When my wife and I went to Moscow, we were impressed by the beauty of the subway system and the incredible food as well....
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Old Mar 16, 19, 4:11 am
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love the pics of the planes.. I try to go to aircraft museums whenever I am in Europe.. but not when its that cold
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Old Mar 18, 19, 5:22 pm
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Last Couple of Days in Moscow

Our first several days in Moscow we had seen lots of new sites quite a bit more off the tourist trail, so for the last day and a half we decided to do some of the more traditional touristy things that we had both enjoyed on previous trips. After getting a late start we headed out for a walk, but got distracted when we were both hungry and saw a cool looking craft beer place that looked somewhat promising. Delicious sausages and even better beer - a nice find!



Back into the super-crowded, but somehow always orderly, metro to head down to Red Square. Even food delivery services use the metro in Moscow!



First stop was the GUM department store for one of their delicious pistachio ice cream cones. This has been a tradition on all my trips to Moscow, and a long stop like this wouldn't have been complete without it!



Like Kirkenes earlier in the trip, GUM seemed to also be in the throes of Chinese New Year with cherry blossoms and Chinese signs everywhere:



GUM on Red Square...since 1893!



A stop in the food store. I love going to grocery stores around the world and getting a sense for how people shop. Now, of course normal Muscovites don't do their daily shopping at GUM (except maybe some of the higher-up apparatchiks at the Kremlin?) but if you do, plenty of $500+ champagne to choose from!



Or, if vodka is more your thing, there's Oil Brand Vodka....sold in little mini oil drums. A bargain at only $60 per 700ml can!



There were little caviar coolers all over the store, and every time I got near one a very eager sales clerk would dash over to try and help me. Based on the behaviour, I'm pretty sure the caviar sales are on commission. After a few attempts I finally let one of them give me a caviar lecture just so I could get a decent pic!



An ice skating rink had been set up in the middle of Red Square, and I was really wishing I had my skates (and it wasn't freezing) so I could have a short skate on Red Square. Next year!



The Kremlin in the late afternoon sun.



Saint Basil's Cathedral - one of those must-take pics in Moscow.



Now, unless you've spent a lot of time in Moscow this is an inside joke that probably won't make sense, but in all my visits I always giggle that in GUM in addition to the public toilets (which you still have to pay for) there's this sign for a "Historic Toilet." I decided this was the time to finally see what it was all about!



Price was 100 rubles (about $1.50) instead of the 50 for the regular toilets, and it was certainly much nicer in side. Can't imagine this is historic from communist days - this must precede the Revolution.



Some shopping for kitschy souvenirs...couldn't decide between the Putin riding a bear t-shirt and the Trump/Putin "We Love Russia" t-shirt.



There was also this Caviar Russian Big Mac t-shirt....I'm lovin' it!



One last photo op with Lenin in the metro on the way back to the hotel.



We decided to check out one more KHL night on our last night there, and this time ended up right at centre ice, first row of seats!



The horse mascot was...unusual.



Pre-game lined up for the national anthem. Is this a thing in all countries? I know it is in the US and Canada.



Managed to get a good video of the national anthem. Say what you will, but it's definitely powerful and patriotic.


...and the game was off. Absolutely terrible seats. Definitely not worth the $15. Total sarcasm.



If the horse wasn't strange enough, the dancing CSKA star was pretty amazing! Packed stands tonight - probably because it was a Friday game - and the cheerleaders were feeding off the crowd energy!



I figured after two games, I had to pick up a souvenir from a great vacation!



After a great six days in Moscow, it was time to start the trek home, and the end of a fantastic trip. But still one more post coming up...headed home...with an overnight in Geneva.
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Old Mar 18, 19, 5:44 pm
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Originally Posted by ironmanjt View Post
Now, unless you've spent a lot of time in Moscow this is an inside joke that probably won't make sense, but in all my visits I always giggle that in GUM in addition to the public toilets (which you still have to pay for) there's this sign for a "Historic Toilet." I decided this was the time to finally see what it was all about!



Price was 100 rubles (about $1.50) instead of the 50 for the regular toilets, and it was certainly much nicer in side. Can't imagine this is historic from communist days - this must precede the Revolution.
I made the exact same picture when I was in Moscow last year in Winter I just somehow found the sign hilarious and couldn't believe people (mostly mainland Chinese tourist groups) were queuing for it. Probably has to be one of the smartest tourist trap ever - unless I missed something and Lenin or the Tsarina did indeed do a number two there once.

PS. Jealous about the hockey game and the fab seats! It's been a long long time that my own travels coincided with cool sports matches...
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Old Mar 18, 19, 8:05 pm
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Wow, amazing report and photos. Your photos from Murmansk look really cool, and boy does it look cold there!

Thank you for sharing. Looking forward to the next part.
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Old Mar 19, 19, 6:38 am
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Another amazing trip report. Thanks for posting.

I the Flock of Seagulls reference.
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Old Mar 19, 19, 7:35 pm
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Moscow to Washington with SWISS and United Fauxlaris with an overnight in Geneva

Despite this trip being nearly three weeks long, it was over in a heartbeat. I guess that's what happens when a trip is split up into several distinct "chunks" involving work and fun, before you know it...it's over.

After sleeping in and enjoying one more leisurely morning in Moscow, it was time to head to the airport to start the long trek home. Since I had plenty of time I opted to take the metro across town and connect to the AeroExpress train to Domodedovo. Looks like it was my lucky day, as I had the entire train to myself!



Through immigration no problem (I admit only slight concern due to our "weird" border crossing up by Kirkenes and Murmansk) and off to the lounge. I had lots of time, so I decided to head to the Lufthansa lounge. Got a big "nyet" from the provodnitsa, despite my protestations that it was Star Alliance policy that Star Alliance Gold members on a business class ticket get access to all business lounges, she said Swiss lounge only! I knew better than to argue with a surly provodnitsa!

Off to the Swiss lounge, where it was a very sad array of snacks, beer...and soft drinks. That was it. I had a bit of cash left, and with no exchange posts or plans to return to Russia soon I decided to head to a cafe and see what I could find. Mini bottle of wine and...a champagne flute...and a piece of apple pie. When the lounge isn't to your standards, make your own lounge!



Soon, it was time to board our non-full flight which was delayed 45 minutes, and head westward!

SWISS flight 1337
Moscow, Domodedovo (DME) to Geneva, Switzerland (GVA)
Depart 16:00, Arrive: 17:55, flight time: 3:55
Airbus A220-100, Registration HB-JBB, Manufactured 2016, Seat 1A
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 14,373
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,706,961


Once again, seating is 2 on the left and 3 on the right on this aircraft, which means on the left side in "business" you have an empty next to you, but on the right side only the middle between two people is blocked. Flight wasn't full, but I enjoyed my seat 1A. Did some plane-spotting on the taxi. First time I've ever heard of "Iraero" - looks like they bought some of the old Transaero 777s.



Izhavia Yak-42....now I want to come back just to fly this! Apparently they are headquartered in Izhevsk which is home to the Kalashnikov museum. Seriously, sign me up!



Looks very cold and snowy below on departure from Moscow...



I didn't expect much of a meal on such a small plane, and was trying to figure out what to do when I landed...except Swiss had a surprise for me. Some mixed nuts/crackers to start...



Then what is this sorcery?! A choice of appetizers...choice of mains...AND choice of desserts. Seriously, on a regional flight on a small plane that seats less than 100?!

Went with the fondue starter, because I figured there was no way that could be any good on a plane. Surprise, it was actually fantastic and delicious. Who would have expected that on a plane!




Then, because the flight attendant recommended it, I went with the veal main course, which was also absolutely delicious.



To finish it off, what was described as a "crumble" and was also amazing. Could have used a little ice cream, but who am I kidding.




On such a small plane on such a short flight this meal was absolutely amazing...and as good as many airlines do on much, much longer flights. VERY nicely done, Swiss! Also, let's not forget, the crew was absolutely amazing, and once they figured out I spoke enough French and German to practice, they mixed it up every time they came around to keep it fun. Seriously one of my best flights in ages - amazing!

Descent into Geneva was much sooner than expected, and despite departing over 45 minutes late we actually landed five minutes early! Holy winds, Batman. Plus, getting in on time allowed us to see the Alps as we landed. Absolutely gorgeous!






Easy arrival, quick train into the city, and checked into my hotel. Chose it for location right next to the train station, and the Hôtel Suisse, Genève met my expectations as conveniently located ,clean, and comfortable. For a three star hotel in a great location with super friendly staff, I highly recommend it if it fits your needs. Plus, look at the view out my window...I knew I'd like this place!



Since I'd already had dinner, and my body clock thought 7pm was the new 9pm, I just wanted a couple of delicious local beers and bed. Au Coin Mousse had been closed for summer holidays on my previous trip, so I was excited to see it open this time. Lots of amazing very local small batch craft beers - I was super happy!



After a super long sleep-in, of course on the way back to the train station I stopped at Starbucks for one last four cheese toastie. Mmmm....



Gasp....what happened to Swiss law and order. My train to the airport was defaced...but colourful!



Perhaps the most noticeable thing about the Swiss lounge in Geneva, which is plenty nice, is that between the Newark and Dulles flights it was packed with loud, obnoxious Americans, most porting surly teenagers. It's funny that it only takes a few weeks away to make something I normally see on a daily basis seem out of place.

United flight 975
Geneva, Switzerland (GVA) to Washington, DC, Dulles (IAD)
Depart 11:40, Arrive: 15:10, flight time: 9:30
Boeing 767-300, Registration N669UA, Manufactured 1999, Seat 1D
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 18,464
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,711,052




So, not too much to say...another completely mediocre United business class flight. I keep hoping I'm going to get one of the 767s with new Polaris seats since more than 50% of them are finally done, but every time I seem to get one of the old ones like clockwork. I will say, however, the food was generally better than average.



A few thoughts:

The starter was two rather sad slices of "smoked" salmon and some quinoa salad. Completely forgettable, and in line with the two prawn appetizer. Seriously United, is this the best you can do? The salad, however, was way better than average, so overall, I'll call the appetizer a wash.



I ordered the shortrib, which I figured would at least be predictable since they've been serving it for going on six decades now. However, this flight, apparently the usual neon brown sauce that makes it sort of sweet and BBQ like was totally absent...and it was meh at best.



Cheese course from Europe....better than cheese from the US as always. It's not because they don't have good cheese in the US, I suspect United is just too cheap to pay for it.
SAD!



At least the ice cream was delicious as always!



Giving credit where credit is due, the pre-landing deli plate was tasty. Nice variety of meats, cheeses, and pickles. Overall, nice and light-ish and just what I wanted before landing.



United business class is certainly nothing to write home about, but the seats are adequate (as long as you're not stuck in snuggle class in the 2-4-2 777 or the "two side" of 2-1-2 business class) and the meals are solid. Wouldn't be my first choice, but the convenience of nonstop sure can't be beat!

I thought I'd only be home for three weeks until my next trip, but due to some work drama llama it now looks like nearly nine weeks! What will I do with myself?!

Fortunately, options to Dubai and Berlin in the meantime are already presenting themselves...stay tuned!
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Old Mar 20, 19, 1:57 am
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Originally Posted by ironmanjt View Post
Since I'd already had dinner, and my body clock thought 7pm was the new 9pm, I just wanted a couple of delicious local beers and bed. Au Coin Mousse had been closed for summer holidays on my previous trip, so I was excited to see it open this time. Lots of amazing very local small batch craft beers - I was super happy!


That more looks like an alcopop than a beer!

Thanks for another good TR from you.
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Old Mar 20, 19, 8:11 am
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Originally Posted by nequine View Post
That more looks like an alcopop than a beer!

Thanks for another good TR from you.
Nope, just a super juicy, sour beer

Thanks for the compliment - glad you enjoyed!
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Old Mar 20, 19, 8:35 am
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Gerber ready to eat junk definitive is NO real fondue. When you are in CH next time I will bring you to some decent place.
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Old Mar 20, 19, 8:37 am
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Originally Posted by YuropFlyer View Post
Gerber ready to eat junk definitive is NO real fondue. When you are in CH next time I will bring you to some decent place.
I'll hold you to that But read earlier in the TR....I had a wonderful fondue at a client's home I just enjoyed the novelty of fondue on a plane.
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