Searching for Pancakes in the Palace

Episode 5 - The Exodus from Russia

The next morning was just breakfast, packing and checking out, and Dmitri and Sergey picked us up at 11:00 to take us to the airport. We bid them goodbye and thanked them, particularly Sergey for making our Russian experience a wonderful one.

The airport was very interesting. The terminal was small, and there were four doors leading from the outer room inside. The doors had a large electronic sign over them with flight information, and Sergey told us that you can't enter the doors until your flight appears on the board with numbers indicating which check-in desk to go to. We had about an hour to wait, so we sat in a lounge area in the outer room until our flight appeared on the board. We noticed signs that said that there were 4 steps we had to go through: Security Control, Check-in, Passport control, and Security Control again. After entering one of the 4 doors, we went through the usual security control. Bags through the X-ray, and people through the metal detectors. The difference was that we didn't have to remove our shoes, but the guards used a metal detector wand on everybody after we went through the metal detector.

Inside security control was a big room with the walls lined with numbered check-in desks. We had to wait for the desk for our flight to be announced and then we waited on line and checked-in. We then had to go through passport control. Sergey told us that unlike most countries, where you must have a passport in order to enter the country, in Russia you must also have a valid passport to leave. The passport control officers were much more thorough than in other countries, even the US. They checked their computers for what seemed to be a long time, they carefully perused the passports, they stared at our faces. I also noticed that they had lines drawn on the transparent partitions separating us from them that they could use to tell them our height, and there were mirrors arranged so they could see if we had anything behind us. We made it through passport control uneventfully however, and found ourselves in a small area with some duty-free shops. Donnie shopped for a few small last-minute gifts and I bought some Russian chocolate to try (we tried it later on the plane. It wasn't very good). We then discovered that we had to go through another level of security check, and we were not allowed to enter the door until our flight appeared on another electronic board. When our flight appeared, we were let in, and this time the security check was more thorough. Shoes off, belt off, everybody was patted down. Women by a female guard, men by a man. One young woman who was wearing skin-tight jeans and a skin-tight t-shirt was still patted down by the female guard, even though there was no possibility of her hiding anything under her clothes. Donnie was stopped and asked to open her carry-on bags, even though my bags had all the electronics. We got through the second security check and found ourselves in a very small room, with maybe 50 seats which was the gate waiting area for 4 gates! It was jammed and every seat was taken! Eventually two seats became available and we waited for our flight. The gate doors led outside to a bus, which took us to the plane. We boarded our flight to Copenhagen and bid goodbye to Russia.

One scary event occurred on the flight. The flight attendants were handing out soft drinks and snacks (which you had to buy) and were about 10 rows back from the front of the plane and a few rows away from us, when the plane encountered some turbulence and starting bumping around. We had experienced this before, but suddenly the whole plane tilted sharply to the right, maybe 30 degrees, and seemed to be dropping. Several people had to hold onto their seats, and the flight attendant had to sit on somebody's arm-rest and grab a chair back. The tilt and drop lasted only a few seconds, but it was very scary and even the flight attendant looked unnerved. Several people in the rows ahead of us were wearing their beverages. The flight attendants had to come around with a roll of paper towels. After that we got our beverages and were carefully holding them and only pouring about 1/2 inch at a time into the plastic cups.

The rest of the fight was uneventful, and we landed at Copenhagen airport, which turned out to be one of the most beautiful airports we have seen. We didn't have time to look around or take pictures because we only had 55 minutes to change planes, and we had to go through passport control and security again. We made our connecting flight and eventually arrived in Amsterdam, got our bags, met the driver that our travel agent had arranged to take us to our hotel and got to our hotel about 6:00 in the evening.