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Thursday, April 17th, 2003

Back on the Road
To Moscow and beyond

What a difference a week makes; on the train to St. Petersburg last Tuesday, the countryside was covered with snow. Now, as we head south to Moscow, the sun, having crossed the vernal equinox almost a month ago, is heading inexorably in the other direction, towards the Tropic of Cancer.

Looking out the window of the train as we speed through countryside, I see that all that is left of the icy hands of winter is few frigid fingers of ice clinging tenaciously to the face of the earth as our planet's parikrama inevitably forces old Mother Russia to bow her head towards the welcome warmth of the sun...

Our train pulls in to Moscow, the largest city in Russia (population: 8.5 million) at 8:15 a.m. Moscow has been the capital of Russia since the 15th century, although the capital was transferred to St. Petersburg in 1712, for some two hundred years, until it was returned to Moscow by the Soviets in 1918.

We are met on the platform by Avadhut Maharaj and Yadhu-Krishna Prabhu, who drives us to the apartment across the road from the temple. We rest for a while, then Goswami Maharaj cooks lunch (kitchuri and salad).

Avadhut Maharaj informs me that he has still not heard whether my application for a visa extension has been successful or not. If not, I have to stay in Moscow to take care of it while Goswami Maharaj and Muralishvara continue on to Novosibirsk, Siberia, without me. I will join them later.

Late that afternoon, Avadhut Maharaj that they are still working on the visa, but that I can travel with a notarized copy of my passport and a picture ID (my green card).

Sundarananda Prabhu drives us to the Domodedovo airport. It's a domestic flight, but foreigners still have to show their passports. Of course, my notarized copy is not acceptable to the official at the boarding gate. It requires some sort of police stamp.

Sundarananda Prabhu and I rush down to the police station on the floor below. The police officer at the desk refuses to give his stamp of approval. Sundarananda Prabhu argues with him, but this just makes the officer more intransigent. I hope we don't get arrested...

We go back upstairs and speak to one of the airline clerks, who calls a supervisor, who persuades the official at the boarding gate to let me through. Whew!

We taxi onto the runway at 9:20 p.m. (12:20 a.m. Siberian time). I lean back into the seat of the aircraft, which, judging from the high ceiling, must be a converted military craft, and I close my eyes.

Why must there always be so much drama with my travel arrangements?
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