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Thanks God, today we had a safe flight for one more time with my wife Svetlana from Sofia airport Vrazhdebna ( Terminal 2 ) to Minsk Belarus National Airport.
We travel 2 times to Belarus from Bulgaria (European Union) and though in Summer time tickets are more cheap and more regular and more convenient direct flights are available from Bulgaria to Minsk (Varna -> Minsk and Burgas -> Minsk) because of tourism the only way to travel quickly by plane to Minsk from Bulgaria is either via Moscow or via Istanbul as in the late days the political situation in Turkey is so ignited and the problem with these refugees and crazy bomb hihhadists is escalating we decided to not fly through Istanbul Ataturk airport even though the bit lower ticket prices.
The trip started from Sofia airport, there we had to go through the regular Metal Detector scan and removal of all metal things and going through the scan "gateway" doors. It seems after the last terrorist acts in Brussels Belgium and the risk for many other Islamic ones the security in airports was raised even further.
The distrust to the regular flight traveller like me has reached a crazy levels, these times besies the regular Metal detector, we were asked to give our hands and with a small device called "Trivka", were checked whether our skin has recently been exposed to explosive materials and stuff like this …
For both flights Sofia -> Moscow Sheremetevo and Sheremevo -> Minsk we flied with Aeroflot. This is not the first time we fly with Aeroflot and I think it will definitely not to be the last time. The airplanes we flight with were a new airplanes (SU) Sukhoi airplane and I enjoyed the flight.
My impression was the Russian pilots are "driving" / flying the plane very much like they drive an ordinary military airplane and that's quite fun as the airplane lift off and landing is done very rapidly exactly like being done with a military aircraft. Of course that could be my own gut feeling but it feels that way just to compare the aviators of other Westerner airplanes such as Boeng 737 / 777 does speed up before lift off much more easily so the flight out doesn't boost up so much adrenaline 🙂
The food in Sofia -> Moscow plane was quite decent too we were served the so common and valued in Russia, Belarus and Eurasian Union (EAC) juice called RICH before the meail toghether with some option for a beef meal or a chicken meal. The meal itself was worm and served in a board inside holding 2 cardboard boxes one containing the beef together with some spaghetti with steamed vegetables and the other one containing a tiny soared corny with a few pieces of beef (or pork) meet with two pieces of some healthy "black" rye bread pieces one of which was with some healthy sesame seeds accompanied by a small package of butter and some other souce. For a dessert a delicious waffle like made of drought mashed fruits.
To be honest my first impression seeing that strange meal combination was not very positive, not to say that I honestly wanted to puke but after tasting it I would say I really liked it. Aeroflot offers also a vegetarianian menu but this has to be pre-ordered in advance and as I didn't ordered it earlier but for next time if it is a fasting period before Easter or Christmas I would definitely pre-order a vegeraranian meal.
What I truly liked about Aeroflot's Sukhoi SuperJet 100-95 with which we flight is the the simplistic design, no extras inside the plane no annoying monitors that show you all the time the altitude and reporting over which country you're flying and generally no useless and often unwanted information.
However we were reported by the pilot a couple of times some information such as that we're flying over Brest and Minsk, but of course the English of the pilot was hard to understand. Well the radio from the pilot on the airplane is definitely something that didn't impressed me as in any other western airplane the radio connection from pilot is much more clearly heard but I guess this can be solved quickly.
The toilets in the airplane was also normal ones as in any other Western built Boeng, here is time to say it was always intesting for me the wiping of the toilet once the wipe off button is pressed a small hole is opened letting some air directly from outside to pull off what is inside the toilet and that quickly cleans it up 🙂
Entering the airplane was done through an attachable cordon (air tunnel) and not like with my earlier flights in which we were driven to the airplane by an ordinary bus.
Sheremetevo is really huge airport and what impressed me is the fact Sheremetevo's airport letters were written in pure cyrillic, something surely unique to see for any person coming from the west.
First impression from Moscow Sheremetevo if compared to Shiphol airport in Holland or Heatrow port in London is Sheremetevo is much more calm and quiet, the airport looks feels relaxing and cozy even though its outlook is a bit old fashioned. The marketing and advertisement ads all around the place and complexity of Sheremetevo is much less if compared to any other huge International airport and some things are made in a typical Russian manner, even the number of products being sold in the airport are much less than in any western airport, though there is plenty of caffeterias and restaurants to have lunch / dinner.
The simplicity on Sheremetevo airport is really a great thing as even the monitors showing up information for the flights are displaying the information in a very understanable and simply way even though possessing generally an old fashioned DOS like outlook if compared to the modern European Union / United States airports.
While waiting on Terminal D for the onboarding to flight Moscow -> Minsk, I had an amazing view of the airports airplanes, moving all around.
This is the first time I saw so many airplanes gathered on one place even though I've flight via Sheremetevo previous times this is the first time I'm starting to understand how big is really Sheremetevo.
One unfortunate fact about the flught was that our luggage was not transferred directly to Minsk Belarus but sent from Sofia to Sheremetevo and then we had to wait for some time to pick it up right after we've been checked by the border control kiosk.
There by the border police Russian lady I had to answer her few questions and she filled me a small list called "Migration card" blank for the Transfer visa.
Oh yes, I almost forgot in order to fly through Russian to another country inside the Eurasian Union such as Belarus, you need to have a Russian Transfer Visa which is being applied for from Russian embassy in Bulgaria.
The Russian Transit flight VISA costs 60 EUR (if it is to be made from 4 to 10 days) and for a 3 days creation of VISA it costs 95 EURO.
One very great thing about Sheremetevo which I liked so much as I'm an Eastern Orthodox Christian is the existence of the Eastern Orthodox Chapel in honour of Saint Nicolas the Myrh-Bearer who is in our Christian faith considered to be a protector of all travelers. Thus if like me you happen to be a Christian and you're flying via Moscow it is very nice to drop by for a few minutes in St. Nicolas chapel to light up a candle and pray to the saint with a beseach for a safe flight.
Here in Minsk the airport is also very cozy and warm (especially the old terminal), so one have a relaxing feeling once in Minsk.
Minsk airport is also very well organized and well maintained so to be honest it looks to me personally more beautiful than Sheremetevo.
To transfer to the 2nd airplane that flight from Moscow Sheremetevo to Minsk we needed to make transfer from Terminal F (where we arrived) to Terminal D which is the terminal that runs the local Eurasian Union flights from Russia to Belarus (note that Russian, Belarus doesn't have a flight border so anyone flying from Russia to Belarus could fly freely and once you reach Belarus, you're not being checked at all from any border control and that's pretty cozy because we didn't have to be checked for a second time once we reached Minsk.
My impression from Minsk National airport is that it is a nice mixture of communistic remains architecture and modern architecture.
There are plenty of private busses (marshrutki) that goes every 15 minutes from Minsk airport which is 43 km from city center as well as an ordinary state bus that gues to the train station and city center.
The train station in Minsk is also on a very much Western level and for some things it is even better as it has a cheap shop, where you can buy food at same prices as in any other supermarket chain in Belarus.
We travelled to train station and there what striked me is the touch screen interface allowing you to see various info about Minsk infrastructure the trains timing and even there was a video call to Train Station Staff to find out more about anything you can't find out yourself.