Posts Tagged ‘traveller’

Flight from Sofia Minsk via Moscow Sheremetevo airport a few impressions from Russia and Belarus

Sunday, April 17th, 2016

Sofia-Sheremetevo-Minsk-my-impressions-on-Russian-and-Belarusian-airport-what-it-is-like-in-Eurasian-Union

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.  

moscow-sheremetevo-terminal-2

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.

Moscow-Shermeetevo-free-duty-shops-and-terminal-D-red-cooridor-signatures

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.

Sheremetevo_airport_Saint_Nicolas_Eastern_Orthodox-Chapel

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.

Sheremetevo-airport-Saint_Nicolas_Chapel-iconostas-icons-of-the-Savior-Jesus-Christ-and-Virgin_Mary
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.

Minsk-National-airport-logo

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.

minsk-inside-airport-shops-and-infrastructure

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.

Trip to Ruen Monastery Saint John of Rila – The birthplace of a saint, a God piece of Heaven beauty on earth

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

ruenski_monastery-beautiful-mountain-view-near-birthplace-of-a-saint

Last Saturday me and my wife Svetlana together with a Christian friend family (Tsvetomir and Dimitrina with their < 2 years old boy – Boris) went to a small 1 day pilgrimage trip to Ruen Monastery – (Ruenski manastery). The holy cloister is situated very near Skrino village, the birth village of greatest Bulgarian saint saint John of Rila. The village is located about 90 km from Sofia and is very near to town of Boboshevo. To reach Ruen Monastery when coming from Sofia, the traveller has to move in direction of "Kulata / (The Tower)" and to pass the village of Djerman and Usoika. Then before entering the village of Skrino there is a 5 km steep car road leading to the monastery.

ruenski_manastir_near_sightview

Saint John of Rila lived in Skrino until his twenties and due to Christian tradition he accepted monkhood in the nearby monastery next to Skrino and a bit later started a hermit life dwelling himself in his first hermit cave situated near Skrino. The Cave of hermit dwelling of Saint John of Rila is now situated about 200 meters from Ruen Monastery and represents a tiny cave encraved in a rock. The rock is so small that maximum of 2 people can be in cave together. It is amazing how a man could live in such a small space.

hermit_cave_of_saint_John_of_Rila_near-his-birthplace
 

Current Ruen monastery Church is recently rebuild in 1995 and the rest of monastic buildings are completed in y. 2002, but according to history it is known a monastery was existent on same place known in medieval times under name "The Holy Father" in  XV century.

Veneration to Saint John of Rila was so high in mid centuries that obviously people recognized Saint John of Rila among the greatest saints.

The nature view near monastery is breath taking .. On the road to it there is Struma river the monastery itself is situated in Vlahina mountain from it there is a sightview of part of Rila mountain.

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Near the monastery buildings there are two paths one leading to the Cave of Hermitage of Saint John of Rila and another one leading to a place with a Cross visible from throughout the region.

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The monastery though being among the newest rebuilded ones in Bulgaria has already 3 saint holy relics, one of which is Holy relics from Saint George the Victorious. We had the blessings by God's grace to also meet RuenAbbot Father Ioan (John). We asked the father how many monks are inhabiting the monastery just to get the humorous answer that half of the inhabitants are present (meaning currently in the monastery there are only 2 monks). Fatehr John was evidently very young kindhearted  person  probably in his 30s. He was quite hospitable and invited us for tea and cookies in the small monastic dining room. We had quite a few spiritual talks and spoke on hardship of being a monk in nowadays confused world.

We were send with the Father's blessings and a gift – an icon of saint John of Rila and a book with the history of the monastery from ancient times to now – the book included also the Testament of Saint John of Rila

On our way back before entering Boboshevo we stopped to see and pray near an ancient Church from the 5th century consecrated under saint Theodor (Stratilat) – a Christian martyr saint from the 4th century who lived near Black Sea.

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The Church is an unique Cultural monument as it contains wall patings probably dating back to at least 10th century or even earlier.

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Thanks God the weather was quite warm for the Winter season leaving impression Spring has come 🙂

My First hitch-hiking experience – travel notes on a hitch hiker trip from Dobrich to Pomorie Monastery

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

My first hitch hiking experience travel notes of a hitch hiker Dobrich Varna Pomorie Monastery

I've been 28 years old and for good or bad never travelled hitch hiking. Today however with a friend of mine Kimba thx God I lived to experience what it is like to stay on the road "begging" people to take you on their way to somewhere.

I always wanted to hitch-hike as a youngster but my restrictive controlling parents was too vigilant not to let me have my personal freedom and try hitch hiking. Now as I've grown "old" I have the freedom to do it and I'm glad I could. For sure it is better to do something you always wanted later than never 🙂

We took the "STOP" from a place few meters away from the "scratching sign" indicating the end of Dobrich city area – located about 4 / 5 km from Dobrich center. To come to the well known hitch-hiker's place (which my friend Kimba) knew pretty well since he travelled probably more than 20 times hitch-hiking.

To reach the hitch-hiker place we walked about 1 hour which in the early morning (07:50 to 09:00) came to be quite refreshing.
About 09:00 we started doing the well know hitch hiker gesture to beg traveller to take us 🙂

It felt quite unconfortable and a bit like begging to be on the road waiting for somebody to pick you up on the other hand it felt very challenging as it seemed to be a good "exercice" to raise up self-confidence. We were lucky and we didn't met any drivers to mock us with gestures or car beep. Besides that we only had to wait less than 20 minutes (probably 18 mins) until a car stop and ask her for our direction.
The driver seemed had to travel close to Aksakovo (a small village like town 1 km far from beginning of Varna and just few km away from the city center).

He pick us up and as we go he happened to be a familiar person which I've seen many times in the (International College Albena) where I previously studied.
The guy happened to be a merried for the librarian of the college. We had a nice chat in his car about Bulgaria before in communism and now and who is doing what (which I guess is quite normal) for hitch-hikers. As he drived a very funny scene appeared as we saw a donkey leading a cart full of wood running on the road. Now you might wonder what would be funny of a rural donkey with a cart full of wood, well the cart didn't have any person leading it. It seemed the donkey run away scared by a truck or a noise so the person leading the cart either fall somewhere on the road or the donkey had untight itself and took the direction to its home place 🙂

… Our hitch-hiking plan was to travel from Dobrich to Varna (if possible or the closest village or suburb), then we aimed to take a bus from Varna or somewhere nearby to the city center and from the city center to Travel to the so called (Asparuh's bridge / (Asparuhovia Most) – which is a common hitch-hike waiting and pick-up destination).

As we were left in Aksakovo by the driver, we were lucky to have a close bus stop near us. We went to the bus stop and we only had to wait about 8 minutes until the next bus driving to Varna city center arrived. We pick up a bus number 207 and travelled 'safely' to the city center (on the price of 1 lv per ticket). So our overall travelling for both of us instead of 10 lv (5 lv per person bus tick) costed only 2 lv 🙂 Along with the low price for travelling the hitch-hiking was also very healthy as we had a long walk to the place to depart from and after that had a small walk to pick up the bus to Varna. We made a mistake to not go out of the 207 bus near Varna city center Cathedral but two stops earlier, so we also had a small 15 minutes walking to the Cathedral. As we were not sure which bus we need to take to go to Asparuhov's bridge, we asked few people on the city center. We were told we need to pick bus number 2 or 17 (IIRC).

Eventually as we're waiting near the bus station where the bus-es leading to Asparuhovo stopped, we came to meet a taxi driver driving people to Asparuhovo on the price of a bus ticket (1 lv). In 5 minutes time, again obviously by God's might intervention the driver was able to collect 2 more people so he offered that we all immediately travel. The taxi-st left us on a place a bit after Asparuhovo's bridge which was the common place for hitch-hikers. We had to climb a little hill like place and walk a bit on the highway on (the car damage and wreck area). Very near us was a police car waiting to catch violators of speed limits. I didn't know about this very moment that Hitch-Hiking in Bulgaria is considered illegal!, happily I found this sad fact not by the police man but from Kliment (Kimba). The policeman did not stop us as we found a way to walk through a place which is bit far from them. Kimba choose a place and we started doing the hitch-hiker "PLEASE STOP AND TAKE US" gesture once again (actually the as Kimba was a professional in hitch-hiking he was mostly doing the hitch-hike sign.

There we had to wait about 40 minutes or so until, a good man with a small bus carrying some paper palettes stop and took us.
Thanks God he had to travel to Jambol to deliver the palettes so his travel route passed by near Bourgas (and respectively Pomorie). We had a an intimaditing chat with the person by which I found out he seem to be having many money issues and a lot of debts (just like many of the people in BG nowdays). Unfortunately he shared that just like a lot of us the common people in Bulgaria he is underpaid and often even though he works extra in Saturdays and Sundays it is almost impossible for him to pay his rent, food and family expenss …..

As the conversation progressed, he asked us where are we going if we're going to find a work and I told him we're going to be guests and pilgrims to Pomorie Monastery and in the mean time help the monks if there is work to be done….

It was a pleasure for me to meet such an honest bulgarian middle aged man, which also was good enough to pick us up. The time passed quite quickly as we shared some of common living joys and griefs. The bus quickly approached pomorie so we left us and we split. As I was thankful to the guy and felt pity for his bad life misfortunes and I wished in my mind that God bless, help him and return him for the good deed he done to pick us up.

We were now only 2 km from Pomorie entrance so to the monastery we had to walk only about 4 or 5 more kilometers. On the gas (oil) station, where we were left a fun story happaned as the computers counting the gasoline stopped working. People who filled the car tanks with Gasoline had to wait until someone comes and fixes the computer, neither nobody can purchase anything from the station (a snacks, a coffee, even a bottle of water) was impossible to buy. We stayed on this little station (Petrol) located just 2 km from Pomorie for 20 or 25 minutes and in this time this people who couldn't pay for the gasoline had to just hang up there loosing their time waiting for someone to fix the BUGGED PC ,,,

This scene has once again confirmed my theory that computerization is not always necessery a good think and the over-computerization of everything as the trend is nowdays could create a lot of time lags in many places and often create a great havoc if systems somehow reject working as planned ….

Anyways to be sure which way to walk to Pomorie Monastery we had to consult few local people. Nicely the road leading to Pomoriiski Manastir was easy we just had to walk straight and then turn right. Actually the monastery bell tower is visible on the way so it is not likely that anyone walking straight will not notice the tower which is taller than other one or two stage housed highed buildings.

We came to the monastery and by Gods grace as we asked previously the abbot for a blessing to come to the monastery, they were expecting us.
Immediately one of the persons serving in the monastery gave us a room. I asked for the abbot and we found him in his Abbot place and gave us a blessing. That's the over of my first and hopefully not last great hitch-hiking adventere. The moral from my trip is:
 

To sum it up, if you never tried stopping on a highway give it a try! 🙂

  • hitch-hiking is a great must experience in a life-time thing;
  • Obviously we were lucky and it is always a great think to travel with an Abbot blessing
  • Hitch-hiking in Bulgaria is illegal, so there is thrill in doing it 🙂
  • hitch-hiking could be a very healthy initiative
  • Hitch-hiking is a great raise up and experience new random people self-confidence exercise 🙂