A holiday recap:
August 5, 2005
Delta flights delayed.
(Excitement at the Delta gate, August 5, 2005.)
Land at La Guardia; had to take a shuttle to JFK to make the connecting Aeroflot jet. Shuttle very late. Make it to Aeroflot counter at Kennedy with minutes to spare. Manage only three hours of sleep.
(Mid-Atlantic tedium, courtesy of Aeroflot. At least their food is decent, and the alcohol always flows...)
August 6, 2005
Arrived at Sheremetyevo-2. Elvira cowered behind a column, grinning maniacally. The taxi service failed to show, although scores of touts approached us. We took a mini-bus to Tverskaya Ulitza (Moscow's main drag), and booked a room at the decrepit Hotel Minsk. (For visa registration.) Hit the Metro for a trip to Yaroslavl Vauxhall. Grabbed Elja's luggage from storage, and headed over to Dennis Devchenko's new flat. We bought alcohol. We drank in the park for several hours. We slept on Dennis' floor. Hard parquet, but otherwise, bliss.
(Elvira Solodkaya spooling southward on a Metro escalator, August 6, 2005.)
August 7, 2005
Returned to the Minsk in time for checkout. Visited a travel agent. They didn't take credit cards. Took the Metro to Marina's flat in Moscow's northwestern suburbs. A six floor walk-up, home for the remainder of our stay. An annoying menagerie of pets. (With fleas.) Marina was a poor pet owner, but a semi-gracious hostess. I sort of slept, still weary from the ten-hour flight and the crosstown schlepping. (And the many years, er, hours of drinking we'd already put behind us.)
August 8, 2005
Realized I've forgotten my passport after leaving Marina's flat. A drag, since you can't book a flight with Russian travel agents without all your goddamned documents. Headed back to Marina's apartment, retrieved the passport, and took a third stab at booking the excursion. Found an agency on Tverskaya. Booked a holiday to Marmaris. We had to stay up all night, as our flight left for Dalaman from Domodedovo too fucking early in the AM. Got maybe ten minutes of sleep in the second floor passenger lounge, but in retrospect, no complaints. I saw things very few people (from America, at least) ever have the opportunity to witness. Really want to fly Air Siberia, and soon.
August 9, 2005
Stocked up on fragrances and booze at Domo duty-free. At least we won't smell like abject drunks in Turkey. We flew VIM Aero to Dalaman; many of our fellow passengers were getting shit-faced on the flight. One was fined 1,000 rubles (about $32) for drinking to excess. (He downed a quart of vodka, then got stupid.) I shot video of a black butterfly as it fluttered about the cabin. It landed on the face of the male flight attendant during coffee service! Amazing... As soon as the dazzling Mediterranean coastline came into view, spirits soared.
(Marmaris: okay, I suppose, but it's no Harrisburg.)
We dashed through the visa queue ($20, all comers), and pressed beyond passport control into the terminal, past the doors onto Turkish soil. Dalaman was scorching; brilliant light, a cloudless sky. Found seats aboard the hotel bus, and began the 200 kilometer trip to Marmaris. Mosques everywhere. I felt glorious, intensely alive.
So wonderful to be in a country with no fucking Christians.
A rugged, heavily forested landscape. Hairpin curves, dramatic valleys. Anticipation mounted... Yes! Marmaris was, as advertised, a paradise on Earth. (Albeit a slightly overdeveloped one.) We checked into the Mersoy, unpacked our beach clothes, and for the next eight days alternated between the pool, the Mediterranean, and the hotel bar.
(TS luxuriates in the hotel AC after another scorching 100-degree morning. Bananas were once relatively rare in Turkey. They're still commonly referred to as "money." Snap by ES.)
In between, Dalyan/Kaunos, Bar Street (astonishing), and strange offerings on local television.
(Elja, relaxing on Dalyan's astounding Turtle Beach... You have no way of knowing how fantastic the place is until you see it for yourself. Pic TS.)
Constant video play of Crazy Frog's "Axel F" remake. (Why is the little CGI dude's dick censored in the American version?)
(Ubiquitous, retarded, but never annoying, "Axel F" ruled Turkish satellite channels. Wish I'd created it...)
The sun was incredibly intense. No clouds, ever. Always beautiful. Bastards!
(TS and ES sneaking through the palms, Marmaris, Turkey, August 15, 2005.)
Eight days of splendor, then...
August 16, 2005
We set the Wayback for Moscow.
(A final flash of sunlight from Marmaris. Can't wait to get back there... Photo by ES.)
Weather was as balmy as it was on the Mediterranean. Chill at Marina's after washing off the travel grime.
August 17, 2005
Hit Red Square: GUM, the Kremlin, Lenin's Tomb. Forgot to bring the stupid visa registration stamp; busted. Two Metro cops shook me down for a small bribe. Corruption is overt, conducted with a smile. Afterwards, we took a bus tour of the city just for the hell of it. Best weather I'd ever seen in the capital, and I've been visiting there since 2002... We called Dennis for one last round of carousing and conversation. Autumn fell; temps dropped into the mid teens (approx. 50 F). A final night with Elvira.
August 18, 2005
No time for protracted farewells at Sheremetyevo - the goddamned flight began to board as soon as we hit the terminal. Lots of kisses; Elja was crying... We'd realized our relationship had come to its end. Too many obstacles, too much distance. Bittersweet, worth every second, long sighs, etc.
Flew into JFK. Took a cab to Newark. Late evening flight to Hartsfield-Jackson...
August 19, 2005
Back in the USSA.
That's it. A great holiday, despite the melancholy outcome. (No regrets, etc.) I'll likely see Russia again in November. Turkey? A sure bet.