I have to admit I was very concerned about traveling this week to the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. The security rumors and news reports really had me second-guessing this journey, plus I have come to Russia several times, and from past experiences I know it can be a challenging trip.
The first hiccup came at JFK. I had plenty of time for a connection and I was pretty relaxed until I checked in with Aeroflot and the man checking me informed me that my Delta receipt for the extra luggage fee was not acceptable and he sent me to get a "green" receipt from Delta.
"Here we go" I thought. After tracking all around JKF Terminal 1, I finally found a Delta person in the baggage claim whom after much reluctance picked up the phone and made several calls trying to help me out. In the end, the "green" receipt is printed on the "old" plane type of paper ticket we used to have back in the day. How these airline employees maneuver around their computer system is amazing.
So armed with my "green" receipt I went back to my new buddy at Aeroflot and he chuckled as he saw me coming with the proper paper work. We showed it off around the counter as other passengers protested in having to produce such a document.
Landing in Moscow DME Airport is always interesting and this was no different. At passport control, the agent lowered the metal door and locked me in to his space. The door was a mini-garage door that rolled down from the top and locked with a clang. Then the "kid" struggled with the computer system trying to process my paper work. I was relieved when he reached for the "stamp" and punched my passport.
The Sochi Adler airport is nice and new and finished. I was here winter of 2010 and we couldn't go inside the terminal at that time. I checked in with the IOC at the airport for my credentials, and as luck would have it the Austrian and Australian men's and women's ski teams were just in front of me in line. So it took a bit. There was a cool shrine at the airport that I dropped in and visited while searching for the IOC.
Searching for the TM6 bus to the Omega 14 Hotel proved a bit interesting. At least volunteers out at the curb had enough wit to call someone else on their cell phone when they saw this American coming with a cart full of luggage. The three of them argued for a bit, got me turned around and eventually my cart tipped over and all the badges tumbled into the oncoming traffic at the Sochi Airport.
Once settled on the bus and unloaded at a guard shack that reminded me of "Iron Curtain" days, the bus pulled away as a bell boy appeared and opened the gate to the massive hotel complex. This media hotel complex has 18 pods of buildings. They all look alike and I am sure I will get lost during my trip. But the ladies at the reception were a delight.
There are cranes all around working through the night. They are scrambling to finish this place. My room is nice, the toilet leaks, but hey, so does my boat, so no worries. So far I feel plenty safe, but more on that as we move forward.
So I'm settled in, unpacked and ready to explore the 2014 Winter Olympics. Let the Games begin!!