12 Oct 2006

Visiting Sarah at Nizhny Novgorod, Russia

After Budapest, we travelled to Nizhny Novgorod to visit Sarah. At the airport our plane was delayed because it was snowing heavily in Frankfurt and the plane could not take off. By the time it arrived I was sure we'd miss the connecting flight to Nizhny and I was right. However we could have made it if that stupid Air India hadn't blocked our entry. Their plane was blocking our plane and we could not dock until at least half an hour later. By that time our connecting flight to Nizhny had left - we'd mised it by 10 minutes! So what to do in FrankfurtAirport? We tried asking for another flight but the next flight to NIzhny was the next day, late at night!! After some discussion, Repin and Dr Mansor decided to take a flight to MOscow and then take another flight to Nizhny. So later that night we flew to Moscow but in Moscow had to wait another 5 hours for the flight to NIzhny. We had to transfer to another airport - used for domestic flights and waited there. The airport was much smaller that the Moscow airport and did not even have a Macdonalds or even a cafe. In fact there are no shops at all. And not even chairs for us to sit. There were some benches and we had to take turns to sit. So I sat and watched the luggage while Repin and Dr Mansor walked around. There are all kinds of people here. Some looked more Chinese than white Russians, some had darker features with light curly brown hair. In fact I thought they looked slightly middle-eastern. I talked to a couple from Turkmesnistan and found out that they were Muslims - a father and son pair. At least we communicated- even if its in broken English and sign language. Waiting has a new meaning here. There's nothing to do except talk and observe your fellow travellers. The airport is not old - it looks quite new in fact, but it lacks all the cheery good looks of the modern airport in our part of the world. There are no souvenir shops, no telephone kiosks, no comfortable chairs or a waiting area. You can't even see a bank ATM. The colour is drab - everything is white and grey. There are police or armed personnel every 10 feet. I feel I'm still in a communist country somewhere in the 70s. Its cold and you don't know the language. Can anything be worse than this? In all this the only light at the end of the tunnel is the fact that we would see our daughters by tonight - 8 or 9 pm.
Finally at 6pm we got on our flight. It was snowing by then and since there was no covered walkway we had to walk out in the snow storm. It was so cold they had to defrost the plain by throwing hot water over it. I felt really worried. Can we fly in this tin can? I hope we can make it to Nizhny.

11 Oct 2006

Visiting Sara at Nizhny Novgorod

With the 2nd year students, Sarah's friends. Neville is the second from the left.
With my baby in her room

Snow scene - its beautiful but soo cold!
This is a view of the town from the Kremlin. The river Volga is in the distance.
Walking down the main street in Nizhny Novgorod

In front of the Kremlin, facing Volga River

With Sarah in front of Kremlin, which means fort

Waiting at Frankfurt Airport

The conference ended on the 8th of October and immediately we checked out and went back to Budapest to catch a flight to Frankfurt. From there we would take another flight to Nizhny NOvgorod where Sarah and Zakiah are studying. Eger was nice but I can't wait to go to Nizhny to see our daughter. Actually Eger is a very small town close to the Austrian border. I wish we had more time to tour the area. Two of our delegates are taking an extra two days to tour and they said they'll even visit Czechoslovakia to visit a bohemian crystal factory. Hmmm I feel so jealous. Anyway our flight to Frankfurt was delayed! In fact it was 30 minutes late and thus we were delayed in Frankfurt and it snowballed and we missed our flight to Nizhny Novgorod. They said that the next flight to Nizhny would be another 48 hours and we'd have to wait two days practically in Frankfurt. So R and Dr Mansor decided to go to Moscow instead because there was flight to Moscow that same night - only at 12.30 am. So we flew to Moscow and I get to see a glimpse of the city.
Moscow was very very cold. Not snowing yet but definitely would snow later. Its a huge city by the way. Not scintillating or bright - granted it is far up north - and mostly grey looking buildings, huge highways, lots of cars on the roads, quite a number of which are Korean and Japanese. We had to change airports - from Moscow Airport to another one which is a domestic airport apparently. The trip between the two took us almost an hour. And we had another 6 hours to wait for a flight to Nizhny. The second airport was not very large and there were no cafes nor shops where we could buy a meal. There were also very few seats around so Repin, Dr Mansor and I took turns to sit. Imagine standing around for a whole day waiting for our flight.
Finally it wastime to board the plane and horror of horrors - there was a snowstorm outside and no covered walkway. I almost fell on the slippery tarmac but was caught in time by a good samaritan who grabbed my hand and pulled me up. It was snowing pretty heavily by then and even when we were in the plane it could not start because the propellers were frozen!! They had to thaw it using a hose with hot water. Half an hour later, amid groans and shakes, the plane rattled its way up the tarmac and managed to lift itself off the ground. We arrived in Nizhny around 9 pm. It was still snowing when we got down but I know better to walk fast now. I grabbed hold of Repin and walked gingerly down the steps towards the lounge if you can call it that! It's so small I think the airport in Malacca is larger. Sarah was there with Zakiah grinning with arms out stretched.
The ride to town seemed long but Sarah said its only 30 minutes. The town, the glimpses that I could see of it from the taxi, seemed small. No tall buildings at all and mostly dark. And its only 9 pm.
The taxi driver is quite a character. OLdish looking but verycraggy face he sounded a bit drunk.It seemed he had seen some action in the Afghan war (of course he fought for Russia) and these days he's peddling goods across the border.
Nizhny Novgorod is a beautiful town. In spite of the snow which fell quite heavily the whole of the next day, we managed to walk around the town, go up the Kremlin and even visit the war museum. I never knew that Nizhny is on the banks of the Volga River. We also met a friend from Russia, Dimitri who took Repin and Dr Mansor out the next day while Sarah and I went to the mall. Later we went to Sarah's room where she and Zakiah had cooked a meal for us. Met Neville and some of the other 2nd year students in Sara's batch too and we took them out for a light meal at the mall,which is huge but had very few people. Well at least they had MNG, TOPSHOP and many of the other brands we see here.

8 Oct 2006


Finally after months of anticipation, we are in Budapest. Or rather Eger, which is a small town 100 km from Budapest. We'd arrived yesterday afternoon and were picked at the airport by a staff of the university. It seems that the Egyptian delegation had arrived earlier and were already touring Budapest. We met them at a restaurant in town where we were given lunch by our hosts. After that we were taken on a tour of the town - which actually consists of two cities - Buda on one side of the river Danube and Pest on the opposite side. I never realised that the Danube runs through this beautiful and old city. Some of the buildings have been there since the 15th century and still looks very well maintained. The Parliament house for one is almost a thousand years old!  I thought it was really awesome. The architecture is simply beautiful  - it looks more like a huge church or even a castle than a parliament house. 
The beautiful parliament house in Budapest

I wish we had more time to really explore this wonderful city. 

Eger itself is about two hours away from Budapest. It's a small university town. Once we had checked in, Repin and Tan Sri went off in search of the conference area and to register as participants. That night we had dinner with the VC of the Eger University at the university itself. It's within walking distance of the hotel so we all walked there and enjoyed the view. Just within a short distance is Eger Castle where they had been beseiged once by Muslim Turks from Asia who at one time conquered this country. That must have been the time of Salah- Ud -Din I think. They didn't stay long in the country however, unlike Spain and Bosnia. Here within a decade they were driven back to Constantinople.

I love this place - just walking around the town gives you a sense of history.