A travel day involving two stop overs enroute to your destination while travelling through two countries can lead to some potential mixups on the best of days. Doing that same travel with a team of 20 and a massive snowstorm in one of the aforementioned stop overs is a recipe for potential disaster. That is exactly what our team headed into yesterday.
We started our travel day from Sochi to Dresden like any other travel day between world cups. With a bus ride and the seemingly interminable process of checking in 20 people and paying for excess luggage. The Sochi airport was a bit of a zoo since there was also a cross country ski world cup last weekend and ski teams were heading back home, massive ski and wax bags in tow. After sitting on the tarmac for a while, we finally got on our way with the knowledge that our connection in Moscow would now be quite tight.
Upon arrival in Moscow, it was apparent the airport was in a bit of chaos. Visibility was reduced to almost none due to a snowstorm and there were long line ups of planes waiting to take off. The baggage arrivals area was very busy as we waited for our bags to come out. Finally, we collected all of our bags, except for one. My skating equipment bag. This is about were the trouble and adventure started. While the rest of the team ran to the check in counter to attempt to make their connection Munich, which was now delayed due to the storm, I waded through the mess that is lost baggage claim in a busy airport that functions in a language that isn’t yours. After an hour and a half of being shuttled around from desk to desk trying to get someone to give me back my baggage tags and let me fill in lost baggage forms, while hearing horror stories from other skaters, including the entire Korean team as well as most of the Norwegian cross country team, our team leader Yves came back. Both of us had to run immediately to the Lufthansa checkin desk or miss our connection. We were finally able to fill in forms but by the time the paperwork was ready, our flight was closed. Looked like we would be spending the night in Moscow.
Meanwhile, the rest of our team had now boarded the flight to Munich, and were beginning their three hour wait on the runway. Unsure whether they would get away or not, Yves and I had to wait at the airport in case they didn’t take off. While we did that, we rebooked our flight for the next morning. Finally around 1030pm (we left the hotel in Sochi at 1030am and accomplished a 2 hour flight in 12 hours) the rest of the team took off. Yves and I headed for an airport hotel and by midnight managed to check in so we could grab a few hours shut eye before our 545am flight the next morning.
After four short hours of sleep, we were headed back to the airport. Upon check-in, Yves got a bad surprise. His Russian visa had expired at midnight. Now, not only would he have to fill out paperwork and head to the Russian immigration office at the airport, the office wouldn’t open until 6am, after our flight was to leave. Yves would have to book another flight and would arrive in Dresden, tired and sick this afternoon.
I meanwhile, boarded my flight to Munich where, after a very tight connection, I managed to meet up with the team. They had spent the night in the airport trying to sleep on army cots that the airport provides to travellers with missed connections that have to stay overnight. I felt like a zombie and so did they. We boarded the flight to Dresden and finally had a flight go off without delay or mishap.
But our day wasn’t over yet! Our practice time, and only chance to skate today was at 10am. Having landed just after 8am, we grabbed our bags, and headed straight to the arena. Because I had lost my bag with all of my skating equipment, minus a clean skin suit, a pair of spare blades, and my boots (which I always carry on the plane to avoid situations like this), I had to borrow a helmet, gloves, glasses and guards from various members of our team. After a quick 1 hour ice session, we finally headed to the hotel for some much needed lunch and rest. A routine travel day that turned into a marathon was finally over!