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Willover’s Travels Pt 3

Parts 1 and 2 have been added to the sidebar (under Willow’s Serials) in case you missed them when they were hot off the presses.

In an earlier WT Travel Tip, I explained how a few dollars could be saved by travelling a night, obviously this isn’t the best way to travel if you want to see the country, but a lot of times the geography is pretty much the same as wherever you come from (unless you’re travelling through tropical jungles or deserts). Well, in the premium version of this tip you can actually get some accommodation thrown in.

At a time when the Soviet Union was in it’s final stages, and it’s citizens were still being prevented from travelling anywhere other than within the USSR (although they liked to call it CCCP), one of life’s little ironies was that Intourist was just about the largest travel agency in the world. However, in a prime example of why communism is ultimately doomed to fail, they had no idea of how to turn a profit. The whole thing was heavily subsidised, and run along bureaucratic guidelines, where everyone just did their job. This was great for the low cost traveller, as there were some glaring examples of stupidity that were capitalised on by many a seasoned traveller.

Here’s the deal…Aeroflot flew to almost all European countries, but in a similar way to trying to fly anywhere in the States, you had to change planes at a Hub (which in Amercia’s case, is a prime example of why capitalism is doomed to fail). Anyway, it’s like this, you could fly anywhere you wanted to, so long as you were prepared to change planes in Moscow. This gave rise to some lateral thinking, what if you chose a flight from where you were (say, Bangkok) that didn’t quite meet the connecting flight to where you were going? Answer: free accommodation.

Now the trick was to find the biggest gap possible, in my case I chose Athens as my destination because they only flew there once a week, on Tuesdays. I then found a flight out of Bangkok that landed in Moscow on a Wednesday morning, thus giving me 6 free nights at the Hotel Metropol, as well as three free meals a day! Mind you the meals weren’t that flash. I doubt a commercial airline would have allowed that sort of scheduling.

So now here I was, sitting in an Ilyushin Il-62 (I didn’t know what it was at the time,I didn’t even now a minute ago for that matter, I just looked it up for you, thank you Wiki) waiting to take off, when I noticed two things that made reality seem even stranger than it had been for the last 3 months, due all the drugs I’d been taking. Firstly all the stewardesses were really big (not as big as the women I saw in Moscow, but way bigger than any stewardesses I’d ever seen before), and secondly, there was some sort of vapour coming from the overhead lockers. It seemed like I was at an Alice Cooper concert, with an out of control dry-ice smoke machine! As near as I could tell, that was the cooling system.

Oh I almost forgot, the in-flight meal consisted of a big old sausage and a potato (both boiled) in a cardboard box. While that may not seem unusual now in an era of cheap low frills flights, 30 years ago when you got real cutlery, actual steak and all kinds of nifty little containers on international flights, this was pretty unusual. But the plane worked fine, unlike some I’ve been on (more about that later maybe).

Next time, my week in Moscow…. (don’t hold your breath it wasn’t all that exciting)

* Unfortunately there are no photos of this period, as I didn’t have a camera at the time. I eventually bought a Rollei 35T trip camera in Canada, which I still have.

23 Responses

  1. I love hearing about your adventures.

  2. Damn! I was first!

  3. Well, I suppose with all that free accommodation and food you could not be too fussy about what they fed you, though it would have really sucked if you were a vegetarian!

  4. LOL, a very clever way to spend a week!

    I look forward to hearing about Moscow!

    By the way, that Phil Rudd dude from AC/DC? May 19th was his birthday. He’s 54.

  5. don’t tell the ..uh… canines about taking another HOT DOG on an International Flight.

  6. Interesting adventures in Moscow…I’ve always been a fan of creative travel. Although it was really the Rollie that caught my interest the most! (And thank you to Karimsa for thinking of how vegetarians ususally fare in these situations!)

  7. WooHoo – Creative Travel! The very BEST kind! Can’t wait to read the rest!

  8. Well aren’t you the clever one! (that is not meant to sound sarcastic!) Pity you have no pics but we’ll have to use our imaginations!

  9. You are a clever traveler. I think even 30 or so years ago, I’d have been a tad leery of the cooling system.

  10. Very interesting! I’m looking forward to hearing about Moscow. And I’m curious. Have you actually been to an Alice Cooper concert? Are you a fan? I don’t particularly care for his songs I’ve heard, but he’s a great DJ and I listen to his show now and then.

  11. 30 years ago? I was just gonna make a crack about how young I was then … but then I realized I wasn’t too young to fly then either. sigh.

    And I didn’t even have sugar yesterday (re blog comment on my blog) … so what SHALL we attribute my …. “randomness” to? Wait. Let’s not think about that. You won’t come back again if you do.

    Looking forward to Russia. Wish you had pictures of the big women.

  12. This is really weird. I have to go back to my journals, but I think I stayed at that exact hotel in 1987. And I have my own stories about Aeroflot and those bloody planes. I’ve never been so freaked out on a plane in my life.

    Here’s one: even though we were served red wine with all meals – including breakfast – we weren’t allowed any vodka. The stewardesses (yes, large) walked past us with the bottle, explaining that it was only for the flight crew.


  13. This is an excellent post and very true! My father taught me to do this and I have enjoyed traveling at a reduced rate ever since. I was able to afford my trips on a shoestring budget which left my friends and neighbors wondering how I pulled it off.


  14. Interesting and insightful :-). You are a very clever man.

  15. Wow – 6 nights free? Nowdays they would just show you the lounge chair in the waiting area.

    My Biological dad was trying to fly to Greece and for some reason the weather turned and they had to land in Beirut. He got a free night stay too – the airport took his American passport and gave him a temporary traveler visa instead. He said it was quite unnerving traveling through the city.

  16. That sounds fantastic. What a way to see the world. Brilliant.

  17. Work it sista…work the system!

    By the way Jenni…the first concert I ever saw (back in 1978) was Alice and it’s still never been topped in my mind…he’s a GOD!

  18. Very clever of you to come up with six nights of free accomodation. Will you be my travel agent?

  19. Sausage seems pretty wierd to me.
    (up for a meme? I tagged you. Fairly good questions and I’d like to know your answers. No pressure.)

  20. I always used to wonder why there was always someone in a trench coat, hat & dark glasses, hanging around outside your house (I think his name was Boris?. Anyway comrade, your exposse into the secrets of our tourist industry has been tagged, your capitalist fool. Once the correct forms have been completed & signed by our wonderous beauocracy, you will be eliminated, hah. So if you would not mind waiting there until we can get to you, of course any expenses incurred while we a processing your untimely demise will be paid for. You got sausage? capitalist pig, you went 1st class!

  21. “Mind you the meals weren’t that flash.”

    Cool phrase, man! I’m going to start using it! (I’m assuming that this means that the meals weren’t all that special…either that or you’re used to eating food that lights up…)

  22. Just read part one and part two. I’m amazed at the places you’ve been and the adventures you’ve had. It makes for good reading, and keeps me coming back for more. Dang it. My husband is listening to a hypnosis tape and I can’t THINK OF ANYTHING ELSE but “RELAX. USE THE POWER OF YOUR IMAGINATION IN YOUR INNER LANDSCAPE” SHUT UP shut up shut up. Sigh. blah blah blah beautiful place by the forest indoors or out doesn’t really matter just as long as I … quit writing right now.

  23. LOL! This one would make you laugh (from hypno tape) “And if you haven’t already done so, go and touch something wonderful” …. bet they meant something in nature.

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