Many Are Cold, but Few Are Frozen

David Lawrence's personal blog

A Big Step for Russia; A Small Step for All Mankind

Trips through Moscow almost always rekindle my hatred for the Sheremetevo airport, a place where stateless refugees camp out near high-end duty-free shops. Moscow could be an incredibly convenient transport hub, a place where travelers love to go. But instead, they make their temporary guests as miserable as possible. This, in spite of Russia's pre-crisis wealth and desire to be respected internationally. Putin has not figured out that a decent airport will do more to improve Russia's image than invading, or freezing, its neighbors.

Knowing this, I dreaded my trip to Kiev with an 11 hour layover in Moscow, as did a friend of mine, Francine, who was on the same flight. But we were in for a surprise: we landed at Terminal D, which opened earlier this year. Both of us had to take our ongoing flights from Sheremetevo's regular terminal. But for a few hours, we could explore Russia's most recent effort to join the 21st century.

Terminal D is a big step for Russia, but a small step for mankind. At least the mankind accustomed to Schiphol airport in the Netherlands, or the fabulous airport in Singapore, a place I wouldn't mind living in. Even so, it's a big improvement over the old terminal, where the assumption is that travelers want nothing more than overpriced booze and cosmetics and pricey, low-quality food. But Terminal D has something magical: a TGIF, where both the service and food are good, and which won't bankrupt you. Credit cards are cheerfully accepted.

But there is much to be done. Information is scarce: after waiting for two hours for the shuttle to the old terminal, I searched for anyone in a uniform to find out when it would come (Francine was about to miss her flight). I finally found a lady who insisted that a manned information desk existed. When I told her that there wasn't one, she became angry and started shouting at me.

Many shops are not yet opened (except for a Russian-language-only bookstore selling Russian nationalist and Soviet T-shirts), and they haven't yet figured out how to keep their nice Euro-bathrooms clean and stocked with soap and toilet paper. But at least they are trying. The infrastructure is there, now it's just a matter of attitude.