Wednesday, November 22, 2006

100 Euros - for this?

Today on the way to Dushanbe. This always requires a stop-over somewhere. The preferred option is Istanbul, but Tajik airlines is really bad with announcing their schedules in advance; it seemed the weekly flight via Dushanbe next Tuesday was not going to happen, so I would have had to spend about 8 days there. So I chose to fly via Moscow (the least preferred option), which means three days travelling time for two days work. Wunderbar.
In addition the usual hotel the company uses, the Budapesht, was busy - and looking at hotel prices, something seems to be on in Moscow causing lots of hotels to be busy. The first hotel they offered me exceeded my allowance by 160%, and so I discovered yesterday that they had booked me into the Hotel 'Arena'.
I was appalled when I read the write-up on the internet. ... And indeed, the hotel is in the middle of nowhere, far from the centre (except by Metro). As another guy said when he came in - 'this is supposed to be the centre of Moscow? Berlin is closer to the centre than this!'. Probably it is not that far, but arriving in the dark, it is in a grim and dismal area.
The entrance must be about the worst aspect of the hotel; it may not have been renovated since the hotel was built. The one receptionist sits in a dark glass cage, and on the way to the lifts a number of ladies hover wearing grubby cleaners' uniforms. The receptionist's English was about as good as my Russian, although she did smile and try to be helpful. Turned out that the ladies in the grubby uniforms are responsible for their floors, so you get a card for the general floor, the lady takes you up, checks her book and allocates a room.
To be fair now, the rooms have been renovated recently; there are sprinkler systems, it looks like the electricity was rewired, and the bathrooms have also been done recently - though the shower tray, about 40 cms above floor level, can probably not be described as wheelchair-friendly, unless you want to tip a person out of the wheelchair into the shower - at least they would not fall that far...
There are two single beds, made in a sort of way, if you consider that the sheet under the single blanket is folded in half...at least with two beds another blanket can be procured for little me. Seeing the window was open when I arrived, and the gaps between the windows and the frames are sealed with tape, the room was none too cosy on arrival. Breakfast is from 9 - 10; I think I will give that a miss and go into town to the nice cafe next to the Tchaikovsky Conservatoire to have a civilised breakfast.
The next question is - where is my ticket to Dushanbe? I expected it to be here, and I don't know when I will be picked up to go to Domodedovo airport for my evening flight. Nor do I have the phone number of the office organising my trip!
But hey, things are looking up! The wireless internet has just connected! (If you wait long enough, you don't need to rewire your hotel any more...)

Postcript: In the morning, having enjoyed a fresh breeze across my face throughout the night, thanks to the quality window fittings, I tried to leave the hotel early only to find that the 'Administrator' does not work until 8 am - and there was a queue of about 10 people waiting to check out. I asked another lady in English where to leave my luggage (with a slightly heavy heart) - 'shto' was the reply (what?). I said it in Russian, she replied 'Administrator'. Having waited for about 10 minutes for the Administrator to turn up (well late for work) finally my nice floor lady, Lena, sorted it out for me - the chap looking after the luggage had been right behind the grumpy one all the time. But apart from that grumpy lady, everyone else was very nice, to be fair. In the afternoon I checked about my payment, and the girl rushed off to get an 'interpreter' - whose English was struggling (and failing) to get out. Definitely not a hotel for the inexperienced foreigner.