Four weddings? That's nothing
A couple of years ago I moved into a flat shared by 3 other girls my age – just one of whom was engaged. By October last year, every one of us was wed.
Is it something in the water? I can't count of the number of weddings we've been to in the last few years. Really; I just tried. My Facebook friends list is full of women whose presence there is a complete mystery to me – until I remember that I met them under another name. There have been two pairs of sisters – and twin brothers – getting hitched within a few months of each other (at least their mothers already had a hat!); several confirmed bachelors achieving a U-turn in an impressively short period of time; weddings arranged within the space of a few weeks; weddings of couples who'd been engaged for years. There have been Scottish weddings, a military wedding, an Indian and an Armenian wedding. There was a Vegas wedding, announced to the couple's friends and family after the fact. There were soft cones served by a bridal couple from the neighbour's Mr Whippy van before the newlyweds cycled off into the sunset, white dress trailing (on a bicycle built for one!)
Very sadly, when Abdul and Humna got married in Lahore I was self-employed, and it would have meant the loss of two week's income on top of the eye-watering cost of flights in December. But we did make it to the wedding in Poland, and I think I made up for missing out on Pakistan when Natalia got married.
Natalia is from Russia. The turning point of our own Baltic honeymoon cruise was St. Petersburg, and I think that trip may have given me a rather false idea of the ease with which one can travel to and around that country. I certainly didn't realise that after all the rigmarole of getting a visa, flying for ten hours to Moscow and then catching another flight to Krasnodar, my destination – a popular holiday resort, with a population of a quarter of a million – would still be five hours away, with a taxi driver who didn't have a clue where to go at the end of it (nor speak a word of English, though I can scarcely blame him for that). So just in case anyone's considering Russia as a honeymoon destination – fabulous idea, but do find out a little of what's involved first:
Getting a Russian tourist visa will provide hours of entertainment. You first have to get an 'official invitation' from somebody in Russia. This is not, as you might mistakenly assume, an invitation from the friend you are visiting; it's from a hotel or tourism business that you are not visiting at all, but to whom you have paid £30 to issue said invitation. First hurdle cleared, you may then fill in a beautifully impressive visa application form. Among the standard questions (“are you a member of any terrorist organisations?” “Yes; my terrorist organisation is so fiendishly cunning that we admit to our membership on visa application forms”) this will ask you to fill in details of every job you have ever been in, and the same for your spouse (whether or not he's travelling with you, incidentally); followed by details of every country you've visited in the last 10 years. Naturally of course, you have no idea which countries you've visited in the last 10 years except by checking all the stamps in your passport – hoping that EU countries don't count. Naturally too, you will miss one by turning over two pages at once, so that when you are in the visa centre and the lady handling your application is checking the destinations, using as reference the same source material that you yourself used (ie, your passport), she will ask you sternly why you left out the USA; leaving you wondering if it would not be rather more efficient for her to cut out the middleman in this operation and simply obtain the list of countries straight from your passport, rather then make you do it so that she has to check your work and send you away for corrections, before checking it again and entering the information into her computer.
The really impressive questions, though, relate to the hotel you'll be staying at in each city you have admitted intending to visit. If you are not planning to stay in a hotel, you will be given the following official advice:
- google hotels in that city
- pick one at random
- fill in the details for that hotel
Only after passing every test will you be granted the privilege of paying another £80 for your visa.
If you have chosen wisely, the visa ordeal will serve as a useful appetite-builder allowing you to appreciate the comforts of your flight. This is going to sound rather silly and trivial; but I am firmly of the Budget Jetting generation. I'm used to queuing for hours at a check-in desk, arguing about my baggage being a kilogram over, elbowing through a scrum for a window seat and then sitting with my knees up to my chin and my elbows clamped to my ribs, while aeroplane staff desperately attempt to convince me that the difference in price between my ticket and a British Airways flight should all be spent on orange teddy bears.
I'd honestly forgotten that flying could be any different. It was halfway through my BA flight (when I'd already luxuriated in the comfy seats, space to jiggle my feet a bit and free blanket) when I realised with delight that I had a DVD player at my seat, on which I could watch in-flight movies (remember those?). And while I probably won't go as far as to eschew affordable airlines in future, I did really really enjoy travelling with BA (which, incidentally, is actually pretty competitive when it comes to Moscow flights).
Which was just as well, because after touchdown in Moscow I would still have some way to go…
My travel to Natalia's wedding was very kindly sponsored by BA and S7. Any opinions I express about these airlines are entirely my own. Click here to book flights with BA.
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