The bus company that we have used is called Kenig Auto (See review). The bus driver was speaking Russian so it made it easy for Andrey to understand. The bus was not new but in a good condition. The driver however was not the friendliest man in the world. A lot of old people were on the bus, mostly Babushki (grandmothers). They were all happy and chatting along. It was interesting to see that they all had homemade food with them and they all were wearing scarves around their heads.
The driver checked our documents again. Luckily my Visa is in Russian and after I got a couple of strange looks from the driver, he handed me back my documents.
The bus left exactly at 13:00. It is a non-stop trip apart from the stop at the border between Poland and Russia. There was not much to do on the bus. We both took out our Ipods and listened to music. The trip to the border was uneventful and by the time we reached the border it was dark and cold. I was very nervous. I think all the movies that I have seen in the past impacted on me mentally. I even thought to myself that I might look like a criminal! Isn’t it strange how the mind works?
But things did not go smooth sailing. Best part is that it had nothing to do with me but all with Andrey!
When we stopped at the border I noticed a lot of cars and trucks. I thought it was going to take forever but we pulled in close to the border and a Polish official came on the bus to take our passports. He left the bus and after some time came back and handed me my passport but started to ask Andrey a lot of questions and I could see he was not happy. They spoke in Russian and I didn’t understand what was happening.
Apparently when Andrey flew into Warsaw, they stamped his passport but there was no ink on the stamp. This meant that his passport did NOT have an entry stamp and the border official wanted to know how he got into the country. I eventually asked Andrey to hand the man his boarding pass. Luckily my husband is one of those people who keep every single piece of paper. More questions, off the bus, on the bus, more questions. Eventually the bus driver got impatient and told me that I could go through the boarder but Andrey needs to get off the bus. No way! He started to offload our luggage and left us stranded at the border post! It was freezing cold and we knew the next bus would only pass again tomorrow night. I was getting very worried.
The border official came back; he really gave Andrey a hard time and then started to speak in English to me. He asked me if we are together and I told him yes we are married and on our way to visit family in Russia. He asked if we have travelled together on the same flight and I quickly said “Yes!” But if he checked the boarding pass and the entry stamp in my passport he would have noticed it is not the same. Luckily he accepted my story and stamped Andrey’s passport.
We could see our bus at the Russian border and luckily for us another bus was going there too. We asked the driver if he could take us there and he agreed. He was a nice man.
Our original driver, Mr Friendliness, was surprised to see us! We quickly joined the line and passed our bags through the scanners. We were holding up the bus, again, but this time he had no choice to wait for us. I had no problems going through Immigration. In fact they were very friendly and asked Andrey if it was my first time in Russia and told me Dobro pozhalovatÊ¹ v Rossiyu which means “Welcome to Russia”.
By the time we got back onto the bus people were cheering us. We took our seats and continued the rest of the journey to Kaliningrad. I was now officially in Russia!
When we arrived in Kaliningrad Natalia and Ilona were waiting for us. Andrey was so happy to see them. They cannot speak English and I had a couple of uncomfortable moments because I really wanted to thank them for waiting for us. We went back to Natalia’s apartment where I got to meet Misha (Natalia’s husband) and Denis (Andrey’s nephew). Andrey’s mom could not join us. It was too late and she is not young anymore. We will be going there tomorrow morning!
The apartment is very small. It has a small kitchen, bathroom, and 2 rooms which they use as bedrooms and a living room. We stayed in the one room but we were planning on renting an apartment for the month. Ilona has been very helpful and tomorrow afternoon we will meet with the estate agent.
She prepared some food for us, meat with potatoes and my first introduction to Vodka!
I got a warm and fuzzy feeling as I saw this family reunite. They were so happy to see each other again after 2 years.
This was just the beginning of my month long journey, discovering Russia, getting to know the people and living in the country. Ultimately it would change my life forever.