In Moscow without a visa

Day 23 – 22nd August – Bishkek to Moscow to Barcelona (6010km – by plane)

The alarm clock woke me up at one o’clock in the morning. I was deeply asleep and could have gone on for 10 more hours, but I had to get home.

The taxi driver was a young guy that turned out to be a lot more helpful than the two from the day before – he helped me get from the lobby to the car and once we got to the airport he left the car in the drop-off area and took me to through security and up to an information desk where I could ask for assistance. The woman at the desk asked for my ticket and said she would call a Ural Airlines representative.

I had really been looking forward to this. Finally, three days after breaking my foot, I was in the hands of an airline that would take me home. They sat me on a wheelchair, pushed me to the front of the check-in queue, took my suitcase, printed the boarding passes and, most importantly, reassured me that I would have no problems to connect flights in Moscow.

When I was buying the tickets the website kept insisting that it was my responsibility to have a proper transit visa for Russia, the same warnings were written on my ticket, and I had found contradictory information online – most people said that there was an international transit area and that a transit visa was not needed so long as you did not leave that area, but everything I could find was several years old and EU-Russia relations have been deteriorating since the war in Ukraine. Then there was the information on Domodedovo Airport’s website, which said that I needed to take my luggage through security and customs before taking the connecting flight and that required going through customs myself. I had seen several warnings that travellers without a proper visa would be returned to their point of departure. I must confess that I was rather worried about finding myself on a plane back to Bishkek after all the trouble it had taken me to get here.

Fortunately, the staff from Ural Airlines told me that they would take care of my suitcase and there was no need to leave the international transfer area.

I had to wait for two hours in the departures area because the flight had been delayed, and finally, past six in the morning, the boarding started. Instead of going through the regular boarding gates, I was wheeled through some restricted areas, onto the ramp and to the airstairs – Bishkek airport has no fingers. I was hoisted up the stairs and sat in the front row before the rest of passengers started boarding the plane.

I had a four-hour layover in Domodedovo, but because of the delay, that had been reduced to just under an hour. I had to wait for everyone to deplane, then a special truck docked onto the R1 door, which is only used to load the catering or emergencies, and I was put on a wheelchair, transferred to the truck and then driven to the terminal.

There, I went through a security check that seemed to be the one used by airport staff and then through a door right to the gate area where my plane was departing from. It was nine in the morning and the flight was leaving in twenty minutes, so I thought everything was going great until they told me that the flight had been delayed until midday and parked me next to the gate.

I spent my time reading and watching people argue about the delay with the ground staff. I tried to move around and see the terminal, but my back and ribs still hurt, so I could not get any further than a nearby restaurant where I had a sandwich. I hated having to pay airport prices, but I had not eaten anything since the pizza the night before.

At noon, we boarded the plane and headed to Barcelona. I think I have already said this many times, but Barcelona airport has one of the most beautiful approaches in the world. As the airplane lines up for its final approach you are over the sea and can see the whole city to your right, all the landmarks easily recognisable and, this time, I was particularly emotional to see my city.

I went straight to hospital, where they confirmed the three broken bones in my foot and also found that I had two broken ribs. They changed the cast and told me that the foot looked better than they had originally thought seeing the x-ray I brought from Osh hospital – it might not be necessary to operate the foot. They told me the medical team would study the case and tell me something in a few days. In the meantime, I had to keep my foot up and try to rest as much as possible.