When last I blogged, I was debating purchasing the airfare myself because I was going to save about $200 from what Olga the travel consultant found for me. I ended up not going with the cheaper option, and this is where a little research went a long way toward averting potential disaster. Ordinarily when you travel within Europe, you get to skip passport control when crossing borders from one Schengen nation to another (Schengen being an agreement between European countries that allows for this free-form of travel). The flight I was eyeing went from Moscow to Zurich to Boston, leaving about 50 minutes to switch planes in Zurich. But in this 50 minutes, I'd have to switch planes, go through immigration (because Russia is not a Schengen nation) and through security. No beans, no way, no how. Even if by some miracle my flight is on time and I sprint through the airport, chances are slim that my luggage would make it too. So I went with the more expensive airfare that gives me an hour and a half to make the connection in Munich instead of Zurich.
Olga also sent me the documentation I'll need to complete to get a visa to get into Russia. Americans can't just travel on their passport like they do through Europe. They must have a visa and to get a visa you must get an "invitation" from someone in Russia to come visit. So Olga will get me the invitation once I give them the $199 for the visa. I'll have to do this closer to the time I travel (I think within 3 months of the travel dates).
As if I needed more encouragement, Olga also sent a list of "required reading" to prepare for the trip and she emailed me and strongly suggested I read (or re-read! Ha!) War and Peace by Tolstoy because "It's the best book about Russia and Russian people and Russian character and spirit - it will help you to understand more when you will be in Russia." War and Peace weighs in at a lofty 1296 pages, so perhaps I should get started on this soon!
So with every activity crossed off the checklist, I'm getting a little bit closer. I feel bad wishing away my spring and summer, but I really, really want to go now!