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Day 3, Saturday, April 05

Departure from the hotel at 9 o’clock, the driver and Galiena lead us to the Stars City’s airport. Thus, he drove us to the same road the day before.

Arrived at the portal we get the traditional passport control, then the driver parks himself on the small car-park of the airport. Time passes and minibuses and Volgas deposes other tourists and VIP. From one of the Volga goes out the cosmonaut Tsibliev wearing his uniform with all his medals. Raymond sees him and with his usual tact comes near him and says : « It’s shrove Tuesday in Russia? », fortunately for us Tsibliev does not speak French.

After two hours waiting on the car-park we could enter the building, for the passport control (yes, again) after having said goodbye to Galiena, we start to wait for the boarding. The time was longer and longer, we could see people working around the nose of the plane when suddenly a man arrives and announces us that the flight will have a little delay because there is a problem with a light, but it reassures us by saying it is not a safety problem (this last thing has generally the opposite effect).

It is about thirteen o’clock when we can finally embark in this splendid Tu-134 series B which is a little old.

TU-134BInside the plane

During the flightDuring the flight

The flight to Baikonur is three hours and half (two hours of jet lag with Moscow) and occurs well. We put our luggages where we can (no compartment) and we seat on these old hardly stuffed armchairs. After a small and well deserved reste (as a meal) we beginning to be bored. Didier and me go forward at the head of the cabin to chat a little with the people and to manage to visit the cockpit. There, 4 people are piled up in the cockpit and it’s really hard to cross each other in the corridors. Once returned in our seats Raymond tells us his years of war as a pilot fighter and a parachutist. Then he disappears in direction of the cabin. We see him back a few minutes after, he had succeeded seated on the seat of the copilot (I still wonder how!) and discussed with the pilot. During this period the plane had some jolts, but Raymond affirmed that this was not his fault.


At the arrival we go out from the plane on the tarmac, the weather is beautiful and hot, we can already see on the horizon the launch pad of N1/Energia-Bourane, but taking pictures of the airport is strictly forbidden (that starts well). Then we go in a minibus direction the end of the track to leave the airport. At the grid the guards was shouting and 15 minutes later we have to go out of the bus to go through the customs, but without the passport control (for once). The customs officers were surely overzealed because they stop Didier and asked him to open every dolls of his matrioshkas.

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At the exit of the customs our guide, Victor, awaited us and gives us papers to be filled (electronic devices quantity, weapons number, etc!), when everyone had fills out his paper (our group, a German group and an American group) the two minibuses start and take us along to the Central hotel.

We enter in the city by the south-western gate and there we discover a city where all is dedicated to space. Launchers are painted on the walls of the buildings, there are many monuments to the glory of the space conquest, posters of launchers or vessels are fixed on the streetlight.

Arrived at the Central hotel Victor gives us a paper to sign where it is specified that it is not advised to leave the hotel without our escort. I ask him why, he says to me that it’s to protect the population from us.

Hotel Central

I put my luggages in the room and while waiting for the appointment for the dinner I go out to walk, without escort, in the district. Few moment after Didier joined me and we walk along the Arbat street to take some pictures.

LeninA building in the city

Arbat street

At twenty o’clock we travel the city by minibus to go to eat downtown (there wasn’t restaurant in the hotel), at the Saint Petersburg restaurant. We eat in a false yurt a typically Russian meal.

Saint Petersburg restaurantLunch

When we return to the hotel we lay down quickly, tired by the day and especially because we have an appointment the following day at ten to six of the morning in front of the hotel to watch the roll out of the rocket on the launch pad.

Some additional pictures:

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Time: 2010-10-20, 5.48

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