Notices

St. Petersburg, Russia Day 2

Reply

Oct 23rd, 2011, 12:19 PM
  #1
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 177
St. Petersburg, Russia Day 2

Day Two Russia:
Hello, my blogaliscious peeps. Thanks for taking this journey with me, and hope you are enjoying. Today we awoke from our lovely surroundings in downtown St. Petersburg. We are just steps away from the world famous Hermitage Museum. This has been #1 on my wish list for years-so this is a dream come true. We are staying in a microhotel-which is a small hotel with very personalized services, located squarely in the historic district. There are only 6 rooms in this hotel and the conceriege is right outside our door. It is warm, clean with a lovely hot shower. Close to everything, and of course WIFI. I have no complaints. Our lovely host cooked us breakfast this morning consisting of eggs made to order, hot coffee and toast.
We ventured out with the mission of having Russian currency-the Rubel. It is approximatly $1000 for 9000 rubels. You do the math... But, as far as I can see so far everything seems a little pricey. Anyhow, after numerous attempts and many ATM's out of commission we got our money and found our way to a cozy little cafe. A Russian Starbucks of sorts, we sat windowside and people watched. I had hot chocolate, and, a sweet tasty little pastry,the hot chocolate was so thick that my spoon could stand straight up in ,and was the consistancy of pudding. Too sweet for my liking. We planned our day as the sky turned gray and started to rain. No biggie, since we had planned for this.
We made our way to the Peter and Paul Fortress. Built in St. Petersburg , back in 1703, a wall of stone on a small island. It has a gruesome history of sorts, with torture of prisoners and death. The journey to the fort involved plenty of walking, all along the Neva River. Once we were in the vacinity of the fort, we saw Russian brides, in their satin gowns, too numerous too count. Apparently, it is quite popular to wed in Russia, as we saw young and old brides. Traditional, and not so traditional , and the tackiest of tacky limos with big fake flowers on the hood. Vodka shots were enjoyed by all in the wedding party, as each bride fought for attention. It was, at the very least, very entertaining.
We trudged on, taking pictures and enjoying the view, and not allowing the battering cold and rain interrupt our delight. After a brief rest at the hotel, we changed into our finest attire and walked through thriving Russian neighborhoods to get to the Concert Hall for our evening's activity of the opera -Shakespear's A Midnight Summer's Dream . Our seats were fantastic in this modern, very comfortable theater. The performance in itself was magical and illuminating. There were fairies that were strung up on wires, in a cirque de soleil style, with mirrory , luminescent lighting in a surreal setting. The music performed by a symphony was enchanting, and the whole thing had a soothing lullaby effect. In truth, the evening was 4 hrs long with intermissions, but for the most part, me, Frank and several children under 10 sat on the edge of our seats awaiting the next acrobatic attempt. It was a combination of ballet in the air, sopranic perfection and
costumes , backdrop and imagery better than anything we have ever seen.
After the performance, we headed back in search of dinner. We had not had anything of significance to eat since our early morning treat. Everything was closed and the hungry beast in me came out. After a minor temper tantrum, and some forgiveness on Frankster's part, we found a local pizza place and nourished our weary bones. Its been a day of crappy weather, beautiful sights, magnificant sounds and a great partner along for the ride.
Thanks for allowing me to share my travels with you. Tune in tomorrow.
Happy blogging trails to you,
`Brooke and Frank
crusty is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 23rd, 2011, 12:28 PM
  #2
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 59,848
Just a coupleofhints crusty:

1) It is better to have the entire trip report on the same thread. Don't start a new thread for each day of your trip but post each new installment to the original TR thread. Otherwise everyone will have to click your screen name over and over just to locate all the bits.

2) Use paragraphs (need to double return) to make it easier to read.
janisj is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 23rd, 2011, 12:40 PM
  #3
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 6,623
Yes, better to have whole trip on one thread.

But, very interesting so far, looking forward to more. It's been 10+ years since I've been there, St. P left such an impression.

If I remember correctly, our excellent guide told me it was a tradition for brides to be photographed at public monuments, we also saw several.
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 24th, 2011, 10:40 AM
  #4
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 177
Russia Day 3
Здравствуйте! Uh-huh-yep that's hello in Russian. Imagine what my life has been like for 3 days. This blog contains the good, the bad, the ugly and sometimes just the "I am a dumb American" variety. So, let's get down and dirty...shall we?
So, I have come to this realization..... I cannot further communicate with anyone---other than the good ole' Frankster--at any level in this foreign land. This has been somewhat of a benign nuisance and an annoyance, and to be perfectly honest, somewhat on the lonely side. I am so grateful to be able to travel to foreign places, and experience other cultures. Having said that, there has to be a give and take on the tourist side and the welcoming country. Granted, I did not bother to learn a lick of Russian (although, I do have Russian lineage in my blood--does that count?). But, This culture is CRAZY about their rules. Someone is constantly coming by swatting you on the head, motioning for you do not to do this-don't do that, no, no we have rules. Some of the rules don't make any sense. Listen, I went to Germany---the country of effeciency and rules, but this place does not compare. By entering the wrong door, to going down the wrong staircase, to well, let me explain a particular incident. And, thank you for allowing me vent.
So, this morning after a tossing and turning, heat blasting (people its only 50 degress---why is the heat blasting???) kind of night, I may have awoke slightly grumpy, but let's move on. So, after our breakfast (rules apply here too) we set out on foot to The Russian Museum. We got there fairly early, it was a beautiful crisp morning, no rain and with a sweater quite comfortable. The Russian museum is a museum honoring the Russian culture with art and relics. We purchased a book to serve as a guide, and hit every room and every picture in that museum! All were Russian painters, most of whom I had never heard of-so it was all new and interesting to me. Around midway in (we spent 5 hrs total there) we stopped in the cafe to eat lunch. I am having a difficult time (after 16 trips to Europe, this is a first for me) finding vegetarian food, inquiring about the food, and having any means of discussion regarding the food. Needless to say, I was disapointed and hungry by my lunch -a side of coleslaw. Thankfully, I had a protein bar stashed away in my bag. Nonetheless, once again this brought out cranky Brooke. Is it too much to ask for a freakin' veggie burger people?
Anyways, moving on---so we spent another 3 hrs wandering through the various rooms and analyzing works of art. Minus the sad lunch aspect, we had an enjoyable day. We then walked around the surrounding area where a plush park full of fall's finest follage was. The air crisp and cold, golden leaves carpeted the ground, and all sorts of people were out enjoying the beautiful day. We sat on a park bench, commiserating over our various dinner options-Frank eager to accomadate my selection. We relaxed and enjoyed the down time together.
We found a nice restaurant in a crowded section of the city. It was a traditional Russian restaurant with all the foods I had researched and was excited to try new things. I started with the borscht soup and got potato pancakes with wild mushrooms. Apparently, the mushrooms are quite popular here and they are in harvest this time of year.
I was so excited to eat my borscht soup-as I am proudly (and loudly) a borscht virgin. As I spooned up the intense red broth and slirped it in my mouth-the remiscant taste of beef was strong. I thought oh it's my imagination and added the sour cream, and as the soup began to curdle, I ladeled up large portions of meat. So, I flag my darling Russian waitress down, who gladly takes my bowl and numerous apolagies on my behalf and serves me with a lovely creamy bowl of mushroom soup.
When the enormous bill arrived (more than I spend on groceries in a week) I notice the meat laden evil red soup is still on the bill. Oh, people---you just try and fight with these people. This culture survived evil Tsars, ruthless dictators, famine, war and communism---but NO- I am not going to pay 320 rubels($10) for that stinking soup. Oh , an international incident of enormous proportions broke out that included the waitress, the manager and all the Russian patrons who couldn't understand a single word but gawked through the whole confrontation. There argument was- since I added the sour cream and it curdled, they could no longer put back in the kettle. Hellllllllllllllllllllllllllllooooooooooooooo----hygiene---what are we in a third world country??? I should call the Board of Russian health on these people. As the bickering went back and forth, the spinelss manager finally agreed to give me a 10% discount that was the price of the soup. But---let it be known- the soup was not taken off. Sheeshhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
Anyways, sorry to bore you with that mind numbing story, but who else to share with, right? I have not uttered a English word to anyone other than my lovely companion and the dozen or so people whom I have tried to and looked at me like I am CRAZY!
So, to wrap up all this negativity-let me say this. Russia is a strong country ; the people here have endured a lot. The things that frustrate me a a tourist, are the very things that make this culture unique. I don't want to go somewhere , where there is a Subway sandwich shop on every corner (not that there is a thing wrong with that). If I want to go somewhere foreign and exotic, I have to be willing to either learn the customs, or appreciate that they do things differently. It is not their problem, I am the one that needs to adjust my behavior. So, I share this with you, because this is a lesson that can be used in life. Whether you travel to Boston or Budapest, adaption, compromise and patience is the key to peace.
So, children, that is the lesson for the day. It can't always be fun and laughs with Frankster getting stuck in a car garage in France (although that was frickin funny). Travel is learning new cultures, accepting others attitudes and adjusting to new situations.
Hope you have enjoyed this long ass crock of misery and tomorrow I hope to be more positive, practicing my new found philosophy.
Happy blogging trails to all~~~
Brooke
(Frank was not involved the writing, editing or production of this email)
crusty is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 24th, 2011, 10:40 AM
  #5
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 177
Russia Day 4
Hello my blogging fools. Less than a week left of trip. I feel like I am getting to really know St. Petersburg, warts and all. This morning we ventured out to St. Isaac's cathedral. Built in 1858, it is more museum, than church, as there is little worship, no pues, and designated a museum under Soviet Rule, when atheism was popular. It had all the pomp and circumstance of a fancy cathedral, but it lacked the stillness that comes with a place of worship. I got what I could out of the experience, appreciating the mosaic icons, guilded stucco moldings, and precious stones and marble that decorated the inside.
From there we went to the Vodka Museum. We wanted to have a vodka tasting and learn about vodka, but on better thinking I opted out. As discussed in previous blogs, I am already pissing off the locals-I didn't think drunk Brooke would do much better. But, we had a delightful lunch. The building itself looked like it was out of a movie set. Furnishings of old record players, beautiful plants, soulful Russian music played in the background. It was truly the "Russian experience ", I had been dreaming of. Our waiter was this stern, older gentleman, only a few words of English, but excellent service, treating us like royalty. I started with a yummy cucumber salad made with dill and sour cream. Tasty and refreshing. The bread was hearty with thick grains and seeds in, with the velvety butter. I followed this with a mushroom soup that was fulling and satisfying. Frank had a meat soup, with very distict and unique flavors, followed by beef stew. He ate with gusto and smiled through the whole meal. I again, chose not to drink the Vodka , and had a non alcholic drink that locals call Kvas. It is made from rye, and tasted somewhat between a cream soda and a root beer. Did it-done it -I can take it off the list. This lovely meal was completed with a typical Russian dessert called blini-which are thin pancakes, topped with clotted cream and fresh Russian berries. Fantastic meal with a true Russian experience. And, this time I made sure it was all вегетарианец, which means vegetarian in Russian. As to avoid any issues as I had the previous evening.
After our lovely meal, we walked to Yusupov Palace. The Palace was built in 1830, and a rich aristocratic family dwelled there. It is also famous for the mysterious death of a famous Russian mystic named Rasputin. We took an audio tour through the palace and looked at all the exotic furnishings and superb paintings. I must stop here and explain once again, a communist party enforcer (just a lowly minion that works there) had to yell at us for taking pictures with our camera. Apparently, a special fee is incurred upon entry that we did not pay. As she barked orders at us, Frank muttered at her to "Bite me" and I promised to spank him later---both which were clearly not understood. As, once again we were swatted away like annoying fruit flies. Ahhhhhhhhh, the fun of miscommunication. A few more times we were scolded for not going in the right order, not standing in the right line, not going in the right doorway and so on. As we left the building, I felt like a school girl who needed detention.
We left the palace and strolled through the area, sitting in the park. It was a lovely cool day around 45-50 degrees. No rain, nor sun. Kids played in the park, mothers pushed their strollers, children swung on swings, and dogs ran around. It was nice and relaxing, with not a thing to do on the agenda, or any places to be. We went into another cathedral called St. Nicholas, built in 1762. We popped our heads in, did the tourist shuffel and mosied on out. We proceeded to walk through curvy streets along the river until exhaustion set in. We took a much needed break at the "Russian" starbucks. Had a latte, let the footsies rest as the waitress sent us scornful looks.
All in all, a nice day and as Frank has reminded me, in 10 days, I will be getting scornful looks from angry patient's parents, and getting barked at by doctors. So, I may as well suck it up, move on and let it roll off my back. (Although, the vodka tasting would have helped that process out a little faster).
Tune in tomorrow for more drama with Brooke and Frank's crazy ass St. Petersburg adventures
~Brooke and Frank~
crusty is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 24th, 2011, 01:23 PM
  #6
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 3,958
Just got back form Russia 2 days ago. Last city we were in was St. Pete's. After going to a number of churches and museums I would think you'd know that they do sometime charge an extra 100 Ru (about $3) to take pictures.

45-50 Degrees F? Boy, you're lucky. It was 32 degrees when we woke up most days and went into the 40's if we were lucky.

We found the Russian people more than happy to help us when we needed help. They don't walk around cheery faced, but I never had a grumble from anyone I asked directions of. (We did the Viking River tour. Were first in Moscow, which I loved.)

Curious to hear the rest of your adventure.
kenav is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 25th, 2011, 01:29 PM
  #7
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 177
May I say that a cruise ship is quite different than being here for 10 days and planning every last detail on our own. Quite well I may add. I have gone on tours and you are sheltered from the "real" thing.
Thanks for your insight.
crusty is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 26th, 2011, 06:12 AM
  #8
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,466
Ummm...would you expect a restaurant at home to comp you a soup that you selected and then rejected because it didn't suit your voluntary diet? Sorry, I wouldn't. If it were burnt, spoilt, gone bad, yes. But perfectly fine and just not to my liking? No. To make a scene over it (and $10 at that?) is embarassing.
amyb is online now  
Reply With Quote
Oct 26th, 2011, 01:54 PM
  #9
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 177
My blog is not worthy for any of your viewing. I will share with people that enjoy. Thank you for your oponion. It is greatly appreciated and noted.
crusty is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 26th, 2011, 03:26 PM
  #10
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 3,958
It's true that doing it on your own is much more difficult than traveling via a river cruise. We almost always do vacations on our own. However, on our river cruise we also had free days where we went to places on our own. Luckily I know that borsch is almost always made with meat and thus I wouldn't have gotten it if I were a vegetarian. I understand that you would want to change it once you realized that it had meat in it. But I do agree with amyb that unless you asked specifically for a vegetarian soup and got one with meat, that they would not have "comped" you the soup.

Yes, we found prices in Moscow and St. Pete pretty damn high. But the very few places we ate in (on our own) were very good and not what we would normally go into for lunch back at home.

I do salute you or going on this adventure on your own.
kenav is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 26th, 2011, 10:59 PM
  #11
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 177
Thanks Kenav on your comments. These are things learned along the way. I consider myself well traveled with 17 trips to Europe, most planned on our own. I did an exstensive amount of research on my own for the food, since it is an issue. My blogs are meant in fun, and purelt taken out of context as it appears to have ruffeled some feathers. It is all in good fun and to help out someone else who may be in the same situation. May I add, it is not the issue of the cost of the soup, or that it was my error. It was the temperment and attitude that was directed at us. That's all. Again, I will leave my blogs to family and friends, who are better aquainted with me. It was an experiment, if only to help out a fellow traveler. Thanks again for your input.
crusty is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 27th, 2011, 04:07 AM
  #12
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,139
Hi

Thanks for posting your experiences. Any plans I have for Russia are in the distant future but I appreciate reading about your experiences and I am sure there are many other fodorites who also do. Fodor's is a great place for sharing info but people do say their thoughts and it can be frustrating/insulting for others, even if it wasn't meant to be. I don't think the comments about your returning the soup were mean spirited, it's just what they thought and people do express their thoughts here.

Many people are enjoying your post even if they don't even respond to say so.
isabel is online now  
Reply With Quote
Oct 27th, 2011, 05:48 AM
  #13
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 3,958
crusty - I re-thought the soup change annoyance. I do believe that if someone say, in my neighborhood in NY, had ordered something that they thought was cooked one way and found it it wasn't, that the waitress or manager would have changed it with no questions asked. Especially something as cheap as soup. I understand what you mean by "attitude". That's always the most annoying point of any transaction, isn't it?

On our fight home on Aeroflot there was one fight attendant who had a really bad attitude. My husband thought she was especially "attitude-ish" to the man in front of us who happened to be black. However, the other attendants were just fine. Guess since I didn't have a lot to say or do with her, I could just brush it off.

I'd love to go back to both Moscow and St. Pete and do it on my (and hubby's) own. There's so much more I would like to do. Perhaps sometime in the future.
kenav is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 27th, 2011, 12:50 PM
  #14
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 177
Thanks for all your input. I will try this again.
Russia Day 5

Hi everybody. If you have been tuning in, we are at the halfway point here. After I learned how to disable the heating element, I slept peacefully through the night. We had our standard breakfast served by accomadating hostess, and walked through the cool brisk morning to our destination. Along the way, we stopped at an outside market, specializing in all things fake fur, big blobs of what appeared to be lard and sausage as far as the eye could see. After deciding none of these items were necessary, we moved on to the Museum of Defense and the Blockade of Leningrad.

Before planning this trip, I was unaware of the history of Russia, but as we began researching, we soon learned of this 900 day event called The Seige. During World War 2, or as they like to call it here- "The Great Patriotic War" 800,000 people died from starvation while the Germans blocked off Russia from food and supplies. The museum describes a descriptive and evocative account of the horrors the city underwent. Upon entry we were acosted by a feisty, little ederly Russian woman, who checked our coats, described in fascinated, animated detail SOMETHING, of which Frank and I had no idea. But, of these details she was quite persistant chasing us around the museum, redirecting us, and eventually conning us into buying the guide book for $7.00. All of which, was the same information, scattered throughout the museum. But, nonetheless, we now have a souvenier to remind us of the day (and our little Russian friend).

After 2 hrs we left the museum and made our way on foot to an Indian restaurant for a late lunch. I had my usual dishes that were very yummy and we made our way back to the hotel for a little rest before our event for the evening. We walked to The Concert Hall, quite a long ways, but it went quickly as we maneuvered around city workers and traffic. At times, it was dangerous as Frank had to swerve from a mad bicyclist, punching him in the process. Frank yelled apolagies to the victim as we dashed across the street, as to not get hit by a car.

We arrived at the venue for a symphony (an orchestra of famous Russian composers) just in time and slid in our FIRST ROW seats (yep-that's how my baby does it!) The concert was magical. I sat in the seat and let the music wash over me. I have been stressed out and anxious since I got here, trying to communicate in an impossible situation, and this was just the medicine I needed. The ensemble was a full blown orchestra with violins, a baby grand, an amazing pianist, a mistro flagging his arms around, so close I could see the hair on his knuckles! There may have been a few moments of nodding off, as the music had a sedating affect on me. The concert lasted 3 hrs. We slowly made our way back to the hotel, discussing the day's events, enjoying it all over again. We stopped for a light meal near our hotel to end the evening.

Thanks again for tuning in~~
~Brooke and Frank ~

Russia Day 6

Greetings my faithful followers. I hope everybody is well and I will see you soon as the trip is winding down. 4 days left. I am becoming more at peace with my environment, and being more patient with the people. So, after awaking from a restful slumber, we had our usual breakfast and made our way to The Hermitage Museum. This is the showcase of our trip, as Frank and I have always dreamed of going. It is a world class museum, and one of the largest displays of art in the world.

As we were waiting in line for the museum to open, we struck up an entertaining conversation with a lovely couple from France, and an older Asian woman from Houston, and a young girl from Hong Kong. This was our first conversation with any english speaking people in 6 days. We laughed, shared travel stories and tips. The banter was lively and enjoyable, as I have been a social turd for the last couple days. I have been cranky and scowling- your typical nasty American. We pushed through the entrance upon opening and were one of the first in the door. Maneuvering the monstrous museum and setting up a plan of attack was our next hurdle. Just getting rid of our coats and figuring out the map took a half hour.

I will say this, the staff there were very friendly and helpful. Most did not know English, but were able to get the message across in a polite way. We went from room to room, observing the art , trying to pace ourselves, and not become too overwhelmed. We made our way through Italian, Spanish, French, Russian, Flemish, and German art. That took 4 hrs. At that point, I was suffering brain drain. We were going to stop for lunch and then return, but too our mishap, no re-entry was alloud, so that was it for the day.

We went for lunch at a delightful German restaurant called Musketer close to the hotel. I got a delicious starter of crispy fried cheese sticks. It had a creamy, tasty dip to accompany it. Frank had a hearty bowl of goulash in a bread bowl. It looked like a piece of art. My main dish was potato dumplings. They tasted like pierogies. I enjoyed them thoroughly. Frank had veal cutlets and mashed potatoes. For dessert I had crepes with berries, and Frank had cherry streudel. It was a rich, fulling lunch that sustained us for hours. After, we took a little walk around town and took a long nap awaking to the sounds of the hustle and bustle of the city.

We took a walk in the cool air to a cute coffee house. Lots of young people out, laughing and enjoying themselves. Frank had a coffee and I had a homemade ginger ale, which was a strange bright green color with a mossy consistancy. We chatted and recollected our adventures. We continued our walk past famous churches, enjoying the quiet of night.
Tune in tomorrow for more excitement

~Brooke and Frank~
Russia Day 7

Hi everybody. I am currently the new and improved Brooke. Bye Bye cranky, miserable complaining, American. Hello flexible, adaptable and easy going . Slept in a little this morning and had a slow start. To begin with, our lovely credit union took it upon themselves to restrict our card usage and decline all our transactions. I had called all my credit cards and credit union prior to coming to Russia, but this was overlooked somehow and so we had no cash. It limited us to what we could do and tipping was complicated without Rubels. So, we went from bank to bank attempting to get money, which never happened. It took a an expensive phone call to the U.S. 48 hrs later to get this going again. Anyways, we still had access to our credit cards, and made the best of it.

We went to coffee house this morning, eating a light pastry and strong coffee and relaxed before setting out to conquer The Hermitage Art Museum for round 2. Armed with sugar and caffeine, we went to the Winter Palace. There was not much to see, but it was free with our admission to the museum. It was a reconstructed version of the palace, also showing some underground ruins.

From there, we went back to The Hermitage going to a little bit lighter section of art, consisting of 19th and 20th century art, including Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, just to name a few. I really enjoyed this section, and savored each painting like a tasty morsel. At this point, coincidentally, we ran into one of our friends we met yesterday morning while waiting in line. We caught up and exchanged pleasantries, followed by goodbyes. We toured the museum, leaving off where we stopped yesterday. It was less stressful and less crowded than yesterday, and we took our time enjoying the masterpieces.

After 4 hrs, exhausted and aching feet, we went out in the park and took a rest. The autumn air was chilly, the coldest it has been here- in the 30's. We sat on a park bench resting our weary, tired bones. We then went to a souvenir store where I purchased my gifts for all my pals back home. I indulged and bought a beautiful faberge egg, and nesting dolls- Russia is known for this. While, we were shopping, our friend fom the museum shows up again. Now, we are thinking--Is this a woman a Russian spy-part of the KGB? She keeps showing up where we are. But, nonetheless, it was a pleasent surprize. In addition, the sales woman at the store spoke impeccable English, and answered all the questions we have been wondering. She was patient with us and answered all our questions. She reccommended a traditional Russian restaurant called Tzars to go to and gave us thorough directions. We invited our new friend Johanna to join us and were please when she said yes.

We walked to the restaurant in a busy, congested part of the city. It was a grand regal place, beautifully decorated, oppulent chandeliers, a baby grand piano, beautiful wood and drapery. Plush chairs and dark wood tables. I had the mushroom soup, served in an enormous delicate bowl followed by potato pancakes. Of course, everything here is served with sour cream. Frankster got the pea soup with brisket, followed by a beautifully presented chicken. A gentleman played the piano, while diners next to us celebrated. We shared lovely conversation with our new friend, just what I had needed as I was in such a negative space there for a couple days. It was a fine evening, and probably the nicest restaurant I have ever been in.

We said our goodbyes to our new friend, who would soon be moving on to Helsinki. If we see her again, I am convinced she is working for the other side. We made our way back home, resting and enjoying the quiet downtime.

Thanks for checking in,
~Brooke and Frank~

P.S. If I have offended anyone in the writing of this blog, I apolagize. It is not my intention. I only wantto help out my fellow traveler and possibly add a chuckle. Happy tavels, tune in tomorrow~~
crusty is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 29th, 2011, 12:58 PM
  #15
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 177
Russia Day 8 and 9

Greetings and hearty salutaions from the Motherland. 2 whole days left then it's all over. It has been a great time, learning things along the way. I think we finally have this city down. We figured out the letter f, the word for coffee, a restaurant is a pectopaw. And, vegetarian is vegetarian unless you pronounce it vegetarian. Makes sense right?

So, the usual morning routine entailed. We were able to resolve everything with our bank after a $20 phonecall to the U.S. Needing Rubels for nearly everything, and not having to be dependent on credit cards is helpful. Although, most places do accept credit cards. We went to our regular coffee hangout, partaking in some lovely americana coffee and a tasty pastry. We have become regulars and felt it was a good sign that at 10 am, 3 very official members of the military were doing whiskey shots. I promised a dear friend I would bring back Vodka (in exchange for taking esquisite care of my schnauzer) so I pointed to the bottle of Vodka for purchase and I myself almost did a shot too, as there almost was a minimal miscommunication.

We took the city bus, which was a stressful endeaver, to the Nevsky Monastery. A monastery established back in the 1700s by Peter the Great. It is also the resting place for the great Russian artists, writers and poets, one of which is the famous composer Tchaikovsky (composer of The Nutcracker). We walked along the cemetary, the area was very serene. We were the only people in this cemetary. Some of the headstones and buriel sites were art work themselves. Carved in stone, with their face chiseled for eternity. I gave great respect to Tchaikovsky, as every year as a tradition we enjoy The Nutcracker, as we will tomorrow night here in St. Petersburg at the same theater it made its debut in 1892.

Then, we went what we thought was a cathedral, although a women with a suspicious grin on her face, looked at us oddly stating something in Russian over and over. On reflection, we believe we were in her foyer, and we had entered a private residence. We booked it out of there, confused and disoriented. We did make it to the cathedral, which was beautiful and ornate. Icons hung, candles burned, and a baptism was under way. We sat back and took it all in, being an audience at this family's sacred event.

We left there and went to a busy fast food establishment-Russian style. We had no idea what to order, and it was a busy lunch crowd. It was a very interesting food item that I think would be successful in the U.S. They took a big, fat baked potato, smashed and split it, and then you had the choice of 10 different kind of salads they put on it. I chose a tabouli of sorts, of course made with sour cream. It was interesting and economical, and did the job.

We took the bus back, crowded and inching through the city traffic. We got a better perspective of the city from this view, as up until this point, it has all been on foot. We went back to our favorite coffee establishment for a caffeine fix, then back to the hotel for a short rest.

We walked to the famous Mariinsky Theatre, grand, opulent and ornate. Slid into our seats and watched the opera La Boheme. It was sang in Italian and translated in Russian, but we both knew the story, and had watched it on dvd, prior to the trip. The movie/show Rent is loosely based on this storyline. We enjoyed the show, and it ended fairly early so we made our way to a reccommended restaurant called The Idiot.

Apparently, a famous writer wrote a book called that, its not meant to be derogatory. It was suggested due to its nice amount of vegetarian items. It was a cozy atmosphere, with cushy couches, plush chairs, antique knick knacks. I had a lovely lemonade, followed by a fresh, vibrant salad. Frank had a unique Russian salad. We both enjoyed our salads, which were followed by a vegetable dish for me of potatoes, onions, sour cream and dill. It was quite yummy, and different from anything I had ever had. Frank had a rich pasta dish with mushrooms in a strogonoff type sauce. We were full and tired, as it had been a full day and evening. We leisurely made our way back to the hotel.

Today I awoke with aches and pains and travel exhaustion, but it is nearing the end of our stay and I want to make the most of our final days. I had been nagging Frank since day one, I wanted to go on one of those hoaky, toursity boats that go on the river. Today I got my wish. We set sail along the Neva River. It was rough and choppy, and the sky was gray and foggy. There was a person narrating the cruise, but it was only in Russian. So, not much was learned, but it gave us a different perspective of our surroundings, and saw things from a different view. The cruise lasted an hr.

Afterwards, we walked to a restaurant reccommended by our souvenier sales girl from the other day. It was called Baku ( http://www.angelfire.com/mn/baku/). It is very interesting food and it is called Azerbaijani cuisine. It is from a region in Russia, and uses spices like paprika, garlic, cilantro and dill. I had an ansortment of vegetarian dishes. All of which, I probably will never sample again. Frank had a mutton soup, that had him smiling, and a veal stew of sorts. Our drinks were very interesting, we ordered what we thought was lemonade, but we received was a bright green sweet drink, tasting somewhere between mouthwash and ginger. All in all, a very lovely meal, in a beautiful setting of bright colors and stained glass, with esquisite service.

We took our time returning to the hotel for some downtime, before tonight's activity. We are seeing The Nutcracker, again in the Moriinsky Theatre. This was where it debuted in 1892. I will fill you in tomorrow, where that will be my last blog.

Take care and see you soon
~Brooke and Frank~
crusty is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 29th, 2011, 04:01 PM
  #16
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 3,958
We went to the Alexander Nevsky monastery/cemetery also. Got there via metro. You're brave to go by bus. We knew we had hit gold when it was obvious that we were the only non-Russians there.

Saw the graves of Tchaikovsky, Dostoevsky, Glinka, Mussorgsky, etc.

Lucky you to go to the Mariinsky Theater for "The Nutcracker". Bet it will be fun.
kenav is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 29th, 2011, 07:13 PM
  #17
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 1,939
I sincerely admire you for spending 10 days on your own in Russia. My son and I want to go there, but I'm checking into a cruise that will only go to St. Petersburg. I'm too nervous about staying on our own, but after the cruise, maybe I will have the confidence. I would love to explore and experience the places you have!
scatcat is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 29th, 2011, 07:23 PM
  #18
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 252
Brooke,
What a terrific report of St. Petersburg. It is much more work to do the extensive research to travel on your own vs. a cruise excursion. We were in SPB in September and went on a private tour for two days. We saw almost all of the same highlights as you two. It was much easier. It was so brave of you to travel to a place where basic communication is completely foreign. Did you get to use the subway system? That's an adventure in itself. Thanks for sharing your travels.
ChallengerGrey is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 29th, 2011, 11:13 PM
  #19
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 177
Thanks everyonE for your kind comments. My boyfriend( aka Crusty)does all the research. Almost 6 months for for this one. He immerses himself in the culture. We find, when you know the history and the culture, it makes the trip more enjoyable and relatable. We never counted on A language barrier (I guess nieve, because we have been so lucky in the past) and I did not know the food and essentials were so costly. Also, all these shows we have gone to cost 3 x as much, as the locals. All in all, its been a great trip. Tune in for my last note today. And, no never did metro. we walked almost everywhere- a first for us.
B~
crusty is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 30th, 2011, 11:51 AM
  #20
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 177
Day 10 Russia ----Last day


Last night we walked to The Mariinsky Theatre for The Nutcracker. It was a very creative, colorful, playful set. The costumes were amazing, and the ballet was beautiful. Our seats were great. It was captivating and entertaining. It also was an abbreviated version of the one we are used to. All in all, we enjoyed it thoroughly.


After the ballet, we walked over to The VodkaRoom, which is housed in the same building as the Vodka Museum. It was our second trip to this establishment, as after the first experience, both of us could not stop thinking about our meal there. The atmosphere is nostalgic, the decor elegant, the food fresh and delicious, and the service is exemplary.
I had the same exact thing I had had before, cucumber salad with dill and sourcream and mushroom soup. I experienced all the joy all over again. Usually your second trip does not live up to the first, but this was just as good. Frank had pickled mushrooms, were interesting, but not something I will be craving back home. He had the meat soup, which had all sorts of interesting items in it like green olives, meat, potatoes and a hearty tomato broth. He slurped it down with passion.


After, he had blinis(thin pancakes) with Russian berries. He could not stop talking about this menu item, since the last time we were here. They present it beautifully, hand made to order. I had strawberry soup, which was basically a melted down strawberry sorbet. It was different, tangy and tart, and something I think I could replicate. Stuffed to the gills, we took the long walk back to the hotel, happy to burn off some of those calories.


This morning we completely overslept, each day we were getting up later and later, as it is pitch black here at 8am. Our alarm kept reverting to Moscow time, apparently, St. Petersburg felt daylight savings was inconvenient, and did away with it. That is not computing with our cell phone. Our big fear is we will oversleep tomorrow. Our Visas are good until midnight. If we miss the flight, weather not permitting, there are big consequences.


So, we were an hr behind all morning not realizing the error until we sat down for breakfast. We walked over to The Hermitage, if you are keeping track, this was our 3rd trip there. It is a spread out museum, with only one way out and very confusing to navigate. We almost had it down, but continued to get turned around right up until the end. We visited some of our favorites, found some new ones, mosied around. I think I have hit my wall, mentally and physically, so there wasn't a lot of discussion on my part. I think I did pretty good for 10 days at this pace, but Frank has the spirit of a 6 yr old, and the energy of an athlete.


After 4 hrs and a snack break, we left to pack for tomorrow. After a little bit of productivity we headed out for one last souvenier run. We went back to the place with the helpful sales girl. After spending what seemed like an extroidanary amount on crap, she gave us reccommendations to a local Italian restaurant. We ventured out the farthest we had gone so far, which was only 2 blocks over, but in this neighborhood was everything we had been searching for the last 10 days. A supermarket, lots of nice looking economical restaurants in a nice neighborhood.


The restaurant was called Teska and was filled with young, attractive, locals. Everyone in good spirits, laughing and drinking. I got a delicious eggplant appetizer layered with basil, gewey mozzarella cheese,and a delicate red sauce. Frank had a beautiful salad with large slices of fresh parmesean cheese. He said it was one of the best salads he ever had. My next course was a margherita pizza with black olives. It was like a little piece of home, forgoing Russian food this evening. Frank had handmade raviolis stuffed with meat and mushroom. No complaints were heard from across the table. A couple of oohs and ahhhs, maybe.


For dessert (we had to-it was our last night) I had a creamy panna cotta, delicate and delicious with a luxurious caramel sauce. Frank had an icecream that was referred to as semiglaze. It was a sophisticated cookies and cream, with chocolate and almonds, and a nice cup of americana coffee.
We strolled back to our hotel to end the evening and finish packing. So, as I end this blog, I would like to give you my final thoughts. I came to St. Petersburg, somewhat spoiled, naive, and sheltered. It took me some time to aclomate to this culture, the lack of communication, and the structure and rules. I was bitter and portayed the Angry American. I can only use this as a learning experience. I became more patient with the people here, kept to myself, and tried to take the beauty in and filter out all the nonsence. I was not always successful at that, but I tried and because of that I was able to enjoy my time here. It is a beautiful place, magnificant art, sad and interesting history, awesome food, weird customs, and an alphabet nearly impossible to adjust to.


Thanks for tuning in. I hoped this entertained you and helps you in your future travels.

~Brooke and Frank~
crusty is offline  
Reply With Quote
 



Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On



All times are GMT -8. The time now is 06:11 AM.