This post is copied from the journal I kept while traveling in Russia with the intention of being able to look back at it years later and be able to remember small, long-since forgotten memories of my first international trip and dream come true.
It is raw and unedited with the exception of changing my husband’s name. Some posts in this series may be very short, some may be too detailed and some may be flat out unentertaining. I may interchange past and present tenses, have run-on sentences, have strange wording and just generally not meet my usual writing standards.
The experiences and thoughts I share are those of a sheltered, small-town southern girl, and what I mean to relay by this statement is that my observations while traveling to, in and from Russia may not be specific to the cities, countries, cultures and/or people I mention.
The FIFA World Cup is the largest sporting event in the world and therefore brings together people of different races, nationalities, cultures and backgrounds. I may reference these races, nationalities and cultures when talking about people and situations I witnessed and do not intend to stereotype or offend anyone.
We’re in St. Petersburg, and I cannot tell you how much I’m looking forward to 2:00 when we can check into our hotel and leave our bags behind.
We and our bunkmates had some sort of light-colored meat rolled in thin Russian pancakes for breakfast. It was way too much for me that early in the morning, and I gave the rest of mine to Ron to eat.
We exchanged Instagram information with Jorge and told them good luck with the rest of their travels and good luck for Peru. We got off the train and walked out of the station onto another new city street.
It was chilly and looked like it had been raining. We were not surrounded by fans in brightly colored jerseys. On the contrary, we seemed to be surrounded by locals on their way to work. We don’t really want to go anywhere until we can check in and leave our bags in our room, so we’re walking and taking pretty frequent breaks since our bags are so heavy.
Despite the weight of my backpack, I enjoyed the stroll through the city. It looks different from Moscow. Even though I’ve never been anywhere else in Europe, I think it looks more European.
We reached the hotel much earlier than our check-in time, and after struggling for a minute to figure out how to get through the gate, we walked in and asked if we could check in early. The attendant spoke a little English, enough to at least tell us no but we could leave our bags there, which was good enough for us. We handed them off to a large, dark-haired man and walked back out onto the street.
Ron looked up directions to the Winter Palace of Peter I, and we headed that way, feeling strange without at least one backpack on us. We reached the beautiful palace, and as we were walking around it, a guy in a donkey costume walked up to us and asked to take pictures with us. He announced different poses for us to do as Ron took pictures, and the guy asked where we were from. I told him the USA, and he replied, “You’re American?” before bending down on one knee and kissing my hand.
Ron and I then switched, and I took pictures as he posed with him. Immediately afterward, he asked for money. We fell for a stupid tourist trap. We told him all we have are credit cards and walked away. There was no way we were going to pull out all those rubles in front of him.
We walked from there along the river. There was a pirate ship in our view from the bridge. It was gorgeous. We stopped at a food stand and bought a couple of waters. They had tables set up in a shaded area, so we sat down for a while and watched the sports channel play highlights of previous games.
As it got closer to 2:00, we walked back toward the hotel and sat in the small lobby until it was time to check in. The large man grabbed Ron’s bags, so Ron grabbed mine, and we followed him up the dark stairwell to our room. The room is really nice, and the bathroom is even nicer.
Ron headed straight for the bathroom, and I laid on the bed, entering the WiFi password on my phone. I took pictures of the room and the buildings outside and snapped them to my cousin, and I ended up falling asleep. Ron was asleep beside me when I woke up, and I got up and took the best shower of my life. I’ve never been as clean as I am right now.
I was excited to finally dress up, putting on the black floral dress and black flats that I brought. I looped my arm through Ron’s as all the women seem to do here when walking with their husbands, and we walked to the nice restaurant next door. The host asked if we have a reservation and turned us away when we replied, “нет.” The manager came out as soon as we walked out the door and told us there was a table available, so we walked back in and sat at a wooden table.
I had been wanting to try the herring under a fur coat and was glad to see it on the menu. It was actually pretty good, and I got through half of it before I started thinking about what I was eating and freaked myself out. We ordered dessert, and mine was smoking when it came out. Ron ordered dark Russian beer and was surprised at how much he liked it.
We wanted to go somewhere to watch the England/Tunisia game, so Ron found an English pub within walking distance. We got there about 30 minutes before the game started and got a really good table with huge armchairs right under the TV. We ordered more dark beer for Ron and apple cider for me. It was the best cider I’ve ever had.
We stayed for hours watching the game, and I noticed that never got any darker outside. It was around 11:00 PM when we left, and the sky was white on the way back to the hotel. We walked through the gate and past a couple of dodgy men, up the very dark staircase and back into our room. Big Bang Theory is on, and it’s funny hearing a man speak in Russian over the character’s voices, even the women.