Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Getting to St. Petersburg

Apologies for the hiatus! I am currently in the States on a business trip and Monday was a UK bank holiday, meaning I was out for the day. Since I didn't post yesterday I'll do a double post today to make up for it. Enjoy!


The next day was a relaxing one, and lucky for me I was able to catch up with more friends: we all met at mBar, the local digs for both summer and winter and had coffee (or chai, for some of us). We were joined by Californian J (from our trip to Porvoo) and Finnish J. Girlish chatter about boys and ridiculous topics ensued and a wonderful time was had by all. There really is nothing like the cackling chatter of a bunch of girls. This is one of the things I miss most about Finland, I won't lie.

Soon it was time for us (Californian J, German K, and I) to head for the harbor and get through immigration to board our ship bound for St. Petersburg though, so we parted ways and made plans to meet up when we were back on Sunday. Gotta get as much exposure to wonderful people while you're in town as possible!

So we took the tram to the harbor and made our way through. We decided to exchange money before we hit the Russian border to save ourselves some much-needed time (since we'd only be in Russia for about 7 hours total) and to avoid needing to figure out anything that might be in Cyrillic (man that alphabet is confusing).

The exchange rate for rubles to euros is about 44rubles to the euro.  Kind of a weird math problem when you're trying to figure out how much something costs but whatever. We were going to guestimate and from what the money exchange man said, Russia was cheap. A bit of a surprise to me, actually, since from what I'd understood everything was rather luxe there. But perhaps I was imagining Russia with all its furs and gold. The golden era of Russia.

We took our money and headed through immigration early, wanting to make sure we had plenty of time. We got there two hours early. No problem though - the boat was fabulously stocked with plenty to do! This was no poor man's meager boat! This was a cruise ship of the delightful caliber!

There were several restaurants of varying degrees serving different kinds of food (sushi, Italian, bar food, a buffet, as well as a few others that I forget), several bars and a few clubs, a casino, cinema, gym with sauna and swimming pool, not to mention a duty free shop. Pretty swell! We definitely had enough to keep ourselves entertained for our extra time on the boat.

And we ended up being on the boat quite a bit of our adventure. Which was totally fine. When you're in good company, time is a wonderful thing, no matter where you are.

The boat itself was also quite vast (9 floors in all) and J and I took the time to explore it while German K took a nap (we were all pretty exhausted either from jetlag or late nights). Here is a slideshow of some photos from the boat:

Awhile later we were curious enough to try some of the boat food so we scoped out the cheapest restaurant with the most selection (so this eliminated things like the buffet, which was 33euros, and some of the fancier places like the sitdown seafood restaurant) and chose the Drunken Rabbit bar, complete with salads, Russian casseroles, and lots of fried offerings.

Oddly everything was rabbit-themed, including paintings of classic royals with rabbit masks painted on top of them. Strange, very strange. Perhaps there is some old Russian joke about this, but we didn't get it. It was rather hilarious though so we enjoyed it for its strangeness.

We weren't necessarily that hungry (I'd had a full pasta offering earlier that day) so German K and I ordered caesar salads with shrimp and J ordered a Greek salad and a Russian meat casserole. Our waiter barely spoke any English (mostly Russian and some scattered vaguely English words), but he was adorable so we let it pass.

Eventually our food came:

Not exactly top of the line but fine for our purposes, we supposed.

I was trying some of J's meat casserole when German K exclaimed that our shrimp caesar salads were not indeed, shrimp caesar salads. They were chicken. Which kind of shocked us because there was nothing on the menu that denoted chicken. And German K doesn't eat chicken. Or anything that doesn't come out of the sea. And hadn't, for the last 14 years. Unfortunate and nasty shock.

We eventually were able to catch the eye of our confused-looking waiter and explain the situation to him. 20-25 minutes later a shrimp caesar salad appeared on the table but the damage had been done. A rather unfortunate way to start the trip but I appreciated that despite the gravity and shock of the situation, German K didn't let it get her down for too long.

The food itself was not particularly memorable.

Feeling rather exhausted after our journeys there (my late night from flying in and meeting people at Navy Jerry's, J's journey from California and long work week, German K's general overhours and ridiculous work schedule), our tiredness got the better of us and we admitted our ridiculous old age (which is hilarious because we're all still rather young) and decided to call it an early night.

This ended up being a great thing because it took us awhile to realize that St. Petersburg is actually on a different time zone than Helsinki and we were going to lose 2 hours in the process. So when we thought we were going to bed at a respectable 10pm we were actually barely making due with midnight. But whatever, our ship wasn't docking until 10:30am local time, we thought we would have plenty of time to sleep...

...except that in the middle of the night, around 4am, we were all woken up (or continually woken up) by the cackling and loud talking of old drunken Finnish ladies across the hall.

I, being on the top bunk of our 4-bed cabin, didn't bother getting up to investigate the noises emanating from the hallway (I'd long ago recognized the sounds of older drunken Finnish women), but J and German K needed to see what the racket was and determine if they could stop it. Seems the women literally across the hall from us felt the need to have loud drunken conversations with their door open until the wee hours of the morning. I told them that it was best not to disturb them as Finnish women, especially drunk Finnish women, can be terrifying in the best of situations (this is 100% true), and we let it go. Eventually they closed their door but we woke up exhausted.

And thus was our adventure over to St. Petersburg. Pretty grand overall actually. And we had a good time, despite the bumps.

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