Friday, June 27, 2008

Amie and Stacy take on St Petersburg

27 June 08

Well today has been a blast! Not without a lot of SNAFU’s, but in the end it all worked out and looking back it was hilarious! :P

Amie had been on IPM all day and night, so she was really itching to get out and see the city. Since I had seen a lot of it yesterday, I felt quite comfortable getting around and all. I told her I had wanted to go to the St Nicholas Cathedral. We had passed it yesterday, but it wasn’t a stop. It is the one of the most beautiful active churches in the city. It is also the Church of the Russian Navy and they still have memorial services there for those lost at sea. I had seen many churches, but we hadn’t been inside any and I wanted to get a few things from a church that had been blessed.

So we got out to the front gate of the port (it is about a 30 min walk from the ship to the front of the port – so we took the shuttle) We had to go through more nonsense just to get out of the port; look at my crew ID, check my seaman’s discharge book etc. They had already checked it at customs right off the ship, but they had to check it again. And no one there spoke any English. Yeah, that was fun. We had a laugh about it though.

When we got out front, a few “cabbies” were waiting there. I don’t know if they are real cab drivers or not; but I felt safe enough since there were a zillion people around. So I had to bargain with him to get a price to take us to the cathedral, then to the Church of the Spilled Blood and then back to the port. Finally we agreed and off we went. There was a little confusion when we got to St Nicholas, but after a while, we straightened it out. (it was the language barrier; I should have brushed up on more of my Russian) Our guy was to wait for us for 30 mins, then he was going to take us to the Church of the Spilled Blood. He came for us on time and we got back in the car. On the way there he asked if I was British and I told him “Nyet, Rusky” he was really pleased so I figured I had a new friend. (or so I thought LOL) On the way there, I told him I needed to stop at a cash machine. Somehow we ended up over at St Isaac’s, but he swore that there was one down the block. Now from what I recalled ~ the Chuch of the Spilled Blood wasn’t all that close. I am sure we could walk it (you could walk between most of the sites if you wanted to; other than the things across the river as they were harder to get to) But then when it came time to pay, he got all cross with us and I think he got confused as to the money (Rubles, Euros, etc) and started getting angry and just kept saying “Maam, taxi ride fare now” I argued that I wasn’t paying for it, if he was leaving us there. So after a little heated argument (he kept saying “Nyet, nyet” and I felt like that coach from The Cutting Edge was going to come out and tell me to do the Pamchanko) I gave him some money and he left. So we figured what the heck, we would walk and then get another cab back. We couldn’t understand why he got so frustrated and it was a bit annoying to us, but we laughed it off after he left.

So we walked around St Isaac’s and then down the street towards the way I thought we had to go. We came across a Pizza Hut (of course!) and since neither Amie nor I had any breakfast, we decided it would be easy and cheap for lunch. (100 Rubles is $4 USD) It was quite a yummy lunch and we asked our waitress if we were heading the right way (I had a map, but it was the one from the ship, so it was VERY basic) She gave us the right direction to head to. We walked along the Moika canal and I said I wished we could do one of the boat tours. They seemed to be everywhere, but I didn’t think we would have time and although they were in the water, I didn’t see any actual docks where they would pick you up.

We sidetracked a block when we spotted a McDonalds and had to go to get a pic of the sign. :P We walked along and up to the Nevsky Prospekt; which is the main shopping street in the city. We walked along and came across a woman who was advertising the boat tours! It was only $16 USD for a one hour ride, so we decided to do it (we thought the trips were longer). It was really great and I was so excited to go under the Hermitage and out onto the River Neva before coming back in to another canal. It is amazing how many canals there are in the city. There is something like over 400 bridges or walkways over canals in the city. It is like a little Venice!

After our tour, it was only a few more blocks to the Church of the Spilled Blood. We got there and took some pictures and then wandered around the Flea Market. I was bargaining with this one guy (cute Russian too!) and I told him if he found me a cab for a good rate back to the port, I would give him the price he wanted. :P So he found us a cab for 400 rubles and off to spending I did. (It wasn’t all that much LOL but to them any money is better than none) Well when he went to take us to the taxi, it was gone. So he tried to get us another one, but the other one didn’t want to take us because there was too much traffic in the city. We only had 500 rubles between the two of us as we spent the rest of it on stuff since we weren’t going to be back here anytime soon! Uh oh. So he tried to call a taxi for us, but they wanted more money. He then offered to give us more, but still no one wanted to drive us through the traffic! We found a P&O tour bus, but it wasn’t going back to the port until 5.30 and Amie needed to be at work by then. So we figured we would keep trying. We were just about to give up and walk back to the Nevsky Prospekt, when a regular cabbie drove into the square and I offered him 400 rubles to take us back. He wanted 500 so we bargained to 450 and he got the address from our new friend (how do you NOT know where the cruise ships come in???) Anyway, that took a while! I was supposed to go over and visit Ventura at 3pm, and it was 5 after 3 when we finally got the cab! OY

I had no way to get in touch with Jacques (the Ventura MTN Manager) but I figured he would know something came up. It took over 45 mins to get back to the port because of all the traffic. But when the cabbie stopped at the port gates, we were like “Wha?!?!” since it was another 1.5km to the ship! He said he wasn’t allowed in L Amie and I just started laughing hysterically ~ I mean, could the transportation get any worse?!?! So we gave him the money and walked up the gates. There was a shuttle bus at the stop, so we went in to get cleared by Customs again; but we were going in all the wrong doors, nothing was marked. (not even in Russian!) So now we have a case of the giggles because this is just ridiculous! We just walk out the door of the Customs bldg and guess what? The bus pulls away!!!

Well now we are in all out hysterics! It is almost 4pm and we can either wait who-knows-how-long or we can walk. Luckily, a man heard us talking about it and said that at 4pm the busses run about every 10 mins since it is a shift change. Ahhh, that is better! Luckily, he was right so we hoped on and got back to the ship around 4.15pm.

St Petersburg ~ Day 2:

Amie went back on board to get ready for work and I jogged over to Ventura (it was next to us on the other berth) and got on board to try to find Jacques. But I will have more on that in my next post.

I enjoyed the city and the sites tremendously! I have been on the go for 2 days but it was so worth it. My feet are screaming at me to rest, so I surely will the next few days. I wasn’t able to speak any Russian other than the very basics, (please, thank you, yes, no, hello, g’bye) but I feel I did pretty good in reading it. I remember my college professor telling me that if you could remember your alphabet, you could pretty much read most things. So I was still lagging on some things, but what I didn’t remember, I picked back up. Not too bad for not having any practice in several years.


Kippy said...

I am so glad you enjoyed your time. Great pictures. Looks like there was so much to take in. Glad you got 2 days there.

Thanks for sharing.

Kelly said...

lol, transportation drama in St Petersburg!

Great pictures from the boat ride! :-)