Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Schnappi Das Kleine Krokodil

a former German pop-chart topper, also popular in Russia. Careful, it's catchy.

Day 6 - Thursday

- We sleep in late, and catch an afternoon train north and west of St. Petersburg towards the Bay of Finland. John finds a quality bootleg copy of Anastasia at a train station kiosk and gives it to Roman for his birthday. We buy dominoes to pass the time (John & Sam vs. Roman & Greg). First we play in a koфe house (cafe), then on the train seats.
- Mountain biking through the forest to the Bay was a unique experience. The trees were tall and spread out, but they blocked a lot of sunlight. The terrain was mostly flat, with the exception of a couple big downhills. We found a "wilderness" cache, bought a huge plastic bag of goldfish (which lasted all the way to Frankfurt), and had dinner at a restaurant on the water.
- Three borschts, a greek salad, and lamb and chicken kabobs to share. We see "Schnappi das kleine Krokodil" on the TV.
- Back to St. Petersburg to watch Anastasia, which John rightly called, "the american tribute to russian history (sort of)."

Friday, September 24, 2010

Days 3 and 4 in St. Petersburg

Day 5 - Wednesday (Roman's Birthday)

- Breakfast with Roman's babushka and mama. Babushka gave a birthday toast, and recited a poem about boys growing up.
- Drove to Peter and Paul fortress, one of the original settlements in St. Petersburg, founded by Peter the Great. Roman and Sam made a side tour through the cathedral; saw the graves of Catherine the Great and most of the Russian emperors since Peter.
- Then we found our first Russian geo-cache, officially making us international treasure hunters. It took us about 10 minutes with the GPS to find the right coordinates and locate the film cannister cache. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, check out www.geocaching.com)
- Took a walk around a few of the local apartment buildings. Roman wanted to show us old fashions elevators and wells (or courtyards).
- Dinner at fast food crepe restaurant.
- Then "Sleeping Beauty" ballet at Marinsky theater. It lived up to the hype. We sat in a box, stage left, noticeably similar in size and position to the box where Lincoln was assassinated in Washington. The ballet itself is hard to convey in words. Image hundreds of incredibly felxible and beautiful people, jumping, spinning, twirling... all dressed in fine costumes (the bluebird was great).
- Met up with Roman's friends Vicki and Tomas. Dinner at Carl's Jr. We watched the bridges on the Neva raise up to let big tankers go through. No traffic crosses the river from approx 1-4in the morning.

Day 4 - Tuesday

- Walk from Roman's apartment to the Hermitage museum. It's full of famous art from around the world. We knew it better as the Romanov palace from the movie Anastasia.
- Lunch at Roman's sister's apartment. Now we know where Roman get's his natural talent from making tiramisu.
- The search for Anastasia begins. It seems like a natural thing to do, watching Anastasia while in St. Peterburg, right? But all of the major bookstores that we tried did not have the movie in stock. Not being ale to find the movie made us want to watch it more.
- After this string of unsuccessful searches, Roman showed us how to hitch a ride in St. Petersburg (the city where every car is potentially a taxi). We hitched a ride to an English pub. We sang Happy Birthday to Roman for his twenty-first at midnight. The pub had a dominoes case and we introduced Greg to the game. He's pretty much hooked.
- We stopped at an all night sushi restaurant, open till 6AM. We were there late, debating amongst ourselves what governmets should be alowed to regulate. The four of us were a huge source of entertainment to everyone present who had no idea what was going on at our table.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rest of Day 3

The first thing we did in St. Petersburg was take a river tour of the city. The Neva river is the main body of water that cuts through the middle of the city and empties out into the Bay of Finland. There are also several manmade canals which cris-cross their way north and south from the main chanel, making a tour by boat a very practical way to see a lot of the city. Just don't stand up if you want to keep your head.

St. Petersburg has a much older feel than Moscow, although the city is just about three hundred years old (Moscow is about 800 years old). The Hermitage museum is located right on the Neva, in a giant green and white palace (the Winter Palace). The Aurora battleship is also moored in the river; the ship which fired the beginning of the October Revolution.

After the boat we walked through the city, saw a statue of Puskin, and met Roman's grandfather at his appartment for dinner. Lamb plov was the main dish, with a side of "unprocessed" caviar on bread, freshly sent from Magadan by Roman's uncle who sliced the fish open himself (we saw pictures). Roman the translator worked furiously as we talked about Russia, America, history, medicine (his grandfather was a surgeon), and family stories. We drank to a common love of fishing, Jewish people all around the world, Russian-American friendship, and the hospitality of Roman's grandfather.

We then had the treat of meeting some of Roman's friends across the street. We told stories about BC, and learned a bit about how the younger generation of Russians feels about life today. They graciously agreed to speak in English.

Ended the day with a cut throat game of Labyrnth. (Greg may or may not have won; under review)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Moscow Photos

Here are all the photos from our time in Moscow:

Day 3 - Monday

Our room in the sleeper car had two sets of bunked beds and a small central table. Greg, who still has a big sleep debt to pay, climbed up top and fell asleep. The other three either drank tea or read or listed to music before going to sleep for the remainder of the eight hour trip.

When the train arrived in St. Petersburg, we got our stuff together and walked the ten minutes to Roman's fifth floor apt where we met his mother. For breakfast, blinis and sirniki with sour cream. We also got to meet Gregory the iguana, before falling back to sleep...

Day 2

Day two began south west of Moscow, riding ATV's through a rural neighborhood. We then drove back into the city for tour of the Krem and Red Sqare. There were several old churches within the walls of the Kremlin, containing old paitings and the toumbs of former Tsars.

St. Basil's was even better looking in the the daytime, with its awesome geometrical onion domes. Lenin's mausoleum was closed because it was sunday, but it was cool to see his large stone resing place in Red Square, between two rows of newly planted pine trees.

Next, we met Roman's dad, Alexander, at a Ukrainan restaurant for "lunch" at 5:00. The food was mainly pickled things-- plums, tomatos, cucumbers, lettuce. We also ate borsch, wild mushrooms, liver, and cow's heel (which is like pulled meat in clear mint jello). To drink, we were served a red yeast drink. There were also small glasses of "old" Ukranian liqor that were either horseradish or honey flavored. And then the main courses came...

We followed this epic meal with a walk down the park in front of Moscow State. This University is housed in a large sprawling building that is attributed to Stalin. He gets credit for overseeing the construction of seven buildings in Moscow that were built to display the power and strength of the Soviet Union. These buildings are now just beautiful displays of massive architectual prowess, with a red star on top.

We left Moscow at midnight in a sleeper car train headed north.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Best of Plans Never go as Planned

We found out the hard way that Lufthansa airline runs a tight ship. It is their strict policy that states if passengers are a minute late to check in, they vacate their right to board to the plane... This is what happened to Greg, John, and I; and as we sat around discussing our contingency plan, which included finding something to do this weekend in Boston waiting for the next available flight on Monday, we were told that two seats had not been filled. If we were willing to split up, we could get on the plane.

Greg, being the selfless and self assured guy that he is volunteered to stay behind and manage to follow us somehow (he and Roman would take care of this in their own technologically savvy ways).

As John and I checked in, we were told that the only available seats were in business class. It was a stylish trip. Six hours to Frankfurt, three hours to Moscow, and we found Roman. He let us know that Greg was currently in London.

We experienced first hand the fact that Moscow has the worst traffic in the world. Little cars dart in and out of lanes and slam on their brakes, swerving around the traffic in front with utmost control. Almost two hours of this to travel what may have been thirty miles.

The rest of the afternoon was spent touring Moscow. We began at Christ the Savior Cathedral, taking in the pastel colored domes and high arches. The people are all pretty with chiseled features and sleek fashion. The buidlings are worn but colorful, and new construction is everywhere. Fifteen or twenty wedding parties were out walking the bridges among strolling groups. The whole city seemes to be getting married.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Beginning

The three Americans meet at Logan to begin their voyage half way across the world, having dispersed three months before in Santa Monica, CA. Their fourth awaits in Moscow, ready to finally showcase the love he has for his native country. Stay tuned...