Thursday, August 14

Paula: We left Prague today knowing that we were probably in for more adventure in Russia. We gave ourselves plenty of time in the airport not knowing what to expect. The airport in Prague was very easy to negotiate, all the signs included an English translation and we boarded our flight on Czech Air without any problems. The two hour flight was also smooth and we all commented that it felt like we were riding an American airline.

We got off the plane not sure what to expect. The most obvious difference was that the signs were difficult to read as the Russian alphabet is quite different. Thankfully some of the signage was in English. We made it through immigration without a problem, although the passport officer looked very serious and never smiled or spoke. Given all the time we had spent at home applying for and receiving our Russian visa, this was actually somewhat anticlimactic. After gathering our bags, we met a driver who was arranged by our hotel and drove into St. Petersburg. The driver didn't speak English and also never smiled. We have a hotel about 30 minutes walking distance from the center. This was further than we like but couldn't find hotels closer for less than $500/day! The hotel is clean and quiet but we had difficulty getting any assistance with even simple directions to the subway or a restaurant.

We wanted to explore Nevsky Prospekt (Russian's most famous street) and hoped to eat there. The hotel receptionist advised us to take a taxi but we decided to be brave (or maybe stupid) and try the subway. After taking the wrong direction out of our hotel, requiring us to backtrack almost immediately, we eventually found the metro station. We purchased tokens but were not able to find anyone who spoke English to assist us with directions, so we took a shot at reading the subway map and signs. The metro is known as the deepest subway in the world-and we experienced this reality after riding almost 3 minutes down a very fast moving escalator crowded with people. It took some time to read the signs but we eventually figured out where we were going - so we thought.

Unfortunately, there were two separate stations that started with the same four cryllic characters - we guessed wrong! Instead of ending up in the city center, we were in the outskirts of Nevsky Prospekt but had no idea that's what had happened! We walked around, and didn't see any shops or restaurants. A couple of people we tried to get help from were useless. Finally, feeling somewhat helpless, very hungry and extremely frustrated, we walked into the huge and very tacky Hotel Moscow looking for a place to eat. We ended up eating at a buffet that looked to be set up for large tour groups. It was absolutely awful. There was a Russian pop band singing terrible 1970's songs in English. We shoveled down our dinners as quickly as possible, and left to ride the subway back.

Before leaving, we tried for help again and finally got someone who could at least point to where we were on the map. It was at this point that we realized what had happened, and we all got a good laugh (it was easier to take at this point, since we had at least been fed).

The trip back in the subway was uneventful (fortunately), and we went to bed anxious about what tomorrow would bring. St. Petersburg is definitely going to be an adventure!

Distance Walked: 2.45 miles












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