Sunday, October 1, 2006
There was a remarkable difference in the quality of the plane, flight, food, etc. on the leg from Frankfurt to St. Petersburg. I would have to compare the difference to what one might find between an American carrier who partners with a smaller airline to handle less profitable routes, a la Delta and Atlantic South Air, who runs the Delta commuter routes in parts of the US. John and I were seated separately for this leg, but I did have the fortune to get a window seat.
Our landing and processing through Russian Customs is unremarkable, other than the recognition that some of our fellow travelers had taken more than full advantage of the free alcohol provided during the flight.
We spent a brief time at Chesma Church, a pink and white confection showing its age in faded glory. Our guide intimated that the only people we would see in any church in Russia would be older - such was not the case. Most of the locals inside were quite young and a baptism was being performed.
Second stop was the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. Quite a large campus with a cathedral shaped more like a Roman Catholic cross-inspired structure. Took pictures in the cemetary at the graves of Tchaikovsky, Glazunov, and Petipa. Also saw the grave of Anton Rubenstein, but didn't get a photo. It's misting and cold - doesn't bode well for the days to come as John and I both discover we haven't brought an umbrella.
Conditions improve once we check into our cabin on the boat, the Viking Pakhomov. The boat carries 210 passengers and 110 crew. Our cabin is tiny at best. I did capture a video clip.
One note about the structure/manner of this tour. We have an assigned guide from the boat, but that guide is only allowed to give tours in St. Petersburg. At each stop along the trip, we will have a local guide as well. Valera, our local "sponsor" was as full of admonishments as he was information. Well-spoken, his broken English almost sounds like an affectation, a la Schwarzenegger "You have the peoples, and the stores and the sellings of the goods."
After checking into the boat, I met with Andre, the restaurant manager to discuss my gluten-free diet. Pink, plump and blonde, he has a quick wit and a friendly smile. We'll see if he gets it about the GF part.
Dinner was the day's peak- - Beef Stroganoff (hold the spatzle, please). John and I returned to the cabin for a long overdue sleep.
More to come...