Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bucket List Item #1

Russia was everything I dreamed it would be and more.  The history and the culture had me standing in awe so often I had to be prodded along because there was so much to see. Saint Peterberg history for me was shallow and my desire to see the square that had captured my heart as a child from the movie Dr. Zhivago the motivating factor to travel to Russia.  I was not at all disappointed but the best part was Jussi was as captivated as I was and we both soaked in the culture, history and romance of an era gone by.
To say I was awestruck is a better word. After a three hour bullet train ride from Helsinki on the Allegro, traveling at 230 km/hr backwards (because it doesn't turn around from point to point) I was ready to see the sights. I was not prepared for the breathtaking beauty of the entrance hall of the famous Winter Palace The Hermitage, home to the most priceless art collection. Our tour guide Maria and driver Vitalli had met us at the train station in a black Mercedes with dark windows which added to the mystery and excitement of the adventure. We did not join another group it was just us and Maria and we were ushered to the front of an enormous line and right into the Hermitage.
As we stood in the entrance hall I was nothing short of speechless which as you know rarely happens. I teared up and tried to say how beautiful it was, what a dream come true this was but I fanned my eyes to stop the tears and just looked. Maria was then at ease, we were going to be in love with her country and culture as much as she was.  After standing and visualizing the
many historical greats that had walked on the same staircase I regrouped from my lump in throat and grabbed for the camera and the bucket list dream became a reality. 
I will write of the history and the beauty of the many palaces and buildings in the following post. This post I will recapture life on the street as two okeys from muskoeys travelled to SPB.
What I learned, noticed, found interesting, laughed at and felt deep in my heart to try and grasp the history of.
-the weeds in Russia were the same as home, fireweed, thistles, bull rushes, horsetail and dandelions
-there were barns with hubcaps on the wall, old farm equipment, beaver ponds and lilies, wild mountain ash and alder
-the train tracks were sometimes twelve wide
-the reminders of war times..watch towers, razor wire, military with German shepherds, big lights at the border...abandoned shelters
- a time of teary remembrance for Jussi's grandfather Jalmari Yrjana as he fought to protect the border of Finland, freezing his leg off in a fox hole during the winter, for a war that ended in a stalemate
-tiny farmhouses dotting the landscape, with a frames, wood windows, long ago deserted, reminders of economic struggles, war, famine, and saddness
-the pine trees like our Arbutus trees in that they shed bark and reveal a glossy beautiful red underneath
-29 rubbles to 1.00 cad. So...six bucks for a latte lol
-traffic is insane in SPB there are no legal left turns, so cars, pull uturns in busy streets, stopping traffic in four lanes, police watch for this but it is everywhere. Pedestrians do not really have the right of the way, although they are supposed too, the strongest and boldest get to the other side.
For example crossing most streets was four lanes, so the crosswalk is often by lights but often not, so you would start to cross when lane one is clear, then lanes 2,3,4 would still go like crazy, teas you walk across 2, lane 1,3,4 would be going etc...the cars only stopping if you were in the lane they were driving in, took some guts to step out..the cars drive really fast with motorcycles going like madmen. It was also often a mother with a stroller and small child in tow would be in the middle of the road and cars were dashing in front and behind, this I found difficult not to scream out be careful.
-historically the buildings are stunning
-less smokers than Helsinki but stronger cigarettes
-in the supermarkets everything is packaged
-the water was not safe to drink, unless bottled
-I ate pickled plums with yogurt, it was good
-McDonalds was not good, the meat tasted like game...no dipping sauce lol
-the city only sleeps about an hour each night, other than that the traffic goes back and forth, and the streets are washed every evening, making everything look so clean and tidy every morning
-fashion is very vogue...all tourists can be spotted because we have comfortable shoes on...all the ladies wear very high heels, and dress clothes
-men only wear pants, not shorts, and their shirts are always tucked in and have a collar, worn with a belt. flip flops and shorts, with a back pack, that was how we recognized tourists
-see through whites on men and women, not exactly modest
-acid washed jeans are making a comeback
-jeans so tight they look like jeggings...
-fifty channels on the TV
-we could only find pepsi and no coke
-there was a fried sunny side egg on Jussi's pizza
-the coffee is fantastic
-sushi is everywhere it is the in thing for the under forty set to go out for sushi
-we ate ate hot dogs in a blanket where the mustard, relish and ketchup was squeezed inside the tube, then the dog stuck out the top, excellent!
-pancakes were like crepes, served with caviar, because I didn't want vodka in the morning, as a chaser for the caviar, we politely declined staying with porridge, and croissants with meat and cheese and boiled eggs
-Avril Lavinge was coming to the city for a concert
-we took the subway or Metro, that was a treat, it was from he Soviet era, wooden detail on the cars, underground 100 meters, longest escalator we had been on. 
-stores like us.. H and M, Hong Bank of Canada, Pizza Hut, Subway, Esprit, United Colors of Benetton, Zara, everything upscale, like Prada, Gucci, D and G, Tiffany's
-they have underpasses for pedestrians, which works fabulous, then traffic move quicker above ground
-the work day is 10-7 with a break for lunch no paid coffee times
-most people spend the weekend at the summer house because the city swells by three million tourists each summer
Russia and SPB will forever be etched in our hearts as a memory that will be priceless, we encourage visitors to consider SPB on their bucket lists. We pray it will not be the last time we visit but if it is, From Russia with love we travel back to Finland to search Yrjana history. Our memory of your beautiful city, your rich history, incomparable art...spasiba- dasvidanya 
(thank you and goodbye)
This post was finally posted on free wifi from the parking lot of Ikea in Sweden lol. Pics to follow

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