Days 1 and 2 contd Frankfurt to St. Petersburg
I left you in the airport in Frankfurt so let's get to our destination. An unremarkable wait led to a short delay that would have us landing in "Peter" as the Russians call it a little after 9 pm. I had texted Cathy but no reply, and they should have been snug in the hotel by 6 pm or so.
Tim was a little uneasy at the customs station. We went through separately and those of you who know me also know I just forge ahead and he lets me. The Cold War is long over but for those of us who grew up being taught that Russia was the Red Menace, you just don't lose all apprehension the first time you are arriving here.
All of our documents were fine, we got ok'd and we now have new stamps in our passports. On to the baggage carousel -- to see Cathy waiting at the bottom of the escalator. It turns out KLM lost her checked bag. In fact, they lost half the bags of everyone traveling to Peter. Cathy had been in a long line for hours. She filled out paper after paper, only to be told her bag was still in Amsterdam and she'd have to retrieve it the next day after the one flight came in. They were dismissive and curt, and it sounds like the agent was having a meltdown.
We suggested we head to the hotel, enlist their help and call KLM, the travel agency, the airport, the FBI and Ghostbusters. We'd get the bag delivered to the ship when it arrived.
It was 10 pm by then and still light, but cloudy and about 50 degrees. We saw a pretty sunset around 11 pm. The hotel was a short ride in the shuttle. The Crowne Plaza St. Petersburg Airport is modern, very clean and comfortable. The desk clerks were superior. They serve food in the bar until 1 am and a lively bunch were watching the Euro Cup.
I had been looking forward to pelmeni, kind of a cross between a ravioli and a potsticker, served in a broth with sour cream. But they don't serve it at night. The young bartender saw my disappointment and said he thought they could make it anyway. Tim had a lovely beef stroganoff, and Cathy and Delores had pumpkin soup and beef-beet soup. We drank a Russian red blend that hit the spot.
Finally to bed where we watched a little of Muhammad Ali's funeral before lights out.
Buffet breakfast in the hotel was nice. I tried cowberry jam, and I know they're also called lingonberry and foxberry. Not quite like any other berry I've had and I definitely liked it. We did some more checking on the missing bag. A very nice desk clerk named Ivan called KLM and the ship's main office, and arranged to have the bag sent directly to the ship.
We checked out and hopped over to the airport to be picked up by the ship transport. That gave me time to grab a St. Petersburg mug at Starbucks. By the way, Cathy and Delores picked up a couple of things at the hotel gift shop but I won't say what, so as not to spoil any surprises.
Eight altogether were driven to the ship. All we've seen so far are the airport, the highways and industrial areas. We've seen a Coca Cola plant, an Orbit plant which must be the gum, and lots of old machinery in yards. Tall, tall apartment buildings are everywhere. But no landscaping or parks around them.
We got right aboard the ship and were given keys to our cabins. We are next door to each other. We are pleased with the cabin. It's not as cramped as we thought at all. We have a nice big window looking out on the deck. Nothing much to see yet. We don't sail for two days.
The ship was built in Germany in the 80's. Everything is very clean. There is a lot of wood trim and shining chrome, and the dining rooms and bars are well-furnished. Lots of young people are staffing the desk and tending bar and serving. We sat in the lounge areas for most of the afternoon, watching people arrive by shuttles in the rain. It got fairly stormy by late afternoon and it's chilly.
Dinner was open seating. Nothing remarkable, not like a meal on a big ocean liner. It was well presented and tasted ok. We were joined late by two Indian gentlemen from North Carolina and Atlanta, Bob and Jim. Their wives had to take seats at another table. They were late because KLM lost Bob's bag. Cathy thinks his bag had to get bumped so hers could be sent. It's a vicious cycle.
They were fun dinner companions. Bob was talking about another passenger who had lost something and we didn't quite catch what he was saying. He spoke slower for us and said "wi-o-lin". Violin! He laughed and said his southern accent often confuses people. Yes, we had fun with them and look forward to spending time with them on the ship.
After dinner we got the next two days' itineraries and optional tours. The next day is going to be packed. Wake up at 6:30. (Although I am writing this at 6 am and have been up since 5 am -- still a little jet lagged. Ask my mom -- she is not surprised I am the first guest up and about on the entire ship.) Breakfast at 7 am, then on to a bus tour of the city. Lunch downtown leads into an afternoon at the Hermitage/Winter Palace complex.
When we get back to the ship we have an early dinner before taking a canal boat tour this evening. There were four optional tours. We decided on this one because the ballet is not supposed to be anything remarkable, the folk dance is not as good as the one offered in Moscow, and the night tour doesn't return until 2:30 am. I think we'll be bushed with this itinerary anyway.
A word about wireless. No got. They have it on the ship in one bar but everyone is trying to access it so I just get the spinning wheel of death. I'll post these entries when I can but there may be a few days in between.
Next time I'll give you our impressions of Peter.