I have always tried to be culturally open minded and accepting of other people. However, if you’re going to purposely push and shove, I’m going to say something!
This morning at breakfast, there were probably about 40 people from a tour group from China. Most everyone else was our group (about 40 people as well) and other guests. We all wait in line for whatever buffet item we want; however, the Chinese group would push and shove instead of wait in line. I’m not talking about a gentle push, I’m taking about a full on shove and push. And if they can’t get through in front of you, they go behind and you and keep shoving. A lot of people from our group were quite offended so we began to physically stop them and firmly say “No! That’s NOT okay!” Now I know they probably don’t speak English but I know they got the message with the look on our faces and us pointing to the back of the line. They looked surprised and would walk away.
Two nights ago when I went to the ballet, they announced that pictures and video were strictly forbidden. As soon as the curtains went up, two of the four Chinese ladies sitting to my right immediately pull out their phones to begin recording. I reached over and I tugged at one of the woman’s arms and I pointed to her phone and shook my finger, “No!” She made the other lady also out down her phone.
I like to adhere to whatever laws, rules, or culturally unwritten rules a country has. If I ever go back to China, I’ll know it’s okay to push and shove until I get what I want.
Day 9: Happy Birthday, Moscow!
Today we left Novgorod at 8am and drove to Tver for lunch. It was DELICIOUS! I’ve had borscht in the states but not like today. It was sensational! I enjoyed an authentic Russian meal and it was wonderful! After lunch we continued driving until we arrived to Moscow around 4:15pm. I went to my hotel room and unpacked a bit. I walked around the block and found a grocery store. I walked in hoping to find something for dinner, but it was truly a grocery store with no ready-made food. So I left and went back to the hotel and had a wonderful cheeseburger at the hotel restaurant. I don’t know what it is about the meat here but the beef I’ve had so far is delicious!
Our tour group met up at 7:30pm and the bus took us to a metro station. We took the metro to different stops and explored several metro stations. We ended our metro ride at the red square. It turns out today is Moscow’s birthday so the whole city is out celebrating! There were tons of people everywhere!!! We walked around the red square and saw the Kremlin and the famous church. What a fun night!
Day 8: I want a pet monkey
Today I began the day at the Peterhof Gardens in St Petersburg. Pictures won’t do it justice; it’s truly stunning. The gardens mimic the gardens of Versailles (which I went to in 2006) in France. It has beautiful fountains and lush green landscapes as far as the eye can see. It’s situated right next to the Baltic Sea, so I felt a nice breeze as I strolled through the fairytale-type grounds. Right after visiting these gardens, I went to Catherine’s Palace where I saw the famous Amber Room. The palace was full of several types of model dinning rooms to represent how each room would have been presented to guests. I fell in love with the china. I was taking several close up pictures of the china in each table with my camera. If you have been to dinner at my house you know I have several sets of china and I enjoy using all of the sets for different occasions. And you probably noticed I have an obsession with Lenox and all my Christmas ornaments are Lenox and I buy the new ornaments they release every year. I’m going to stop writing about china so I don’t lose my male readers. As I was exiting the palace there were several pictures of famous people who visited the palace. I saw Hilary Clinton and I quickly went to take a picture. #LoveWins!
Another cool thing that happened as I was leaving Catherine’s Palace was that I carried a monkey and a raccoon. The monkey was very docile and let me carry him like a baby. The raccoon was insane and it was crawling all over my head and neck going bananas. I don’t have a picture of that with my phone, I have those pictures in my camera so I will include those in my full online photo albums once I get home.
We left Catherine’s Palace and drove two hours to Novgorod. Novo means new, gorod means old. Back in the day, Novgorod was the capital of Russia so Novgorod still has a kremlin. The city was founded in the year 859. I also found out that Sergei Rachmaninov was born in Novgorod. There is a statue in the town square in his honor.
We arrived to Novgorod around 6pm and our tour director promptly collected our passports again. He explained that it is not safe for us to carry our passports as we explore Russia so as we arrive to each Russian city he is collecting or passports, then returns them to us when we leave each hotel. This is only taking place in Russia so far. He said in the past, police stop tourists and ask for their passports. They say something is wrong with their visa and they take them to a station. They won’t return the passport to the tourist until the tourist gives the police money. Since we already crossed the border, there is NOTHING wrong with our visas. So this is why our director collects them every time we are in a new hotel and keeps them in a safe until we leave.
Back to Novgorod... our local guide was amazing. She works at the city’s archives and said they have recently uncovered documents from WWII when the Nazi’s occupied the city in 1943. She said they found a propaganda flyer saying something like, welcome to your new Paradise, urging people to move to Germany. They would butter up families with small children and tell them of the life they could have. The Germans were actually trying to get them to Germany’s concentration camps. The Germans knew the Novgorod had a lot of the country’s historic artifacts and gems, so they targeted the city and its people. Out of 200,000 inhabitants in 1943, only 30 people were left after the Germans took over. Today, the city has 200,000 inhabitants, same as before the Germans attempted to destroy it. We walked through the kremlin and enjoyed a stroll outside the grounds.
I just enjoyed breakfast with a gentleman from China. He pointed to the empty seat next to me and I smiled and pulled out the chair. I had been reading some news stories on my phone prior to him sitting. I thought, I can continue reading or have a conversation with someone from a completely different part of the world.
I opened up google maps and I pointed to myself and said, California. I showed him Los Angeles on the map. He looked at me and smiled and said, “ohhhhh!” And I pointed to him and then moved the map around and he found China. He pointed to China and then pointed to himself. I pressed my hands together and gently bowed my head to him and smiled.
I pointed to Novgorod and made a motion with my hands as if driving and I pointed to myself. He understood that today I am driving to Novgorod. In the same manner, I told him I was going to Moscow the day after.
I opened my Translate app and then wrote,
”Thank you for having breakfast with me.” I showed it to him and smiled. I got up and bowed and he said, “bye bye!” I giggled and left.
There you have it, conversation by maps. Love it!
Day 7: St Petersburg
Today was a FULL DAY of sight seeing. I don’t even know where to begin. I went to some beautiful churches and admired the Heritage Museum. The Winter Palace was amazing; seeing the inside made me want to paint my ceilings! I did a champagne boat cruise through the canals, and while enjoying the sights I spread some of Chris’s ashes overboard. I enjoyed a great little dessert at a restaurant before I headed off to see Swan Lake at the oldest theater in St Petersburg.
Here are some pictures of today. If you know me, you know I took hundreds of pictures with my actual camera :-) Enjoy!
I believe in opportunities, I don’t believe in problems. When I signed up for this trip I thought I would open myself up to meeting another solo traveler and sharing a room. When I arrived to Copenhagen my first day, I met my roommate. We went up to our shared room and right away she told me she snores. I’m a very light sleeper so I cannot sleep next to a snorer. Not even a light snorer. So right away I became a bit concerned and I thought, oh God, I can’t go without sleep for two weeks!
The first night, we tried me going to sleep before she did so that hopefully I could sleep a bit. After a couple of hours I was awake from the snoring. It could have been the jet lag as well, who knows. The next night she gave me earplugs. Once again I went to sleep before her, and after a few hours I was awake again due to the snoring. Subsequently it’s been a myriad of combinations with sleeping pills and what not. I just can’t sleep through noise.
Last night, I went out and she stayed in. When I returned she had moved her mattress in to the bathroom and said she would sleep there to see if I could sleep through the night.
The thought that someone cares this much and is so self aware really touched me. To go as far as choosing to sleep in the bathroom amazed me!
During the night I normally get up 1-2 times to use the restroom. Since I couldn’t use the restroom I got up in the middle of the night, put my shoes in and a jacket and went to the first floor and went across the hotel to use the restroom. Then found my way back to my room.
When I woke up this morning, my roommate was back in bed. She said it was very hot in the bathroom and she couldn’t sleep.
I don’t know how the rest of the trip will be but I definitely feel grateful to have a roommate like her, snoring and all. It’s truly no one’s fault in this situation. I am thankful for the opportunity to see this side of love and compassion.
Always see an opportunity, it will come in time!
I don’t know why I am always nervous when there’s a border to cross. We left Helsinki at 7am and arrived at the Finland border first to depart the EU. Then we continued about a quarter mile and came upon the Russian border. We all had to get off the bus, go through a line at Customs and sign some little form. Thankfully there were no issues so we went through okay, it just took a long time to get through everyone. The bus had to get checked out as well, then we were able to board the bus again in the Russian side. Once we finished it took another two hours to arrive to St Petersburg.
St Petersburg is stunning. So many beautiful buildings to see. Thankfully I’ll be here a bit to see how much I can squeeze in! Today I had the opportunity to spread a bit of Chris’s ashes in a beautiful green area in front of a river! It was near a bench and surrounded by green trees, very picturesque!
In the evernjng I went to a show of Russian Folklore. It was AMAZING!!! Very impressive dancing and gorgeous costumes! I had a great time!!!
I want to thank my friends and family who have been texting and emailing along the way, checking up on me and making sure I’m okay. So sweet of all of you! And those who have allowed me to lean on them during this trip! I’ll continue to send you each personal updates as you message. Love you all!
Day 5: The Unexpected
This morning I woke up feeling a lot better. I still have some congestion but it has been improving. I had breakfast in the cruise ship and then returned to my room to pack. Once I had everything with me, I spread some of Chris’s ashes discretely over the side of the boat and into the Baltic Sea. We docked and immediate got on our bus and began sightseeing through Helsinki. It’s a rather small city compared to the others, but I was surprised to see so many shops and things to do. I went up to visit a place called Hvitträsk for the architecture and also went to Rock Church which is built on rocks. I was able to spread Chris’s ashes at Hvitträsk, it was in a lush green area with a beautiful lake nearby. I walked through a little trail by myself and found lavender growing on the side of the path so I went through some shrubbery and spread his ashes.
After visitng these places I walked quite a bit through an open air market that had a lot of interesting souvenirs. I came across a stand that had beautiful llama sweaters and stuffed llamas standing in front of the stall. I went up to the gentleman and asked him why there was a Peruvian stall in Finland. He told me he is Peruvian and he has been living in several Scandinavian countries for the last 20 years. He said he sells in various markets and collects enough to go back to Peru every year during the harsh winters in Europe. I totally did not expect to meet another “paidano” today!! So rad!!!
Afterwards, the bus took us to our hotel and I left and wandered through a nice area by a channel. I stopped a local and asked her if she could recommend a delicious restaurant where I could enjoy delicious food and a glass of wine. She pointed to Faro which was right next to the channel and had a gorgeous view of the water.
Faro was exactly what I needed after the last two days of not feeling well. I enjoyed a steak tartare and duck. It was a wonderful treat before heading to Russia tomorrow.
Always expect the unexpected!!
Day 4: On a boat!
I found out yesterday that today we would get on a mini cruise and go to Helsinki. Shows you how well I pay attention!
i woke up still not feeling well so I asked the Director if he could help me find a doctor. After some sight seeing this morning, he walked me to their version of Urgent Care. Except they didn’t have availability until 3pm. I had to be at our meeting spot at 4pm to board the boat. So I didn’t see a doctor. Instead I went to a pharmacy and asked the pharmacist to recommend some string meds. They don’t have them!! Apparently yo even get a decongestant you need a prescription. No Mucinex, or Theraflu. She recommended a nose spray and an anti inflammatory. So I bought those and I think they’re working because by the end of today I began to feel better and my nose stopped running. I’m now coughing but hopefully this will go through my body and leave my system. The people in my tour group have been so sweet, asking how I’m feeling and checking up on me.
We boarded the boat at 4, and departed Stockholm at 4:45pm. It was a beautiful sight to leave the city and see all the islands around. The boat is truly like a mini cruise ship with entertainment and lots of shopping. What did I do? I walked around a little and bought water. I went to my room at 7 and slept. Now I’m up for a bit to eat a banana and take meds. Hopefully I will continue to feel better tomorrow. Back to sleep for me. G’night!
Have passport, will travel.