Monday, September 25, 2017

72 Hours in Russia

Our arrival in St Petersburg, Russia, by ferry.  A long awaited dream come true.  There are few sites/locations that I have on my list of places I'd really like to visit, St. Petersburg is one of them.  Rick, our team lead, figured it out.  To get a Visa for Russia, we would each need an appointment at the Russian embassy.  The first appointment available would be in 2 weeks. HOWEVER... we could visit Russia visa-free for 72 hours via a ferry "tour" package: buying for one of their "city tours" (we chose the shuttle bus to the historical district), and proof that we had a place to stay, easily done by booking an Air B and B. The visa-free visit meant that we had to stay on the ferry until 2 pm, (we landed at 8 am), then we could disembark, making sure we check back on the ferry 72 hours later.  It was perfect timing for us and let us do what we really wanted to do:  walk to the sites, plan a few excursions, and eat good food.  AND we had fantastic blue sky and sunshine weather.  Here's what we found:
Amazingly delicious fried and sugared treats, served with milky, sweet coffee -we made sure to make this stop part of each day.  And we found it the first afternoon! Other great food included chicken kabobs, a "working man's" lunch (soup, a wide variety of Russian entrees and salads and several kinds of desserts and really good oven-fired pizza.  Prices were far more affordable than we'd found in Scandinavia and when we needed to find something specific, someone seemed to be there to help us out in English.  St. Petersburg we are told, is an academic town.  Five million people and many who are there as students at the numerous universities.
The Church of Spilled Blood was insane -  mosaics floor to ceiling -   I'd say, zillions of hours went into its creation.

 Tarn's favourite room at the Hermitage - treasures from ancient Egypt.

Dresses of the children of the Czar - better than Disneyland princesses.

 The paintings and incredible designed spaces throughout the Hermitage buildings, the Winter Palace, and the General Staff Building.

I loved it all.
Tarn celebrated his 13th birthday on September 23.  What a place to celebrate!  We had a good wifi connection so were able to video Skype my brother Bill in London and hear Happy Birthday sung by his fiance Ellie, and her family there. We now officially have three teenage boys.
We landed by ferry back in Helsinki this morning.  We are packed up again for biking and booked for the evening ferry to Tallinn, Estonia.  A two hour ferry, but a surprisingly good deal to stay on board for the night (only 16 Euro more for the family.)  So we will be on the bikes southward bound tomorrow morning.

AND, it is because Rick's foot is ready to ride.  It fits in his shoe, wounds closed up and swelling and pain gone.  It's great to have both world-wide health insurance and good doctors.  Something in the rare times that health issues have come up in our various travels, we've had covered.

Special request by some of my readers...some of the challenges in our travels:  leaving behind a toiletry bag, easily replaced but signalling that mom and dad need to double check kids' rooms.  Making smoother changes to plans when opportunities come up that some of our family want to do.  Establishing a successful routine for accomplishment of some distance learning work.  And the challenge that's always a goal: clear, kind and respectful communication between all. 

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