Aug. 26, 2006
So the train ride to St. Petersburg....yikes. Our train didn't leave until 2:00 am...so we left our hotel at about midnight. The train station was right by the hotel...so we were really early. When we did get off the bus at the train station we had tons of police escorts. We gathered outside and there were some really sketchy looking people just hanging around outside. When we went in it smelt terrible, was poorly lit and was really creepy. Thankfully we had our own waiting area upstairs, but to get to it we had to walk down the entire train station and everyone was staring at us. There was a little restaurant, if you could call it that in the area we were waiting. Tim got chocolate- p.s. Russia chocolate taste like cardboard. He bought us some gum and then some girls got pops.
We missed the memo that people were going to the bathroom, so when we asked Irena if we could go all and the security guards weren't happy. Down the stairs we went through a security thing and passed a window where you could buy toilet paper if you wanted to use some. Well if you have never left America let me tell you...bathrooms in America rule! This "toilet" was nothing more than a hole in the ground.
The walk to the train was just like the walk to the Hogwarts Express except the train was really ugly. So we peeked into the widows and much to our unpleasant surprise it was HORRIBLE!! We could only hope that our car would be better. It was, but only just. We got into groups of four - me, Jess, Joe and Lopez were a room. In our small cabin, which was maybe 6 ft wide and 8ft long max with two beds on the bottom and two atop. There was a "mattress" for each bed and a blanket, but it was the nastiest thing I have ever seen...fuzz balls, stank, the blanket was all hairy...yuck!! So I refused to use it and it wasn't horrible because it was like a kindergarten nap mat that went under the "mattress". So I just slept on that. Thankfully I slept like a rock because I was so tired, but it was pretty bad. Tim told us that the train he rode on was way different- it was like first class and ours was worse than coach.
St. Petersburg is pretty cool, much cleaner than Moscow, but our hotel is nothing compared to the lovely Marriott. The food is worse than the Marriott, but the exact same thing. Some of us went to a coffee shop where we got some "treats" that were breads, cinnamon rolls and then Lopez got a chocolate layered cake.
After Dinner we went for an adventure. We were taken around the center of the city by a lady who lives here who works for FIFA. She showed us an AMAZING art museum that is in the town center. The buildings here are way prettier, well maintained and painted so prettily. There were majestic arch ways...its hard to explain the beauty of it, but a ton of the buildings here have gold roofs...so pretty. Well have to go.
WHAT AN AMAZING DAY! Probably one of the most fun days I have had here. We did soooo much I don't know where to begin.
We woke up this morning at 9:00 as usual. The breakfast here was different. We did have pancakes but they tasted like oil, so I had cereal. There was two types of granola, one was chocolate (mmm) the other was regular and then corn flakes so I mixed all three and put a little yogurt on top because the only milk they had here was vanilla flavored (sick) but I did try it.
We trained for a long time today, but it was fun.
After training we got some of your laundry done!! FINALLY...my clothes were smelling not so hot. Then I came and emailed a little. Then it was lunch time. Lunch was really bad at best. I had some soup with chicken and veggies, but it was so bland. Honestly I can't wait to go eat Mexican or something with a lot of flavor!! Then we were scheduled for a 2 hour bus tour. About seven of us girls went and we literally made it around the corner and we hit a car. So that was the end of our bus tour so we walked back towards the hotel where there is a little market. We stopped at the market and shopped....I did some damage, but well worth it!!! They have all the dolls you could imagine, pins, pens, shirts, and paintings. So that was fun to get some shopping done.
Then after that we met up and visited the Hermitage (the world's largest art collection). It was from Katherine the Great and the reason it is called the Heritage is because she said the art should only be seen by her and the mice- like a hermit. We saw paintings from Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, Mattise, Renoir and Picasso. I took some pictures of the architecture, but if you spend 1 minute looking at every piece it would take you 33 years. Very overwhelming-so much art and so little time.
We walked back towards the hotel and we crossed at a street where there was no cross walk, well we soon realized why....we got almost half way across one side of traffic and this car comes whipping around the corner at about 55 and we are still in the middle-we scream and sprint! We made it across to the middle where there was a median that was about 2 feet wide, traffic flying by on both sides...yikes We made it all the way across and as I jumped onto the curb a hear some seriously loud breathing-IT WAS A BEAR!!!! This man had a bear on a leash and he was taking it for a walk in the park! But there was a bear about a foot from me!!! It was a cub but still A BEAR on a leash-Russia is crazy.
I came back, read a little, showered, and got some new songs on my iPod. Then it was time for dinner. Dinner was burgers and fries, but I'm not sure the patty was beef...so I ate tons of tomatoes and fruit...last beef made me sick. Dessert was some peach pie; the peach part was bad so Jordo and I just ate the crust with this pasty stuff that is like frosting.
Then we left for our bus tour! I don't even know where to begin...I saw all the sites to see in St. Petersburg in 2 hours! We saw so many palaces, so many squares where people's heads were chopped off, monuments, statues, and my favorite was the Cathedral of Shedded Blood!! I will show you all pictures....the coolest building maybe ever! Everything was so ornate and gold with bright blues and greens!! We also went into another cathedral that is very famous. The Naval Cathedral...they were having a memorial service for the people who died in the plane crash here recently, beautiful inside but there was about 200 people in there crossing themselves bowing, it was really different. Then we went to a shop where there were really nice quality gifts-dolls, amber, everything they even let you sample chocolate and vodka. The store wasn't actually open but they let us in...once again I did some shopping...hehe
I can't even explain how cool this place is...my pictures don't even do it justice, but I tried. Tomorrow we are going to see a castle/palace that is an hour away...then our game is at 7:00. Germany will suffer!!!!