It is difficult to blog when one travels in a group. All free time is spent exploring or yapping away getting to know one another. I embarrassedly admitted there were moments when I wanted to pull my hair out because we spent too much time waiting around then having to rush through the Peterhof complex and the Hermitage (both in St Petersburg). Also, it took a couple of days of getting used to the group interactions and the different personalities. All in all, I believed the trip was a huge success. Nobody fought with anyone. We had tons of fun. We brought out the kids in each of us together. We took so many jumping photos like nobody’s business. The dreadful plus cart train ride to St Petersburg and the old overnight train from Moscow to Mandrogi became much bearable. Going with the flow worked for me this time….I had an amazing time and met new friends and rediscovered the passion of why I want to learn Russian.
There were some hairy moments also though. One girl had her passport and electronics stolen on our second last day in the hotel lobby. She is still stuck in Moscow as this is written three days after the end if the trip. Moscow is not a place you want to be stuck in for cost reasons and uncertainties in Russian bureaucracy. She was not allowed to leave and had to get a replacement tourist visa. Her embassy got her a temporary passport on the day. Two other girls had a costly taxi ride (Rub9,600 – USD320) for probably a 10km ride. Ouch! If I can give tips in going to Russia or traveling in general: stay in proper hotel with safe deposit box and always be alert (do not leave your bags with your friends, always bring it with you because if your friend is intentionally distracted, she would not be able to care for all properties), learn your cyrilic letters to navigate the Moscow Metro and do not stay out late. To give the girls’ credit, the Metro entrance was closed on them half an hour early. And we were waiting for our rooms when the theft happened.
I still love Russia though. One just have to be extra alert there. Knowing russian language helps greatly or being with a local.
Anyhow, I do not think I can really blog about what we did on the trip in details but there are a few topics that I think are interesting to discuss on next posts. For example, going to Ukraine right after Russia showed me a few differences between the two places and Russian watches obsession of our group (antique and otherwise). Perhaps I would make a list of top 10 moments of the trip, and a list of stereotypes of Russia that were broken and those that remained after the trip.