|This morning we were dropped off at Decembrists' Square for free time. On Monday's all museum's are closed, but Kristy and I had enquired with Anna the day before and she said that St. Isaac's would be open to walk up so we had saved it for today. When we got to the square you could see that no one was at the top of St. Isaac's and we were starting to wonder if Anna was wrong. We walked over and found out that it didn't open until 10am... whew! And that was only minutes away so we lined up. Rhian, Stacey and I walked around and then up to the dome. Here the Russian's played an evil trick on us. When you started at the bottom of the spiral staircase it said 250, and every 10 stair it would tell you how many stairs were left. Around step 190 I was getting tired, but could see the end nearing... 30....20...10... and we rounded a corner and walked on a flat area out an entrance and saw 50 more stairs!!!! Sneaky little buggers!!! At the top we ran into Jenn, David and Kristy who were just about to head down so we asked them to meet us at the bottom them we looked around and took some photos. On the way down I had a touch of vertigo and could not go faster than a crawl, so the trip down from the dome ended up taking quite a while!
At the bottom we saw Jenn, David and Kristy who had started a massage tower while waiting. When we got down we decided to walk around and find something to eat. We were walking down a street and saw a Turkish place that looked like it had cheap pizza so we went inside. Kenny had been following us about half a block behind, and when we got to the pizza place he followed us in. Here Stacey cracked me up! She vocally asked for a table for SIX and then walked in and found a table to seat six and asked if we could sit there! Kenny then walked up and pulled an extra chair over. We all looked over the menus and decided on a couple pizzas to share. When the waitress came by she told us that only the breakfast buffet was open and we couldn't get pizza... and we were crushed! So she held up a hand and walked off, then came back a couple minutes later and said they'd do pizza for us, although it would take awhile because the ovens weren't heated. We were ecstatic! Lunch was great, and for the first time since we'd arrived in Russia the service was equally great (other than hotels)!!
After lunch we stopped at a money exchange, and then Stacey, Kristy and I headed to the market stalls in front of St. Isaac's. Stacey and I stopped at a stall to look at egg pendants and started talking to the lady there. She was amazingly nice, and I ended up buying two egg charms from her. Then we just talked for a while and she even ignored other potential sales to talk to us! We looked at some other stalls, and then had to meet the bus shortly, so I went to the Waldorf hotel to use the washroom there, and it was beautiful! Then we met at the bus and were on our way to Novgorod! The bus ride wasn't too bad, only a couple hours, and we were able to get some sleep. By this time in the trip I was able to fall asleep on the bus fairly easily! Which is amazing for me!
At Novgorod we picked up our local guide and went to the oldest Kremlin in Russia. We also saw the Cathedral of St. Sophia and the Millennium of Russia Monument. As we were walking through the Kremlin it started to spit, and then started to rain and then started to pour! We hid under an archway near a beach for the worst of it, and then headed back to the bus. It looked like there was a great market in front of the Kremlin, but unfortunately they all shut down because of the rain!
We were then brought back to the hotel and had time to go to the communist grocery store before supper. This was quite the experience! The food was all behind counters and you had to ask for everything, and pay for every food type (i.e. dairy, bread, fish, meat, alcohol) by a separate lady. It was a unique experience... and very time consuming. I couldn't imagine trying to buy food for an entire family at this store! Also, the people that were behind the counters really didn't want to help us foreigners, and they seemed very put off if any of us wanted more than one of everything. It really seemed like a page pulled out of the communist era. When the crowd started to clear I looked closer at the alcohol, and Katy and I were trying to decide what kind of Vodka to get. She wanted something that was mid-quality, and so did I, so I got her to ask for two and just passed her the money. When Katy ordered her vodka she just said "vodka" and kind of tilted her hand up and down to indicate mid-quality... and it worked!
After the grocery store we all met for supper at the hotel restaurant. And then Kristy and decided to head back to the communist grocery store with Reky who I was going to buy an ice cream for. Ramin and Sepher were buying a bunch of fancy bottles, so I mooched off their questioning and got another mid-quality bottle and a nice bottle. But even then my mid-quality bottle was only 100 rubbles, and my high quality stuff was 200! The alcohol lady was also really nice, and the only person in the store who didn't seem to mind us crazy foreigners! Unfortunately the ice cream counter shut down several minutes after we got there, so I couldn't get ice cream, but in the dairy area there was something that looked like it might have ice cream like qualities, so I wanted to get a couple. Well, the dairy lady did not want to help me, and just talked kept talking to a man standing there. Kristy and I stood there for at least ten minutes until the alcohol lady finally took pity on us, got our food and then pulled the dairy lady over so we could pay.
That night we hung out in Jen and Stacey's room again. There were about 15 people in the room and we were once again trying to hide from Kenny. At one point I was near the door, and someone knocked. What we were supposed to do was open it a crack and say there was only a couple people and someone had just got out of the shower. Well I opened the door a crack and looked out... and there was no one there. So I opened it a little more, and suddenly Kenny popped out from around the corner! WTF! So now I couldn't hide how many people were in the room and just said we were going to the 3rd floor shortly to meet some other people. We stayed in the room for a while longer and then since we couldn't fit any more people in it we headed to the lounge bar. Here they had 1664, so I was oddly excited and grabbed one, but sadly it had gone a bit skunky L But whatever... it was skunky French beer in Russia! Can't complain about that! The evening was a lot of fun, and after a couple drinks I headed back to the room.