Technically, we are in Moscow now... if there can be a technically about where you are at. However, for the purposes of this blog posting, let's pretend it's our last day in St. Petersburg. Our last FULL day in St. Petersburg. Man, this pretending is hard, complicated stuff!
The plan for Tuesday was to have the morning free and at some point to pick up Alex's passport from the giant huge passport office that I wrote about previously. When we woke up, I emailed my coordinator (Svetlana) to get an approximate time. Sara and I really wanted to go see the Winter Palace (aka Hermitage) before we left. If you couldn't tell from the pictures from Monday, it's HUGE. Gi-normous, even. So while we didn't have all day, we thought we could at least see a good chunk.
So we waited for Svetlana to reply. And waited. We got bored. Really bored. Slap happy bored. The time change between St. Petersburg/Moscow and home is almost worse than Vladivostok. When we're waking up, you all are going to bed. Late afternoon is when you're waking up - so most of our "day" you're sleeping! Thankfully, Rhonda was working (night shift) so we were able to skype her. And that's where it got silly. Sara had bought a Harry Potter matroyshka and I had bought a Beatles one. The dolls talked (in a really poor English accent, I must say) and sang to Rhonda. I know it sounds ridiculous - and admittedly, it was. But it was hysterical.
Alex was getting hungry by this time, and still being picky about what he ate, so we broke out some baby food. Today's menu item was some form of canned meat puree. Gross. Gag. But mama really gets weird about making sure the kidlets get protein. I'll own that one. So canned meat it was. Alex took about 3 bites and NYET. His reaction, thankfully was caught on film. It's must see TV. Or at least blog.
Alex's reaction to the meat
And the final reaction...
By noon we still had not heard back from Svetlana. So I broke down and called her phone. I hate bugging them, I know how busy they are. I had a big lesson in this last Thursday when we went to apply for his passport - Svetlana was literally on the phone ALL afternoon. When she answered she acted like she had no reason why I would be calling... and then proceeded to tell me that we'd get his passport on WEDNESDAY morning, before we left for the train. UGH. We've now wasted half the day. The prime part of the day for touring with a toddler (as in not nap time).
So our back up plan was St. Peter and Paul Fortress. I've posted pictures of this place in the past couple days. It's on it's own island near Vasilievsky Island - and is the original citadel of St. Petersburg. It's OLD -- built in 1703. Which is part of what I love about European cities -- the RICH history. Essentially, Peter the Great was afraid that the Swedes would attack -- so he had this fortress built to protect St. Petes.
Today it's the burial location of all the Russian Tsars from Peter I to Alexander III. It also includes a mass burial plot for the entire Romanov family and some of their staff that were killed in 1918. To say that it is very cool would be a tragic understatement. Tragic. There is an operational mint, a city museum and some old (I THINK not currently used) bastions aka prisons. We took some serious pictures! All in all, it was a great Plan B!
When we left the Fortress it was getting late (dinner time), after all we had gotten a late, post nap start. It was cooling down again so we decided we'd be lazy and take a taxi back to the hotel. We had taken one there to make sure we got inside before the Cathedral closed and it only cost 400 rubles (roughly $14). We stood by the taxi stand until Sara pointed out that maybe the guard in the guard shack needs to call us the taxi. We asked the guard and he called a cab. He conveyed in his broken English (a fabulous match to my broken Russian) that it would be 10 minutes. Around the 10 minute mark, a rickety old circa 1960's Fiat type car, held together with bondo showed up. The guard told us NYET - this wasn't our cab. Soon a Mercedes rolled up and the guard told us this was the one.
The Mercedes had curtains on the window and Sara noticed that she couldn't unlock the doors manually. We both started feeling very uneasy at this point. The driver started off - and in the wrong direction. I quickly said NYET. Perhaps he was trying to avoid traffic - but I don't think so. He took us for American SUCKERS and thought he'd make some money. He told us, in HIS broken English that he was "Business Class VIP" taxi, which make me look at the meter. The meter was moving VERY quickly. Already, about 2 blocks later, we were at 800 rubles. And of course, to make things even better - we were suddenly hit traffic. And weren't moving. At all. But the meter was...
Things took a strange turn from there - and the VIP driver started asking us broken English questions. He wanted to know where the "Papa" of Alex was. Our Canadian alter egos came out again and one of us was suddenly married to a "Michael" who was back at the hotel. Then he started eyeing Sara's ring and asking questions about the size of her diamond. CREEP-Y. In turn he had to start showing off his rings. ICK.
When we finally pulled into our hotel, the meter was at just under 2500 rubles. If you're doing the math - that's about $90. Seriously. We were FURIOUS. We were within 2 miles of where we started. We got taken by a Russian JERK! And, he wouldn't unlock the doors until we paid. Of course. So... word to the wise. If you are going to take a taxi in country, make arrangements for the driver to return (or different car) at a specific time!! Lesson learned.
Peter & Paul Fortress
Alex had a great time (in the beginning)
Sara got serious about some pictures (but the Russian's thought she was nuts)
The Romanov's Burial Room
On the top of all the Tsar's tombs
Peter the Great's tomb