Brock and I slept very well last night, waking only for a few minutes at midnight to twilight. The sun doesn't set in St. Petersburg until about 11 PM and rises around 3:30 AM. We ate breakfast in the hotel and our choices on the buffet included "macaroni" (spaghetti noodles), porridge (runny oatmeal) eggs, a colorful array of cheeses and lunch meat and cupcakes among other pastries. After breakfast, we found a bank and exchanged our $200 for five thousand plus in roubles. We rode the subway downtown and spent the morning walking and exploring. This is a beautiful city and we will post pictures of the buildings when we can find our cord! We did notice that the people don't seem to be as expressive here unless you get busted for taking pictures in restricted areas! We aren't positive that's what happened because we weren't certain on the rules, but based on the hand-waving and gesturing, we presumed we had broken the rules. Oops! The subway ride was surreal. We paid our tokens and got on an escalator that was at least 15 stories tall and full. In spite of all the people, it was oddly quiet. And it was the same on the train. No one spoke, no one smiled. If I found someone looking at me, they would simply keep looking for another few seconds, unabashedly, and when I would smile at them, they would then, without smiling, turn their head. It didn't seem rude, just a different custom. It did, however, make me wonder if Russians were a lonely people as a whole. We smile-or at least I do J to strangers politely, and I think we do it to connect.
When we emerged back up the 15 story escalator, we were on one of the main roads in St. Petersburg. To get our bearings, we took pictures of the block and were amused that the subway was located in the "Pepsi" building on a street that we think was named COK and a letter that looked like π. But as the day wore on, we think that meant "bus stop". We walked across the street to what we later found out was the Kazan Cathedral. It was old and in need of repair, but majestic at the same time. We went in to look around and were awe-struck . It was divinely ornate with granite floors and columns. There were murals and stained-glass windows all illuminated by countless candles. There was a trio singing from a balcony above in angelic, celestial voices. The entire experience was ethereal. The women all had their heads covered and some of the people prostrated themselves on the cold stone floor. Their reverence was palpable.
From there, we wandered down the busy, albeit quiet, street to a lovely park and sat for a few minutes to read our map and get our bearings. Across the road was the Hermitage-an expansive and ornate green and gold building. We walked around the courtyard taking it all in. From there we meandered back to the subway, stopping in a few shops and bookstores.
We got back to the hotel around 2 after another quiet ride on the subway, ate a nutella and jelly sandwich and took a much desired nap. Jet-lag is tough! I felt terrible about craving a nap so badly but it literally hurt to keep my eyes open! When we woke up, we went back to McDonald's-free wi-fi! (We were a little timid about going into a restaurant that didn't have picture menus until we could go with a translator) We walked around our "neighborhood" for a while and then came back up and tried to sleep. Tomorrow starts early. Our translator will pick us up at the hotel at 7 AM for our medical examinations and then tonight we will fly to Murmansk. On Wednesday, we will meet before the Ministry of Education in the morning and then will be driven to Kandalaksha where we will meet our son! It's hard to believe the time has finally come!
I don't know if we will have internet access in these areas as it is more remote, but we will keep you updated the best we can! Thank you for your thoughts and prayers!! We have felt them! Keep watching for updates…rumor has it there will be a guest blogger some time in the near future! J