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Hanging with St Pete

And now we're in St Petersburg. It's taken a long time to get here. We left Sydney about 30 hours ago and I've only seen one night and one day. It's a little odd.

So perhaps I should do a little recap the highlights of the trip.

We got away from Sydney with little problems except for no blogging. I bought and read "He Died with a Falafel in his Hand", which was rather amusing. We flew from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur on leg one (not one leg). As we flew into KL at around midnight the air hosts walked through the plane spraying it with some kind of aerosol. When they'd walked past us and we'd had time to start wondering if this was some evil plot to kill us or put us all into slavery, the Captain came on the PA to tell us that Malaysian regulations are that they spray everyone to kill bugs. They said "It's non-toxic, but we recommend you cover your mouth and nose till the spray disappears." Which was a little disconcerting seeing as they had already walked past us. Oh well, we might die. No worries.

In KL we wandered around their shiny airport looking for free internet but all of the computers were broken or had long queues. The whole airport was deserted except for the free internet, so I didn't get to blog there. I was finding it a little difficult to get my head around the idea that I was in a different country. I'm still struggling.

Seeing as there was no internet we went to the toilet, the next best novelty, and hopped back on the plane.

After flying through the night again, sleeping badly, getting caressed by the elbow of an old Austrian man, and only getting up once because I was scared of him, we arrived in Vienna at 6am Vienna time, 2pm Sydney time. And I've blogged that experience.

We headed off to catch our plane to St Petersburg, but it got delayed. Finally after falling asleep on uncomfortable, green, metal chairs it was time to board. We handed in all the neccisary stuff and hopped in a bus, stood around a bit then were told to get off the bus because the plane needed new tires so we'd have to wait a bit. That was sad but I thought the idea of the plane getting a flat tire and all these men getting out plane jacks to fix it was funny, so I think that held me over till we got on the plane.

I don't really remember the flight cause I slept the whole time, except to eat my beef thing. And I am very glad I woke up for the beef.

We arrived in St Petersburg and the first thing I noticed flying in was that everything is rather old looking. The runway at the airport isn't all that flash, and they have lots of dinky old buses and cars driving around. Pulling into the airport looked just like I would have expected a Soviet airport in the movies to look like. Except it was missing men in fur hats and nuclear missiles dotted around the field pointed at Washington and Hollywood. The customs officers look like Societ Army officers so that made me feel pretty happy. And scared. Handing in my passport for them to check my visa was the scariest thing I had done in at least 24 hours. But the customs chick was so bored I reckon I could have handed in anything and she wouldn't have cared.

We were picked up by Valentina (Step-Grandmother) and a diver (I don't remember his name but he had a mustache so if you're ever here, look for him) and we hopped in the car and started off towards the city on the wrong side of the road. It was wierd. I kept getting worried people were going to have head on collisions.

Driving through St Petersburg was great. There are so many impressive buildings that you can't help but be impressed (obviously). But then you realise that the impressive buildings seem to mostly fit in about two distinct categories, palaces built by crazy Tzars, and big, imposing buildings built by crazy Stalin. And that's about it. Every impressive building starts to look the same, and then you start craving a building built by a crazy captitalist or something. But there aren't many about.

The other thing that's interesting is that everyone here lives in appartments. And none of the appartment buildings here look to be in good shape at all. Even the nice looking ones look dingy when you get up close. And the dingy looking ones from far off just live up to and exceed your expectations. And there are huge slabs of town full of these unit buildings that look exactly the same. Of course I hear that's what they did in communist times. You thought all the units in Chatswood look the same, what till you get here. Meriton has nothing on those enterprising Soviets.

Valentina took us to a block of units somewhere in somewhere, and brought us to meet her parents and son and daughter. We're staying here with them in their tiny appartment. They've given Jo and I the one bedroom and they're all sleeping elsewhere, lounge room, bathroom, I think Oleg (Son of Valentina, my step-uncle) might be sleeping in the oven.

They're lovely people. They don't speak much English, so they may not be lovely at all, but their body language and hospitality suggests otherwise. I like them.

At dinner I had Cognac cause I figure that's what one does in Russia. One of the guys in the youth group told me to drink Cognac when I was in Russia, so I did it for him. He also told me to drink it while sitting in a club dressed a black suit and pretending to be a hitman. I didn't get quite that far but small steps...

Now I should be sleeping. I hear the sun never goes down here in summer. So I guess after the longest night of my life, I'm about to have an even longer day. Yeehaa. It's 10:20pm and the sun is showing no signs of going down. How fun. I should move here and have barbies at 2am. That'd be fun.