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A trip to Russia: Part 1

Breakfast at the Rachmaninov Hotel in St. Petersburg was sumptuous.

By Sheila Dugan
February 2, 2012

[Recently, Milanville, PA resident Sheila Dugan and Narrowsburg, NY resident Vera Williams took a trip to Russia. This week we print excerpts from Dugan’s extensive journal on the trip; next week we will print Williams’ account.]

Moscow, December 31, 2011

It is New Year’s Eve in Moscow. Yesterday, I gave Trevor some spending money for the party they are putting together tonight. Everyone here is celebrating, and they have been celebrating for days. Trevor and his friend Drusha (both sober, by the way) met Vera and me at the mall (what else), where we thought we would get some food, but the lines were unbelievable! All I wanted were some tangerines, so we may go back tomorrow before the partiers get up and try again.

We arrived at the hotel Thursday night around 9:45. Trevor was waiting for us, grinning. Thank God he was there, because he was able to translate for us. Nobody speaks English! We are learning Russian fast! We walked around for a while looking for some food and perhaps a bottle of vodka. A small kiosk that sold only beer and potato chips was open, but nothing else. Our hotel is about three quarters of a mile from the university, which is quite a ways out of the city. There are no deli-type stores around, no place to get snacks—nothing like that.

By now it was around 11 p.m. Russian time and Vera and I were getting hungry, so we braved a glitzy-looking, noisy restaurant next to the hotel and went in. A very young waiter named Kolya who could speak a little English was assigned to us.

We ordered meat pies and cabbage soup and vodka and tea. A fight broke out, and a young man was thrown to the ground near our table. A bouncer in an official-looking uniform came over and threw the perpetrator out. Friends helped the young man up and things began to quiet down. People began leaving and, aside from the extremely loud American and British music, the restaurant became bearable. Then it became more than bearable—it was charming! And they were charmed with us. As we got up to leave a young man took Vera’s hands and danced with her. Tired at last, we went upstairs and went to bed.

Moscow, Tuesday January 3, 2012

Zdrast vuytye! Woke Tuesday morning at 4 to the grating sound of snow plows plowing the snowflakes off the already plowed street. It was the first really cold, raw day, but we decided to set forth in hunt of a tourist kiosk or some place where an English-speaking person might give us a rundown on what concerts were playing and where.