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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Russia - St. Petersburg 7.1

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  • Gosti Restaurant
  • The Hermitage Museum
  • Kavkas Bar
  • Evening Cruise

Around 10 AM, we were woken up by a phone call from the front desk.  The hotel manager told us that our luggage had arrived at the LED airport, but the LED airport would not deliver the luggage to the hotel.  UGH!!!! With a sleepy voice, H was annoyed and demanded an explanation.  The manager told us that the airport personnel told them since the luggage was lost in Moscow, they needed the authorization from the Moscow to deliver the luggage.... blah blah blah, some more of the same non-sense. 

H kept on talking, "This does not make sense.... Why didn't the airline......." I jumped up from the bed and decided that I could not take another second of all these useless argument.  "Let's just go get the luggage! I have enough of this!"  I knew there was nothing the hotel staff could do. The whole conversation was nothing but aggravation.  We asked the hotel to call a cab, I got ready in the same clothes that I had been wearing for more than 36 hours, and went to the airport to get my luggage. 

It was already the second day in St. Petersburg and I had already spent enough time and energy on the whole luggage situation.  I was determined not to let the luggage waste more time and ruined my experience in Russia.  At least I found my luggage!  I could always deal with the travel insurance later when I got back to New York. 

2500 rubles of taxi fair and 2 hours later,  my luggage was in the hotel room and  I was in my fresh clothes putting the whole luggage episode behind us. 

"Let's go eat!" I was happy and hungry.  Gosti Restaurant caught my eyes yesterday when we were on our way to Gogol restaurant.   The place was warm and inviting that made me want to go just for the ambiance alone. 

With the server's help, we ordered: 
1. Cured cheese & Spinach boureck (My favorite!)
2. Olivier - Russian Salad with Roasted Prawns (Many Russian salads have mayo as dressing, which I was not a fan of.)
3. Cold Borsch (it was just okay)
4. Prawn & Pumpkin risotto (Not too crazy about the combination of prawn and pumpkin)

As I was writing, I realized that out of four dishes we ordered, I only liked the boureck. However, because the impeccable service, the ambiance, and perhaps just our low expectation of the Russian cuisine in general, we enjoyed the experience and came back a few more times during our stay in St. Petersburg. 

It was a cloudy day that looked like it would rain any minute, so it would be perfect to visit The Hermitage Museum.  We were happy to be spared of the long line for the ticket booth since we purchased our tickets online in advance and were able to head straight to the entrance. 

The museum is housed in the Winter Palace, which is as extravagant and dazzling as it can be.  Although we had the audio guide, it wasn't good at all.  A guided tour for the Hermitage is definitely worth considering.  Oh, and embrace the crowd, it simply can't be avoided. 

Three hours later, we got out of the museum.  The cloud had parted ways and the sun came out.   We walked over to the canal and booked the only English speaking midnight cruise, Anglotourismo, that the hotel concierge recommended.  (The tour does not accept reservations over the phone and it is cash only.)

For dinner, we decided to try Georgian cuisine and came to Kavkaz Bar, which is close by the boat tour.   The restaurant was away from the main street, so we had to ask around to locate it.   However, the effort was well worth it.  It was probably my favorite meal in Russia in terms of flavors. 

We ordered these dishes to share: 
1. Caucasian style goulash soup.  It was very different from the eastern European goulash with the flavor and seasoning.  I was never a big fan of goulash soup, but this goulash soup did not use the typical tomato base.  It totally won me over.  Hands down THE BEST!    
2. Khinkali. The Georgian meat dumplings.  They were similar to Tibetan momo dumplings.  
3. Kovurma-Lagman. Home made noodle stir-fried with meat, mutton, vegetables and spices.  Another dish that both H & I loved!  It was full of spices and so rich in flavor. 

It was interesting to see that everything was a la cart on the menu, down to sauce, bread, and butter.  Side dish was translated as "Garnish" in this part of the world.  We also  ordered some baked potato (yum) and Georgian bread (totally plain) as garnish.  

Georgian cuisine was quite a departure from the typical Russian food and I really liked it a lot.  It was a pity that this was the only time on this trip that we had Georgian cuisine. 

Coming out of the restaurant, it was around 10 PM.  The sky was still bright as if it was 3 o'clock in the afternoon.  We went back to the hotel for a quick nap before we came out again for the midnight cruise. 

At 12 midnight, the moon finally came out, and it was a full moon!.  This would be the only time we saw the moon on this trip.  Turns out, the English tour was really not necessary.  We barely could hear our tour guide and there was really nothing interesting to explain.  We also brought a bug spray, but didn't really see any mosquitoes around. 

It had became our travel ritual that if the city we visited offered a boat tour, we would definitely take it.  Although St. Petersburg skyline lacked the wow factor of skyscrapers, it was still beautiful.  The Neva river was packed with boats of all sizes and became quite a party scene with all the booze cruises and music blasting. 

The bridges opened at different times through out the night.  Our tour lasted about 1.5 hours and we saw two bridges opened.  By the time we got back to the hotel around 2 AM, our legs were aching from all the walking we did that day.  It was a great day.  I got my luggage back, and we had crossed two "Must Sees" from our itinerary. Very productive indeed. 


PREVIOUS: Russia - St. Petersburg 6.29 to 6.30

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