November 5th, 2009

c is for cat

Just Wow

The events of the past two days have been embarrassing and heartbreaking--but also humbling and heart-lifting.

You guys are amazing. The power of the internet for good is astonishing. I had no idea I knew so many people in Germany.

A hundred times thank you for all your support, for rozk 's Facebook group, for valya_dl 's superpowered ability to get us a night in this hotel for free, for the Fairyland donations and calls to Expedia. Apparently at some point Expedia stopped needing to be told what the situation was as practically the entire company has heard about it from all of you.

Can you even imagine that? That as a group, in the middle of the night, you can make such a difference.

The update is this: with a little luck, we will be on a plane this afternoon. We have visas and unless something goes really wrong, we'll still have a few days in Russia. (Communal activity for the somewhat ironic win.)

Expedia, to their absolute credit, emailed us this morning and admitted whole heartedly that their agent was at fault. They'll be refunding our trip and offered us a credit toward future travel. That's more than we ever expected, and they really did go out of their way to make it right. I want to especially thank the employee (who asked to remain anonymous) who due to her own honeymoon experiences took a personal interest and made this happen. 

Seriously, you should all be proud of yourselves--your collective power is amazing. And your collective kindness towards us. Let this, certainly, be a lesson to all, especially us, not to believe someone just because they are a human being and work for travel specialists. We've had an object lesson and won't forget it--I hope this helps others not to make the same mistake.

Hopefully, all benevolent gods of travel willing, we'll be gawking at cupolas come evening. And holding all of you close in our hearts, our tribe, who never lets us stay in the dark for long.
c is for cat

Back in the USSR

Who's in Saint Petersburg?

WE ARE, BABY!

Everything went smoothly, we got our luggage, are ensconced in our hotel, not even three blocks from the street where I put Marya Morevna's house in Deathless.

We are gonna make these next days count.

So many, many thanks to all of you. See icon like whoa.

Also, apparently it's something of a tourist activity to look for long lines akin to the Soviet days. The guidebook says where to find them. I find this bizarre and hilarious.

  • Current Mood
    accomplished accomplished
thrice nine

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Well, that's it. One night in St. Petersburg and I'm a little in love.

Trying to squeeze the most out of our reduced time here, we immediately set off walking through the city, stopping to eat pelmeni and my first borscht, as well as coffee and rum and hot wine as the cold got to us. It's only about 30 degrees here tonight, but it goes right through you.

The night was bookended by babushki--grandmas. At the pelmennaya, this amazing old woman sat at her table, right out of every Russian movie you ever saw, with her scarf and all, slurping borscht with almost violent gusto. She then wiped her mouth on both her sleeves and heaved a huge bag over her shoulder before stomping out of the place.

At the last place we went to, a club that has a "Back to the USSR" 80s night on Sunday that WE WILL SO BE GOING TO, another old woman got up and started bumping and grinding on the dancefloor to a techno remix of One Night In Bangkok. Just wow. (Also I note that about half the restaurants in our guide go something like "amazing shashlik, dumplings, fish, great atmosphere, and oh by the way topless waitresses, just saying.")

So we walked over to Gorokhovaya Street, which is where I put my heroine's house in Deathless. I chose the street more or less at random, because I liked the sound, but it turned out to be a fabulous choice, as it's an iconic St. Petersburg street, with beautiful residential buildings, in addition to meaning "pea," and thus connected to "the days of Tsar Gorokh," which is a way of saying "back in the day." So we walked along it, looking at houses that might have been Marya Morevna's, peering through the dark at long, silent, cold canals, and I spent a lot of time reading cyrillic at the approximate speed of a toddler.

The thing is, this city feels so familiar. Part Paris, part freezing version of Rome--and I've been trying to imagine it for so long for the book, that now that I'm here, it all looks so much like I thought it would, and I have such good associations with Russian food, Russian language, even Russian faces. Everyone here has their Very Severe Face on, which is what I normally look like, except that everyone thinks I'm angry if I'm not smiling. But here, I blend! Sort of. Once we were out of the airport, the immediate switch to English upon seeing my face wasn't so bad. And justbeast gets that too, from time to time.

But I love it and we've only seen a slice of it, in the dark. The seaweed coming up out of the black canal, the color of sour cream floating in borscht, the occasional hammer and sickle still topping iron fences, this odd palimpsest of old and new city. I can't wait to see it in the light.