Russian to Cross the Road

April 12, 2008 -

John Heald

Two days ago I spent an hour in a small Russian plane that had spent the last few years flying sheep from one side of Cuba to the other………..it stank of sheep and if it hadn’t been for Anna Kornikova serving me Dietov Cokeov it would have been even scarier than it was. Also that day I had been driven around Estonia by Boris the Formula One bus driver and was inches away from a mad Estonian when he fired a musket inches from my head as you saw in the photo.

I have been scared before in my life…………… Like during the Carnival Destiny inaugural when I performed my first ever live TV interview where on CNN I was asked about the Gym equipment………..that’s as scary as it gets when on live TV someone asks you a question about something you know nothing about. As fear takes over you have two choices, one to look down at your shows and mumble like a school boy in front of the teacher “I don’t know” or waffle on and make a load of stuff up…………….having to waffle on live TV was very scary indeed.

However, all these incidents were eclipsed by what happened this morning…………………………it was…………………………..crossing the road in St. Petersburg. Today, we saw some more stunning sights but at this moment in time I remember none of them

The street I was crossing was called Nevsky Avenue or something. It is the widest road in St.Petersburg and is at the heart of the shopping and restaurant district. We had been given an hour between touring to walk around a bit and as I did I saw a cigar shop on the other side of the street…………at least it looked like a cigar shop as it was 500 meters away. Anyway, there I was standing on the sidewalk, not a care in the world besides my sprained ankle and chapped thigh…………….I was looking forward to buying myself a cigar for after the performance of Swan Lake tonight which we will chat about later.

As I stood on this beautiful and finally sunny Saturday I did realize that it was a busy day as the Russians shopped and minced around as we all do at the weekend…I looked up and there was the little green man telling me it was safe for me and the other pedestrians to cross the road and off I set.

I guess the first warning should have been the fact that as I sauntered with a slight limp across the road the Russians were all doing their Olympic Sprinter impression as they passed me at speed………..I just put it down to that there may have been a sale on at J.C.Pennyov …..However I suddenly realized that they were sprinting for a very good reason.

To my horror just as I reached the middle of this extremely wide road the little green friendly man that had beaconed me across with welcome loving arms suddenly turned into a red axe-wielding devil with his middle finger stuck firmly in the air…………………..and that was me ………………stuck in the middle of the longest, widest road in St.Petersburg.

Now, all the Russians I have met so far have been wonderful cuddly folks but as I stood there in the street these cuddly creatures had gotten behind the wheel and turned into tourist-hating zombies who wanted to use me as a crash test dummy.

I don’t know wither to stop still and not move or to keep going and as my buttocks clenched tighter than a Scotsman’s wallet……………I forgot about the pain in my ankle and I ran………….and yes I did run this time across the road.

My sprint was met with a chorus of horn blowing from Sergei and his friends and one chap driving a big Jeep Cherokee decided he would get his car as close to me as possible and while he inched towards me and broke at the last minute he opened his window and shouted something which probably wasn’t “Have a nice day and welcome to Russia”……………..I made it to the other side and as my feet hit the safety of the pavement I was treated to more horn blowing and a few hand gestures which needed no translation and probably like the drivers name ended in “Ov ….or Off in English”………………so I did…………….and ignoring the cigar shop I headed straight for a shop that sold underwear.

Here is another wonderful report from Bubba.

Alaska Fam 2008 – The beginning of the end…Ketchikan Day 2
Well I guess the tourism board of Ketchikan could hear me typing last night because they made me eat my words today. Around 7am, the skies open up, the sun came out and it didn’t rain the whole day. They must have put in a good word with the weather spirits to get such a great day. As when you get close to end of a lesson in school, the fam trips end the same way, they start to cram in as much stuff as they can as the clock is about to expire. We covered more ground today than what I think we covered the entire trip…gotta get it all in before heading back to San Diego.

Up early as usual, and this time the hotel we are staying in is fantastic. It’s called the Cape Fox Lodge and it is owned by the local native Alaskans. It is a wonderful hotel. Located right on top of a hill over looking the Ketchikan harbor. Absolutely beautiful.

So we jump on a bus, head down to the boat and hop on yet another Allen Marine Boat. They are also located in Ketchikan with the amazing tour boats. They took us out on part of one their tours called the Best of Ketchikan – By Land & Sea. Part of this trip you get to explore an old historic cannery where you will learn what it was like during the hey day of the fishing market in this town. All though the building is old, you can still get a feel for what things would have been like many years ago.


Makes me glad I am not a Salmon.

Then after we were off to one of the highlights of the stop in Ketchikan. The Saxmon Native Village. This is an actual city in Ketchikan comprise of the Tlingit tribe. At this stop we learned about their culture and most importantly their collection of totem poles. There are different types of totem poles, but most tell a story. We got to hear our guides tell us about the different poles that were around the village and what each of the poles meant.

Also at the Saxmon Village you can actually witness one of the master Totem Carvers doing their thing. It was interesting talking with this guy, because every question we asked, he seemed to not answer our question. But yet, you felt as if he did. It was strange. But it was amazing seeing him use the different tools on how they create these poles. Many of the poles in the park date back almost 100 years to the village of Cape Fox. This town has the largest collection of totem poles in one location.

But the lessons did not end their, also at the village we got to go inside a Tlingit Klan House. Inside they performed a fantastic show filled with colorful costumes, songs and dance.


The native culture is so fascinating and Ketchikan is probably one of the best ports to learn. Not only is there the Saxmon Villange, but there are several other locations like Totem Bite, & Potlach Park. All of which have many totem poles & clan houses. With the Natives there are two main families, the eagles & the ravens. Eagles can marry Ravens, Ravens can marry eagles, but an eagle cannot marry an eagle & so on. Then there are sub groups of the families like the bear, beaver & frog. It is wonderful to get a chance to speak with them about their beliefs and listen to their stories.

Next we were off for some adventure. Some goofing around more like. We got to take a ride on the Adventure Carts which is a tour that takes you through some of the old logging roads on the island. It was some fast paced fun. James being from England, kept driving on the wrong side of the trail.

Go speed racer, Go!

Then we headed over to check out some of the water adventures. Took a look at the kayak set up…little too chilly to try them out now, but will give it a go when we get back up here in a few weeks.


Now if you want a short tour of town, you may want to check out “THE DUCK.” It gives you a quick tour around the city and the harbor…by land and by sea.


How cool is this, part boat, party truck. The tour is only 90 minutes and give you some lighthearted history of the town of Ketchikan. WARNING: it’s loaded with REALLY, REALLY, corny jokes. But if you like that kind of thing, you will LOVE the duck. I thought it was pretty interesting to see how the truck works. My grandfather actually drove a duck during WWII and it was cool to see what type of vehicle he was driving all those years ago.

The day is not over yet! It’s like they are trying to cram it all in before we go….Next we headed over to another tour operator who runs the Misty Fjords Floatplane Sight Seeing and this time, we actually got to fly. In fact we were the first flight into the Misty for the year.


So cool I got to sit next to the pilot!


During the season these lakes are not frozen over.


Every gets a window seat you can see it all. The flight was amazing, but the best part of this tour is that when they get into the Misty, they will find a remote area to land the plane and you can get out on the float if you want to.

Just make sure you don’t slip and fall in!!!!!!


The views are incredible……

So we are almost done for this day…..our last stop was visiting the folks at the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show. If you are a fan of the Great Outdoors Games on ESPN you’ll want to check this out. This show is run on it’s own or in conjunction with other sites, but it will show you many different events that lumberjacks compete it. You’ll be cheering for your favorite as the chop, saw, crank, roll, climb & even carve these huge logs.

The show was great, then afterwards we went to one of the local hangs with the lumberjacks and then the details of the rest of the night get a little fuzzy, but one thing I do remember the jacks taught me during the evening is an unofficial Alaska greeting…Welcome to Alaska, where the men are men, and so are the women. The current male to female population up here is about 4 men to 1. and with that note, I am gonna “cut” outta here. Got another busy day tomorrow.

Chris

Well, as I wasn’t killed by Sergei in his Jeep I was allowed to visit more wonderful places. The highlight today was The Church on the Savior of Spilled Blood. This amazing Russian Orthodox Cathedral which is now a museum is the only example of architecture that you would probably describe as typically Russian you will find in St. Petersburg. By this I mean those onion-shaped towers you will see at the Kremlin can also be found here. The Church of Resurrection (Savoir on Spilled Blood) was built as a historical and memorial center of all Russian people. The Cathedral was built in the memory of Emperor Alexander II, and his reforms, and served a symbol of repentance of the Russian people.

The inside is impressive but for me the outside was breathtaking and that is why all of our tours stop for photo sessions here. This is also the place where we came across our first group of street sellers which you will find outside any major attraction in Europe. They are selling everything from the Russian fur hats, the Russian dolls and of courses a wide range of trinkets. What I found most interesting was that many are still selling articles left over from the old Communist days. I was offered old coins with Lenin and Stalin engraved on them as well as old military uniform hats and even a knife which the guy selling it told me it had been used by him during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan………………..he wanted $100 for it…………….I nearly bought it………….not because I need a knife……………although I am going to Los Angeles next week (kidding)…….but because this man who was obviously an ex soldier was selling his knife, his hat and a box of medals……………..maybe he was a scam artist and he had bought these objects on Eov Bayov………….but his eyes showed me a desperate man who was having to sell what he could to survive……………I didn’t buy the knife…………but I did give him $20 ………………….he tried to give me one of his medals from a tin box but I declined………..patted his arm and said thank you in Russian…………………I know……………..he is probably driving a Mercedes and hangs out with Gregori Hamiltonov ……………but it was his eyes………..I hope I am right and I hope my $20 helped.

We also visited the place where Russia’s greatest love machine (as stated in the Abba Song) Rasputin was finally poisoned, shot and buried under the ice. That was an amazing story and in one of the photos you will see below they have re – enacted this moment.

Off to the Ballet – back soon

It’s now very late here and I just got back from having a look at one of our incredible night time tours at the stunning National Theatre. ……………….Swan Lake performed by the National Ballet Company. I have to be honest, I have only been to one performance before and that was many years ago just to impress a girl named Sarah. We went to London to see The Nutcracker which turned out to be quite appropriate as she was.

After that I have to also admit that my opinion of ballet was a bunch of very thin women tip toeing around while the men put on tights, stuffed a couple of ping balls down them and went and did a pleaay or one of those minching dance moves………………………..I always wondered why my mate Alan loved the ballet so much.

However, tonight, after watching the ballet I have a new found admiration for these amazing athletes and watching a ballet in a gorgeous historic theatre in the home country of the music’s composer was simply brilliant……………if you are sailing on the Carnival Splendor do not miss this night excursion……………………..oh, one more thing. Obviously ping pong is not popular in Russia but tennis is!!!

So, it’s been quite a day and once again I will leave you with some photos. Tomorrow evening we fly to Berlin where Heidi will meet me and I will be happy once again. We are flying Lufthansa tomorrow which will mean the plane will have hair under the wings……………….but I don’t care………………..after the experience of crossing the road I would rather walk round the streets of Alabama holding a large sign that says “Country Music is Crap ” on one side and “I want some Man Love” on the other……………….then ever cross a road in St.Petersburg again.

Model of Rasputin clutching his chest after being poisoned

Church of the Savior of Spilled Blood

Church of the Savior of Spilled Blood

Church of the Savior of Spilled Blood

Russian dolls

Tomorrow’s blog will probably be a series from the raspberry as I am flying again…………..hope that’s OK.

Dosvadania (Goodnight)

Your Friends
John and Heidi

Hi, I’m John, and this is my blog. So please don’t mistake my opinions — or those of my dear friends, fans or commenters — for those of Carnival Cruise Line or Carnival Corporation. My apologies in advance for anything I may say that upsets you, but this disclaimer covers Carnival and puts the blame directly on me………….. bugger.