Russia and German Christmas Markets

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Seaboard92

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Planning

If the last trip didn’t seam planed to you then this one really lacks planning. The only thing I wanted to do was visit Виктория in St Petersburg and she wanted me to visit her. She misses me tremendously when I am gone. So I’m November I moved my days so I could get the last weekend off. All she can ever really get off is a weekend which takes four days for me. Two to fly, and two to visit.

So the planning involved me looking at which flights had the best load factors that I could potentially get a seat on. I had thanksgiving off which corresponds well with the desire to go for the weekend as I can leave on Thursday. Unfortunately the direct flight from Charlotte to London wasn’t running on it. So I had to miss thanksgiving. So then I looked at all the various options. I could fly from ORD, DFW, MIA, or JFK.

The flight from JFK when I reserved it had three flagship first and twenty flagship business and very few non revenue passengers. So I chose that one. Then to get there I chose the morning one so I could have the highest priority on the standby list figuring there would be some D1Ts with early flights. There ended up not being any other D1s so I could have opted not to. The reason I chose to fly on AA there is so I can get a bed at least going.

As far as what to do I basically left that up to Виктория her city, I figure she knows best. Besides she’s fairly opinionated so it’s better to just roll with the flow.

Day Zero: Packing

Well I don’t generally ever unpack from work and I decided to use the work suitcase because it has good wheels. I put off packing most of the day because I bought the Lego Seinfeld set a few days prior and I wanted to build it before I got home and the bigger Assembly Square arrived. And my family opted to send her quite a few gifts as well so it took a bit of time to Tetris it into my bag. Then I went to sleep.

Day 1: Connecting in New York

I opted to take the early flight because I wanted to have the highest priority to score the last flagship first seat. So I had my dad drive me to the airport at 330 In the morning to avoid having to park my car, and so he could get it fixed. A few weeks ago a semi truck backed into me when he got tired of waiting on a train. So I have to get some more damage to my car fixed as a result.

I checked in for my flight at the airport because on international flights they have to check the documents and in this case Covid tests. Then I used KCM for security so I could get to the gate faster. I could use KCM as my flight to NY was to Newark so it wasn’t considered international.

My friend Troya was my flight attendant on my short flight to Charlotte. I already knew this the day before so I bought a dozen doughnuts for the whole crew. We talked in the terminal for a minute and then I got on the CRJ900 for Charlotte. There was some confusion about the count which caused us to be a little late departing. And the flight attendant in first class didn’t even attempt to do a drink service. I’ve worked this flight a lot and I never miss a service.

We got to Charlotte in the usual E concourse and I had an hour to go to B. Surprisingly HMS Host had their stuff together. He chick fil a was open at our early hour for the first time in months. And for the first time ever they had a cashier on each register and were moderately friendly. I say moderately because it’s still far below what a real Chick Fil A’s standards are. But I managed to get a biscuit that I ate on the plane. I then walked to Gate B15 and got my boarding pass for first class.

The plane next to us was one of the RetroJets which I photographed while I ate my breakfast. This flight was smooth and uneventful. The only complaint was Charlotte didn’t cater well so we had no apple juice or Sprite Zero. That is just like Charlotte catering though. It’s worse in the regional side though usually. I spotted one NJT train from the air as we were landing. We had a long time waiting for a ramp crew to come because it doesn’t matter where you are we have a lack of ramp crew or gate agents.

Eventually we were able to get off the plane and I was able to get off relatively fast to go to the city. My initial plan was to go to the Macy’s parade but my friend Alexander invited me to ride the Harlem Line with him. I took the air train to the train station and just missed the first of two commuter trains. I grabbed the second one and had a lovely conversation with the trainman for a few moments. It was a short ride over to the city. When I emerged from Penn Station it was sheer pandemonium.

It took me about five minutes to decide this wasn’t worth it. All of the streets were blocked with large garbage trucks preventing the view of anything but the balloons. And I’ve never cared for the Ballons. So I texted Alexander and told him I would join him. I had 25 minutes to get from the area near Penn Station to Grand Central. It was cutting it close but I managed to make the train and I only had to run over 40 peoples toes with my suitcase.

I met Alexander on the platform and we went for the vestibule a bit further down and boarded with one minute remaining. Then once we got past Harlem 125th St I booked him a non rev ticket to Miami on my benefits and he gave me a great tour of the Harlem Line. Seeing he grew up on the Harlem Line he knows it really well. He only went as far as Southeast because that is close to where his family lives. I then transferred to the three car shuttle train to Wassaic.

This part of the line is much more rural than the southern end. The southern end feels kinda like an interurban because of how close the stations are to each other. At the north end i had about thirty minutes til the train went back which I spent talking with the engineer before departing. Honestly I wasn’t really impressed with the scenery. I changed trains again at southeast and returned to the city. The only big piece of scenery is the graveyard which has its own station stop.

I arrived back at grand central and thought maybe I would look for my favorite restaurant in grand central. But it appears Tri-Tip has not survived the pandemic. So I took the 4 train downtown towards Brooklyn. Then I struggled hauling my suitcases out of a non assessable station so I could go to Juniors my favorite New York diner.

I didn’t expect it to be as busy as it was being a holiday but the restaurant was packed. I was in and out fairly fast though because as I was sitting down I realized how close I was to Atlantic Terminal so I wanted to take that instead of my original plan of the subway to the airport. At Juniors i had a Burger and it was good. Then I was off to Atlantic terminal via a CVS. I went to buy something and I left empty handed because I was a bit embarrassed to ask an employee for.

I then grabbed the Long Island Railroad and walked as far up on the platform as the train was open because I know less people will chose to board the further up the platform. I had to use the bathroom after the conductor lifted my ticket in the next car over. He didn’t seam to have a problem with me changing cars in motion to do that. It felt great at speed because it was a cab car to a cab car so it was wide open between them. I was then at Jamaica within about fifteen minutes. I heard a diesel when I got off so I crossed thru an American Elektrichka so I could see the diesel commuter train.

Then I went up to the AirTrain and took it to terminal 1. Why didn’t I take it all the way to terminal 8 I had a feeling I would get there faster if I switched to the local terminal only train that takes the wye because I was a bit short on time. I was correct and beat my other train by five minutes. Then I checked my bag and then went thru normal security. It wasn’t that bad but at 7 PM with very few flights to go out what do you expect. I went to my gate and gave a small thanksgiving gift to the gate agent before they started assigning seats.

Now it wasn’t because I wanted the last seat in Flagship First but because I see how poorly our gate agents are treated and I figured I could at least make work on the holiday at least somewhat enjoyable. I did end up getting a Flagship Business seat though. The Last one before premium economy but it didn’t matter to me. What mattered was having a bed for the night. We boarded late because the cleaners took a long time to clean the plane.

Then I went to my seat and wished my neighbor happy thanksgiving. His response was “we should never have let you keep your country” this was a British man still bitter over the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. I pretty much Ignored him the rest of the flight. My FA came by and grabbed my order. Once in the air about an hour into the flight he brought my Horseradish Beef Short Rib as I watched “Free Guy” for the second time in my life. I rewatched it because I really liked that movie the first time I watched it. I then had a vanilla sundae afterwards for dessert and finished the movie. Then I made my bed and went to bed.

I tried to wear my headphones which muffle noise to go to sleep so I wouldn’t here the Grouch snoring nearby. Then I went to sleep.
 

Seaboard92

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Joined
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A southbound Regional at Newark Airport

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Downtown New York

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The Metro North Harlem Line at Southeast

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Grand Central Terminal

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The Harlem Line at milepost 82

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The Long Island Railroad
 

Seaboard92

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Day 2: All Day in Transit.

I woke up sometime close to landing and didn’t eat breakfast at all because I woke up too late. I had a tighter connection than I wanted in London especially because as a non rev they wouldn’t check my bags thru to St Petersburg. So I made sure to be one of the first off the plane and into the customs basement which requires going up and down a few times. I again had to take the Heathrow Express one stop which wasn’t as timely this time and I made it to the Finn Air counter right as they were closing up.

They checked my bag thru to St Petersburg and told me to hurry they security. British security is again very strict and despite carrying very little I still ended up getting a secondary bag search. Once clear of that I walked thru the massive duty free ship that is Heathrow. It’s never ending it seams. Then I looked at my gate and found it. I was going to stop to get a Fanta from the machine but he gate information board said my flight was about to close so I opted not to. Then I went and got on my Finn Air A320 for Helsinki.

This flight was full this time but I did manage to sleep most of this flight which made it much more pleasant. On the way off I was talking to the flight attendant and I was surprised to learn they will hire a flight attendant if they don’t speak Finnish. Which is rather strange but rather nice. I will definitely be applying. It’s funny I’ve only done the russia connection once in Helsinki but I felt so confident it would be the same as it was the last time I started heading to the same gate as last time because my boarding pass had gate 51 listed.

For some reason I checked the monitor to see they had moved my flight. I didn’t think of anything till at the window I saw a mainline aircraft and not a ATR-72 or a bus. Instead we would take an A319. This has to be one of the shortest A319 flights I’ve ever been on. We took off and then we landed. I got off the plane and handed the person at the door my locator form and proceeded to customs.

Customs was significantly faster here and then I went out to baggage claim. Russia is different the Nothing to Declare Line has to use a bag x ray machine. They then asked me not about the bottle of Everclear but about the Statue of Liberty in my bag. Then I changed over some money at the exchange in the airport and Виктория sent me a taxi to my hotel. Traffic was really bad and it took about an hour to get to the hotel using the ring expressway.

I checked into my hotel and then I changed clothes and repacked my carry on bag to just be carrying all of my gifts for Виктория before taking off for her apartment a block away. To go there I prefer walking along the pond instead of the street. I think it’s better lit and it’s enjoyable. Even after dark on a cold day there are still families using the playgrounds that populate the trail around the pond behind the apartment blocks. It only took me ten minutes to reach her house and she was ready much faster for me to come in so less time waiting in the cold.

I then took off my shoes, washed my hands and the next thirty minutes were spent gift giving as I pulled the items out of my bag to give her one at a time. Once my turn giving gifts was over it was time for it to go on the other side. Her mother painted a picture for me and each member of my family and then I received several other small items. After that it was time for dinner I thought we would go out to a restaurant nearby but instead we just had dinner in her apartment. I must be seen as family because now I’m asked to do dishes too.

After dinner we streamed the new James Bond movie which I may have fallen asleep during the movie a bit but it was so nice relaxing with her again. Life is perfect with her around. I left the apartment for the hotel at midnight. Again I don’t feel any danger at all when I’m walking around Russia after dark. It honestly feels a lot safer than the United States. Then we made our plans for the next day.

Day 3: St Petersburg

I slept significantly later than I wanted to but I was also really tired the day before. I walked over to her apartment at ten AM which was still earlier than she would be ready. So I detoured via the bridge over the rail yards to look at the steam engines. I know they were using them the night before but every time I’m up on the bridge they don’t use them. She then sent me out to get an item for her from the supermarket which was somewhat embarrassing. But I was smart enough to get chocolate with it.

Then we had breakfast in her apartment before she took me off to get a haircut. Then she left while I got my haircut to go buy computer parts for her sisters computer. One thing about Виктория is that she will do just about anything to take care of her family and her loved ones. She will do anything. So after my haircut I was given instructions to get us a dinner reservation at her favorite Italian restaurant. I didn’t think it would be that difficult to get one seeing it was in a largely residential neighborhood far off the metro.

Well that turned out to be the wrong opinion so I had to come up with a backup plan so I walked over to her second favorite place Las Torres to get a reservation. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a view of the stage but I could get partial view so I grabbed that. Then I went looking for lunch somewhere and ended up going back to the Burger King mostly for potato wedges. Then I ended up walking again past Vitbesky Terminal which was not my plan. I like to walk on a different route every time I go somewhere so I can see something new.

Well eventually I turned to go on a new to me route because I wanted to look at the Gostiny Dvor because I wanted to use a restroom figuring there would be one there. It is a beautiful mall with some interesting stores but a very confusing layout. Eventually I found the restroom which was down a dark staircase in the basement. Probably the poorest maintained anything I’ve seen in Russia. For such a posh place somewhat surprising.

After that I decided I wanted to go down to the winter palace so I started walking that way. I detoured via the Resurrection Church on the way. Then she texted me to say meet her at the shopping mall in a few minutes so I hopped on the metro to go one stop just to make sure I would be on time. Being on time for her is important to me. So I went and waited exactly where I was supposed to and then she took me shopping. I think her plan is to slowly change my wardrobe one item at a time which is ok with me. She puts a lot of time and effort into making me look better. And it is something I appreciate majorly.

After buying me a new pair of pants it was time to go to dinner. We had a 7:30 reservation and we had a great time as always. We always sit on the same side of the table wherever we are because that’s just our thing. We had a great partial view of the band who was significantly better than the last one. We also had view of one television that was playing a constant loop of travel videos of Spain. I probably had the same thing for dinner as I had the last time because I don’t mess with perfection.

We had such a great time we didn’t leave the restaurant till well after ten having also had dessert. When I am with Виктория I do not think of the bill at all. I just think of what a great time I am having with her. While we were there I was making jokes about some of the people I know in the railroad world. Namely one that goes anywhere with live music or dancing and live streams it with the crappiest video handling techniques. After dinner we went back to her apartment for a bit before I went to my hotel for the last night there. The Next day we would go to Zelenogorsk for a few nights.
 

Seaboard92

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A switch engine building a train in the yard next to her apartment.

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An Elektrichka headed out from the city.

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The St. Petersburg Metro

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Moskovsky Station

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The Nevsky District

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Another part that is more residential than touristy.

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A bit more run down but still charming.

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Welcome to the more local neighborhoods

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I don't remember which church this is.

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Vitbesky Station with services to Belarus
 

Seaboard92

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Gostiny Dvor a very famous shopping mall in the city.

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A tram and the Vorontsov Palace home to a famous military school that I was told our children one day in the future will attend.

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Nevesky Prospekt

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Looking back towards Gostinny Dvor the small building behind the tower

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The Church of the Resurrection

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Dinner at Las Tores

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Las Torress live band

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The two of us on the Nevesky Prospekt
 

Seaboard92

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Day 4: One quick train ride.

I managed to wake up earlier and I overnight it had snowed a lot. Then I checked out of my hotel and walked along the shores of the pond to her apartment. Then once I dropped my luggage off I ran over to the florist to get her mother flowers for Russian Mothers Day. After that I made a lightening dash for the Vitbesky station because there was a steam departure at 1145. I even conquered my fear of the escalators and ran down the one at our metro station. And then up the one on the other end. I missed the train by a minute. I was a bit angry but this is life.

I then returned to the apartment and moved everything I needed for our two nights away into her mushroom backpack. Russians go hunting mushrooms in the forest in the early and mid fall and this is the backpack she uses for that. Then it was time for us to go downtown. Her friend Jura would drive us to the station and to lunch as well as her mother to work. I honestly don’t like Jura that much despite him always being helpful. I would have preferred to take the metro which would have been faster because driving takes forever.

But we also had to get my pants she had altered from the tailor. Виктория then took me to get winter shoes seeing she knows I’m coming once a month and I need them. Then we had lunch at a Greek restaurant which was ok. It would have been better without Jura but that’s normal. After lunch we went to Finlandsky Vokzal to get our Lastochka to Zelenogorsk. I paid for our tickets and then she took me outside to where the I V Lenin steam engine is on display before we then boarded our train.

We both have the same mindset that the further forward in the consist you go the more likely the cars are to be empty as people don’t want to walk as far. Once we were settled the train departed. She jokingly didn’t let me take any train photos I let her have the window seat so it made it difficult anyway. It was only a 29 minute ride with one intermediate stop. Riding the rails with my hand over her shoulder there is nothing better than that in my opinion.

We then got off the train in Zelenogorsk and I was able to get a photo of the train pulling out for Vyborg. We then left the station and went under the overpass on the main avenue Lenina. We stopped for a minute to photograph the Victory mural commentating the Russian victory in World War II. Then we stopped at each of the unique sculptures that are in this town for photos. The first one we came up to was a ferry tale style carriage which looked pretty in the partial snow.

Then we past a building under construction that according to Google street view has been that way since May of 2019 so apparently construction stalls in Russia too. The Next statue we came up on is the Grandmother’s Chair. After that we walked by the Dachsund statue which everyone poses by sitting on it. Then we walked past the statue to bread. Zelenogorsk has a lot of really interesting little statues scattered around the town.

The bread statue is directly in front of our Airbnb so we walked around the building where the doors to the apartments are located and met our host Natalia. Once we got settled in we had a chance to spend some quality time together that has proven impossible in St. Petersburg. Before dinner we watched two episodes of Seinfeld the Subway because I thought she could relate, and the Soup ****. She loves Seinfeld. Then we walked to dinner at the Tratoria. On our walk down Kavaleriyskaya Ulitsa we were the only people walking down the street.

She was a bit unnerved by it but it didn’t bother me. The Restaurant which appears to be upper class was completely devoid of people the entire time we were there. So of course I made the joke that I rented the whole restaurant. It’s definitely a bit surreal to have an entire restaurant to yourself. But Zelenogorsk is more of a summer destination not a winter one. Then she wanted to walk up a different street back that might have more people so we walked back to Prospekt ( Avenue) Lenina. On the way back to the hotel we passed a beautiful church.

Then we started watching an Agatha Christy movie on Netflix. I was content to watch more Seinfeld. But she wanted to watch this and I know the magic words. Yes Dear. I’ll be honest I had trouble focusing though. We then went to bed together for the first time together which was lovely.
 

Seaboard92

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Nevesky Prospekt in a light snow

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Lenin's Steam Locomotive

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Elektrichka at Finnlandsky Station

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The Lastochka at Zelenogorsk

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The Chariot of Zelenogorsk

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My girlfriend on the Dachshund Statue
 

Seaboard92

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Day 5: Zelenogorsk

We woke up just as the sun was rising which is like at nine AM at the moment and we just sat and bonded. Then she sent me downstairs to the pharmacy to buy what I didn’t buy in New York which was a bit more embarrassing then New York would have been. Then I went back upstairs and we got dressed for a day out in Zelenogorsk. Then we crossed road to the Lutheran church which was built in the early part of the 20th Century. Then we walked thru the garden of the Khram Kazanskoy Which is a large Orthodox Church.

The garden is set up in a lovely way with the various fairy tales represented and it’s a nice little walk. Then we went inside the church and again I just follow her lead. If she starts doing a Trinity then I will do one. We bought some candles to light for our loved ones and wandered around this massive church. After that we walked over to the Park of Culture. There are a lot of parks around Russia called Park of Culture it is a Soviet era relic. But it really isn’t a relic because the park is kept up and feels well loved.

We passed a statue on the way in to a Soviet actor. Then we passed several other statues including one made of artificial grass of a woman which looked really unique. In the middle of the path is a sculpture of soldiers shoes to remind you of those who gave it all with compass directions pointing to major cities. Then we walked all the way on to the beach of the Gulf of Finland (Baltic Sea) definitely in the top ten list of most cold places I’ve ever been. It would be a great place to visit in the summer but I doubt the water would be much warmer.

After reaching there it was time to find lunch the first place we tried was closed and we walked along the wharf for a minute. We then went to Pizza More which in Russian More means Sea/coast. So not the English word. We had a lovely romantic lunch in this quaint little Italian eatery. I don’t know what I was expecting but it beat my expectations. I love my time with her because we can bond and it strengthens our relationship.

After leaving the restaurant we walked by the attractions (rides) in the park before walking by some of the outdoors displays at the retro car museum which is an AN-2 Biplane. After that we walked up to the bakery by our apartment to get dessert. We glanced at the butcher shop to see if we would cook dinner or not. Nothing appealed to us and we retired back to our apartment. After awhile we watched the first two episodes of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. One of my favorite shows. I think she enjoyed it despite their English being a bit fast. I put the subtitles on but for some reason they were white on a mostly white background.

After that we walked to dinner to Polis a restaurant by the train station with a vintage Moskovich out front. While we were inside our apartment the snow kicked it into high gear. The city was actively trying to remove the snow but at the rate it was coming proves to be a futile task. It was a cold walk down to the restaurant. Again we were the only people in the restaurant and we had a great table with a view of the railway. However I was trying to prove to her I can pay more attention to her than to the railway.

I mostly succeeded however six passenger trains and about a dozen freights passed in our time there. Not that I was counting. She had fish which came out significantly sooner than mine but was undercooked so she sent it back. Then they brought my dumplings out which were significantly bigger than I expected and oh so good. Then after our meal which I don’t think either of us were pleased with we went back to our apartment. We finished our movie we started the night before. Within about a few minutes I knew exactly who the murderer was.

She didn’t believe me but low and behold I was right. It was so easy because the murderer had a motive, and was always putting herself in the investigation. Which is always a tell. We then went to bed after the movie which was fine by me because I was really tired. I still saw the text from my mother at two am though with my 3,000 dollar CN bill for moving the railcar I was forced out of.
 

Seaboard92

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A Zelenogorsk building from the Soviet Era

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The Zelenogorsk Lutheran Church

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The Zelenogorsk Orthodox Church how beautiful

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The shoes and compass

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The Gulf of Finland. Yes that is snow

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Me and my beautiful girlfriend.

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An AN-2 Plane

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My beautiful girlfriend on the bench of love.

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The Playgrounds they build in Russia are far better than what I've ever gotten in the USA.
 

Seaboard92

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Day 6: Last Full Day in Russia.

Our landlord was coming at eleven for checkout so we cleaned up and were ready to leave by that time. The Next train was a 12:04 Lastochka (High speed commuter train) back to the city. We checked out of our apartment and then went to the train station where she bought our tickets and then we had a small breakfast in the station cafe before going over to our train. I got a few photos of the train in the snow before it set off.

Unlike our trip to Zelenogorsk this train made all the local stops roughly one every few minutes and took a full hour to reach the city. Again it was a winter wonderland everywhere. I had to get a Covid test to enter the USA in two days so she took me to an Invitro fertilization clinic that also does Covid tests to get my test. I bought it and they gave us a kit with instructions to bring it back. Seeing there was no where there we could do it we had to result to the next best thing. We crossed the street to the Burger King and did it in their restroom.

Now I don’t know about you but I can’t physically shove it up my nose. So Виктория administered my test in the Burger King bathroom. If that isn’t love then I don’t know what love is. You must find someone willing to do something as disgusting as a Covid test in the most disgusting of places. So we then turned my test over to the invitro people and took the metro back to Ploschad Vosstania to get lunch at her favorite restaurant Baklazhan which is a restaurant focusing on the Caucasus and Uzbekistan food.

It’s strange because it shares its dining room with another restaurant of the same Ginza Project group but both have different doors. We had a lovely table with a view out over the square which was a winter wonderland. I had my normal meal there but this time I did not get the Pineapple juice because for some reason I didn’t want to pay for 5 dollar juice. The good was excellent as always and then we went to get eclairs from a place that was recommended to her. So we trudged across the ice and snow to reach the place. Then we trudged back to the metro to return to her apartment.

Walking back to her apartment I heard a steam whistle from one of the steam engines and I wanted to go see but I still had responsibilities. We had to go get some groceries first, then go pick up her packages before going to the hotel. Then I had to repack my bags with the new gifts she gave me. Then she wanted to take a shower before dinner with her mother. So she told me to go look at the trains. I got to the bridge when she texted me about a problem with a friend so I offered to come back and did come back.

But by the time I reached her apartment my phone has went from 40 percent power to no power because it was cold. So I had to warm my phone up by placing it in my inner most clothing against my body to get enough life to tell her I was there. I didn’t know if her mother was awake so I didn’t use the call button I figured I could wait till someone went in or out and follow in. So in the meantime I built a snowman which became a snow dog because it wasn’t good snow for it.

She was not pleased at me for it and somehow we ended up arguing the entire night about something. No idea what we argued about. And I still haven’t the faintest idea a week later. I do know that because of this argument we missed dinner though. Eventually we went to bed together angry at each other over nothing.
 

Seaboard92

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The two of us on the Bench of Love in Zelenogorsk

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The two of us in a bad snow in Zelenogorsk

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Lastochka at Zelenogorsk

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Two Lastochka's at Finnlandsky

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The area around Finnlandsky

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By the Moskovsky Station

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A long distance train passing the yards

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The steam locomotives relaxing for the night.
 

Seaboard92

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Day 7: Germany is magical

I woke up and had to go get cab fare so I left the apartment around 630 am to get cash, and I also stopped to get flowers because I didn’t want her to be angry at me. Then I left the apartment around two hours before my flight which was a bit of a mistake as there was horrible traffic. I got to the airport fifteen minutes before check in closed. And in true St Petersburg fashion I got the run around. It wouldn’t be a Russian airport without that. Somehow I got my boarding pass and went thru the slowest security and customs I’ve seen in awhile to reach my flight.

Today I would take Aeroflot to Düsseldorf. Why Düsseldorf when the only nonstop flights AA offers are Frankfurt, Paris, and London to return home. Mostly because it was an easy flight I could make from Frankfurt that was reasonably cheap. Düsseldorf because there was a nonstop at a convenient time. I slept for a bit after takeoff. I charged my phone on the flight as I didn’t the night before and it was nearly dead. On this short two hour hop Aeroflot serves a full hot breakfast on board of pancakes. They were really good. And you don’t see any mainline us carrier doing hot meals on a two hour flight.

We landed on time and I cleared the first Covid checkpoint. Then I had an hour wait for customs. I remember when LH used to brag about how you could do a thirty minute connection here. Well not anymore. I waited in customs and figured out what my plan was. Then I grabbed my bag after clearing customs right before they took it to the baggage office and took the suspended railway to the train station. From there I bought a ticket to Rüdesheim am Rhein figuring I could explore the cute little town.

I then caught an RE bound for Koblenz that was ten minutes late. I honestly don’t find the Rhine-Ruhr Metroplex that scenic so I mostly researched what to do in Rüdesheim. We made our stop in Köln still ten minutes late. We lost serious time out of there though near the freight yard. At that point I realized there were no luggage lockers at the station I was going to and the thought of lugging my bags on cobblestones all afternoon wasn’t appealing. So I decided to go to Mainz instead.

I detrained at Bonn and got on an hour late Inter-City for Mainz. The Train was supposed to continue onto somewhere in southwest Germany but they had announced they were going to annul it at Stuttgart. Eventually the train arrived and I went as far down the platform as I could go and I found an empty second class car. So I took a seat on the river side. Before the train got to the Rhine Valley I paid a visit to the diner to get a dessert.

When I used to go to Europe all the time they used to have a great chocolate cake. Unfortunately they don’t serve those anymore. But I did manage to get French fries. Now they weren’t the style of the Russian Railway ones which were home made but instead microwave. They weren’t bad for microwave fries but they weren’t particularly write home about.

Then I settled into my chair for the ride down the Rhine. I had both my long range lens and my wide angle ready for the various castles on the route. It was a scenic but short ride then I arrived in Mainz. I needed exact change which I didn’t have for the locker. So I went to an ATM got twenty Euros which I then had to break by buying a drink and a few other small things. that allowed me to store my bags. Then I walked into town.

Just the First steps were magical as I left the station into the small Christmas market outside the station. Words really can’t describe the feeling of joy and elation that I was experiencing at that very moment. Eventually I turned towards the pedestrian streets and I did my favorite hobby when I’m in Germany. And that is getting lost. I stumbled my way into the main Christmas market but before exploring it I opted to explore another side street that had several half timber houses.

Something most people don’t know about me is that I absolutely love half timber houses. To me I find them incredibly beautiful. Then I went into the Christmas market and it was literally like being in heaven. I honestly wanted to cry especially when my favorite Christmas song came on as well. Leise Reise der schnee. I did an entire video tour of the market for Виктория as I figured she would be interested. I bought a few things at one of the stands and then went back to the train station.

My idea was instead of going to my hotel I would go to the main station store my bag then go to the Frankfurt Christmas market. So I caught a thirty minute late regional express to Frankfurt. Stored my bag again I needed change so I got an order of French fries at a vendor to get change. Then I took the S Bahn into the city getting off in the middle of the city. I went to my family’s favorite restaurant in the city Cafe Hauptwache for dinner where I sat outside. After Russian winter nothing else really compares.

I had my schnitzel and I was absolutely happy. Then I walked over to the Christmas market which is in the Römerberg which is the only restored part of historic Frankfurt. During World War II both the British and the Americans completely leveled the city in the final stretch of the war which destroyed the historic core of the city. Frankfurt had a choice like many German cities to either build back the old or build back modern.

With the nickname MainHatten talking about the skyscrapers you can see they went modern. But they did rebuild this one small square back in the old style of the city. The Christmas market is pretty but I much preferred the one in Mainz because it felt much more German to be honest. The one in Frankfurt receives a lot of tourists partially due to the airport and because everyone knows the city. If given the choice Mainz is the one to go to.

After exploring for awhile I went back to my hotel by the airport and took the s Bahn. The hotel offers a shuttle to the airport but its five euros and the s Bahn is 1 Euro.
 

Seaboard92

Engineer
Joined
Dec 31, 2014
Messages
4,665
Location
South Carolina
DB-1.jpg
ICE I passing Dusseldorf

DB-2.jpg
The Koln Dom

DB-3.jpg
An Inter City arriving at Bonn

Rhine-1.jpg
Along the Rhine from the West Rhine Line

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A church from the West Rhine Line

Rhine-3.jpg
One of many castles from the West Rhine Line

Rhine-4.jpg
A train on the east Rhine Line

Rhine-5.jpg
A village on the other bank

Mainz-1.jpg
Mainz street Railways

Mainz-2.jpg
Downtown Mainz
 

Seaboard92

Engineer
Joined
Dec 31, 2014
Messages
4,665
Location
South Carolina
Mainz-3.jpg
Mainz City Hall

Mainz-4.jpg
Downtown Mainz

Mainz-5.jpg
The Main Christmas Market in Mainz

Mainz-6.jpg
A streetscape in Mainz

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Downtown Mainz

Mainz-8.jpg
The Christmas Market in Mainz

Mainz-9.jpg
The Mainz Hauptbahnhof

FRA-1.jpg
My favorite restaurant in Frankfurt

FRA-2.jpg
The Christmas market in MainHattan

FRA-3.jpg
The Christmas Market in the Romerburg
 

Seaboard92

Engineer
Joined
Dec 31, 2014
Messages
4,665
Location
South Carolina
Day 8: Flying home via Dallas

I woke up early the next morning and went to the airport to check in for my flight. Which wasn’t complicated at all and then I cleared customs and security. Then I waited with the other non revs outside of the gate area for a boarding pass. I received a great bulkhead seat against the window which has great privacy. But before it was time to board I had a lot of time to watch planes taking off and landing on the nearby runway and I saw several B747s of various types come in for a landing.

Frankfurt has amazing variety of you are into airplane liveries. It may be Lufthansa’s main hub but you see a little bit of everything coming in. I watched a British Airways A380-800 land and taxi to the gate next to us. Then all too soon it was time to board. Truthfully I could stand at that window for hours watching planes. We took off more or less on time and started across the Atlantic. I started by watching Anchorman but to be honest I think I lost some brain cells on that one.

I had the Beef Brisket for lunch while watching that movie. I then watched the entire Hunger Games series for the remainder of the flight. I saw it with my ex a long time ago and I wanted to look at this dystopian future to look at the political statements the movie made. Plus it made for very interesting entertainment for something like eight hours. I missed the last twenty minutes of the movie because we landed in Dallas.

Then I got off the plane and went thru customs. I was really quite surprised they didn’t even look at my passport much less stamp it at the border control in the dfw airport. Then it was time to grab my bag from baggage claim and send it on down to the recheck to Columbia. I then decided why wait in dfw and pay airport prices for a meal when I could leave the airport and get something better close by. And explore somewhere.

So after I rechecked my bag I used KCM to enter the airport so I could take the train to the other terminal and I got on TexRail for Grapevine. I thought about going further to see Fort Worth & Western yard but I decided food was more important. So I went the two stops on Tex rail and I could spend about three hours in Grapevine. I was looking for the Historic Railway and I ended up in the process befriending the women who works in the station building owned by the chamber of commerce.

Neither of us knew if the train was out on the road or not but we had a great discussion she was so nice. And her assistant is a russian Manor so we were able to talk in Russian which was again very nice. After a bit I walked over to Whataburger to try out something I’ve never had before. It wasn’t too far away and it was unique for me. So I went over there and had a burger. Again everyone in this town is super super nice. Tonight was the day of the big Christmas parade so as I walked down Main Street people were gearing up to watch the parade.

It was really fun to watch the motorcycle cop getting the crowd ready and pumped up. It was a beautiful night and unlike Russia very warm. Eventually I decided I wanted to try and photograph TexRail with the lights of the parade so I took a few photos of an eastbound and westbound. And I watched the parade with my friends from the visitors center. Then it was time to catch my train so I went back out to the platform and caught it two stops back. Then I went thru security and was at my gate in a few minutes.

Then I boarded an Envoy Air E175 for the final trip to Columbia. I honestly can’t write anything about the flight because I went to sleep before take off and woke up after landing. Then my dad picked me up and I went home for a night.

After thoughts

I really enjoy my time in Russia I’m not going to lie. Виктория is a real sweetheart even though I left on bad terms after an argument. Zelenogorsk is a fantastic seaside town and I like the way we are structuring my trips now with a little couples getaway in the middle. I also think the little parade in Grapevine Texas is far superior to that of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Sure one is famous and big. But the one in Grapevine has heart and soul which is something I think the New York parade lacks
 

Willbridge

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
1,778
Location
Denver
A switch engine building a train in the yard next to her apartment.


An Elektrichka headed out from the city.


The St. Petersburg Metro


Moskovsky Station


The Nevsky District

View attachment 26798
Another part that is more residential than touristy.

A bit more run down but still charming.

welcome to the more local neighborhoods


I don't remember which church this is.


Vitbesky Station with services to Belarus
Enjoyed the photos. It looks like the photo above the caption "less touristy" shows a radio-controlled frog on the trolley coach overhead. That's a good sign of progressive thinking. I may have missed them but didn't see any in Moscow or Tomsk in 2010.
 

Willbridge

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
1,778
Location
Denver
Day 7: Germany is magical

I woke up and had to go get cab fare so I left the apartment around 630 am to get cash, and I also stopped to get flowers because I didn’t want her to be angry at me. Then I left the apartment around two hours before my flight which was a bit of a mistake as there was horrible traffic. I got to the airport fifteen minutes before check in closed. And in true St Petersburg fashion I got the run around. It wouldn’t be a Russian airport without that. Somehow I got my boarding pass and went thru the slowest security and customs I’ve seen in awhile to reach my flight.

Today I would take Aeroflot to Düsseldorf. Why Düsseldorf when the only nonstop flights AA offers are Frankfurt, Paris, and London to return home. Mostly because it was an easy flight I could make from Frankfurt that was reasonably cheap. Düsseldorf because there was a nonstop at a convenient time. I slept for a bit after takeoff. I charged my phone on the flight as I didn’t the night before and it was nearly dead. On this short two hour hop Aeroflot serves a full hot breakfast on board of pancakes. They were really good. And you don’t see any mainline us carrier doing hot meals on a two hour flight.

We landed on time and I cleared the first Covid checkpoint. Then I had an hour wait for customs. I remember when LH used to brag about how you could do a thirty minute connection here. Well not anymore. I waited in customs and figured out what my plan was. Then I grabbed my bag after clearing customs right before they took it to the baggage office and took the suspended railway to the train station. From there I bought a ticket to Rüdesheim am Rhein figuring I could explore the cute little town.

I then caught an RE bound for Koblenz that was ten minutes late. I honestly don’t find the Rhine-Ruhr Metroplex that scenic so I mostly researched what to do in Rüdesheim. We made our stop in Köln still ten minutes late. We lost serious time out of there though near the freight yard. At that point I realized there were no luggage lockers at the station I was going to and the thought of lugging my bags on cobblestones all afternoon wasn’t appealing. So I decided to go to Mainz instead.

I detrained at Bonn and got on an hour late Inter-City for Mainz. The Train was supposed to continue onto somewhere in southwest Germany but they had announced they were going to annul it at Stuttgart. Eventually the train arrived and I went as far down the platform as I could go and I found an empty second class car. So I took a seat on the river side. Before the train got to the Rhine Valley I paid a visit to the diner to get a dessert.

When I used to go to Europe all the time they used to have a great chocolate cake. Unfortunately they don’t serve those anymore. But I did manage to get French fries. Now they weren’t the style of the Russian Railway ones which were home made but instead microwave. They weren’t bad for microwave fries but they weren’t particularly write home about.

Then I settled into my chair for the ride down the Rhine. I had both my long range lens and my wide angle ready for the various castles on the route. It was a scenic but short ride then I arrived in Mainz. I needed exact change which I didn’t have for the locker. So I went to an ATM got twenty Euros which I then had to break by buying a drink and a few other small things. that allowed me to store my bags. Then I walked into town.

Just the First steps were magical as I left the station into the small Christmas market outside the station. Words really can’t describe the feeling of joy and elation that I was experiencing at that very moment. Eventually I turned towards the pedestrian streets and I did my favorite hobby when I’m in Germany. And that is getting lost. I stumbled my way into the main Christmas market but before exploring it I opted to explore another side street that had several half timber houses.

Something most people don’t know about me is that I absolutely love half timber houses. To me I find them incredibly beautiful. Then I went into the Christmas market and it was literally like being in heaven. I honestly wanted to cry especially when my favorite Christmas song came on as well. Leise Reise der schnee. I did an entire video tour of the market for Виктория as I figured she would be interested. I bought a few things at one of the stands and then went back to the train station.

My idea was instead of going to my hotel I would go to the main station store my bag then go to the Frankfurt Christmas market. So I caught a thirty minute late regional express to Frankfurt. Stored my bag again I needed change so I got an order of French fries at a vendor to get change. Then I took the S Bahn into the city getting off in the middle of the city. I went to my family’s favorite restaurant in the city Cafe Hauptwache for dinner where I sat outside. After Russian winter nothing else really compares.

I had my schnitzel and I was absolutely happy. Then I walked over to the Christmas market which is in the Römerberg which is the only restored part of historic Frankfurt. During World War II both the British and the Americans completely leveled the city in the final stretch of the war which destroyed the historic core of the city. Frankfurt had a choice like many German cities to either build back the old or build back modern.

With the nickname MainHatten talking about the skyscrapers you can see they went modern. But they did rebuild this one small square back in the old style of the city. The Christmas market is pretty but I much preferred the one in Mainz because it felt much more German to be honest. The one in Frankfurt receives a lot of tourists partially due to the airport and because everyone knows the city. If given the choice Mainz is the one to go to.

After exploring for awhile I went back to my hotel by the airport and took the s Bahn. The hotel offers a shuttle to the airport but its five euros and the s Bahn is 1 Euro.
I second the motion regarding Mainz. No complaints from people who I have sent there.
 
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