Adventure in St. Petersburg:
Alexei and Friends show 2005
Text © EMJO and Susanna
Photos © EMJO
Russia is only a little more than a stone throw away from Sweden, and Absolute Skating staff EMJO and Susanna recently packed their bags and went to St. Petersburg. They had a great time and wanted to share their experience. Since EMJO got there first, we let her start:
~ Thursday, Sept 29 ~
I had never been to St. Petersburg and chose to go a day early to look around. Well, one day didn't cut it, which I'll keep in mind for next time, because there will be a next time!
I needed a visa to enter Russia, but going through customs and security was no problems, not at all like in the US...
An overcharged half hour cab ride brought me to the hotel (this seems to be a world wide way to treat tourists!). I was in a state of panic since the Infinity ice opera was scheduled to start in just 2 hours, and I still had to find the arena and pick up my ticket. Luckily there was a metro right by the hotel. I found Prospekt Bolsjevikov on the map, but had no clue how to get there. Russians are friendly people, so just ask someone, right? A young man smiled and said "no English", but pointed towards an escalator, go down one level. Fine, one level it was, but it took me 2 minutes 40 seconds to get all the way down! Some level, no wonder many people chose to sit and rest on the way! I got on the train and the stations were announced so I even got off at the right place! Now please let the arena be nearby... it was, phew!
The lady at the ticket booth knew no English, but managed to produce my ticket anyway. She explained something to me, and I smiled and understood zilch, just like the Russians when I spoke English to them.
I walked around the building to find the entrance and ended up taking the long way around. Through the back door I saw the back of Alexei as he was being interviewed, but he didn't see me so I kept walking and eventually found the entrance. A security guard rummaged though my purse, but since I brought no gun or camera, he let me pass. Yes, it's true, photographer EMJO without her camera! For once I just wanted to watch and enjoy.
On the way to my seat I passed a girl selling Plushenko banners and flags. OK, nice, but why? He wasn't in the show!
My stomach was growling so I bought some snacks from the numerous vendors inside the arena. There were sandwiches, salads, hot dogs and drinks, with or without alcohol. What a nice switch from some arenas I've been too!
My seat was on the front row, close to the stage. I had sat down when the lady usher, who'd shown me the seat, suddenly came rushing. A stream of Russian words came out of her mouth, and every other sentence seemed to contain the words "no camera" and "no fotograferen". Oh dear, I must have ┬Ĺphotographer' written all over my face, but I didn't bring the camera!
Infinity was absolutely wonderful, and soon a longer review will appear on Absolute Skating.
It was raining when I left, but I walked passed the back entrance again. Singers and skaters were signing autographs. Fans yelled "Lyosha svedanja!" as Alexei pulled out in his Mercedes with dark windows, clearly signaling where he was going. Who said the guy was a reckless driver?
~ Friday ~
Susanna didn't arrive until that afternoon, so I had some time to look around. I enjoyed the spirit of the city so much and kept walking, taking it all in, until I suddenly realized I was lost! An older woman showed me to the beautiful Nevskij Prospekt, the main shopping street. (I usually ask older women because there's something about my devastated look that awakens their maternal instincts, and they always help!)
In spite of the fact that there are as many people in Peter as in half of Sweden, the people I saw seemed very relaxed. And I noticed that all Russian men have much better looking behinds than Swedish men. I really liked this city! I had sushi at a restaurant Susanna and I returned to another day. On the way back to the hotel I passed a floral shop with gorgeous roses. Flowers aren't just for women, and I bought some to give to Alexei from me, Susanna and Magdalena. He deserved them for always being so nice to us and granting us interviews a few times now.
Susanna: This was my third time in St. Petersburg. I just love it, much because of the buildings and the water. Since I live in Stockholm, I like cities surrounded by water. It's majestic somehow. When I arrived I decided to take the bus and metro from the airport to the hotel. Everything seemed to be going well, but after a while I had the feeing it was taking too long, and got off. Sure enough I had gone too far and had to back track to another station to get on the right train to the hotel. That was no problem since the metro runs on time and every three minutes. I love the Russian metro!
EMJO: Susanna was at the hotel and we went to see Infinity, again for me. No problems with the camera this time...
After the show we went to the "Sfinx", Anton Sikharulidze's restaurant, and had dinner. For skating fans visiting Peter, eating at the Sfinx is a must. It's a very nice, spacious place with good food and a relaxed atmosphere. The ventilation was impressively efficient too, which was a good thing considering how much the Russians smoke... They'd get along great with the Danes!
Susanna: We had already noted that a lot of people smoke in Peter, but at Anton's restaurant we couldn't smell it at all!
~ Saturday ~
EMJO: This became our shopping day, (I consider myself an experts on the subject) and Peter is the right place to be! But the city offers so much more than shopping! We were blown away by the architecture, and anywhere we went there were cultural experiences to be made. I would have wanted to go to the opera, the ballet and to numerous museums, there just wasn't time! But we did make time for a boat ride, which was lovely. Unfortunately the hour long tour was all in Russian only. Besides getting a view of the city, it seemed to be a lesson in Pushkin, pointing out where he and his family lived, worked, walked and talked. We understood no details, but his name came up all the time through out the ride.
Susanna: The culinary experience of the day was enjoyed at a sushi restaurant on the Nevskij. It was cozy and the food was very good, but didn't beat Halifax.
EMJO: We had a great day, but the Nevskij is something like 4,5 kilometers long, so no wonder our feet were had at the end of the day!
~ Sunday ~
We went to a cemetery to look at Dostojevskij's grave, and afterwards we had dinner. The soup was out of this world, no one makes soup like the Russians!
And then it was time for the Alexei and friends show!
Susanna: It was convenient to have the metro so close by, we could go straight from our hotel to the ice palace. With just three stations to go it was easy to find, although the entire population in Peter seemed to be heading the same way, the metro was VERY crowded! We arrived and headed straight for the reception. It was held at a restaurant with a great view and we had to come in through the staff entrance. A couple of security people were standing there with two pit bulls. OK, I love dogs, but just didn't feel like hugging theses two... I saw a guy with a TV camera on his shoulder, and tables with food and wine, both red and white, were set and waiting for us. There were about 50 people there. We were served champagne and I loved it. I actually don't even like champagne, but this was very good! The skaters arrived; Alexei, Anton & Elena, Peter T, Josef and later Oksana. Alexei gave a speech in Russian, as did Anton. I love the language, but I only understand about 5 words, and none of those words were used. Oh well. Fans had pictures taken with the skaters and left gifts for them. At one point Anton took pics of Alexei and his fans!
EMJO: Some fans received posters and looked very happy. We got none but weren't complaining. The food and drinks were excellent and so was the view; gorgeous Russian men...
Susanna: After the reception - show time! The arena was very nice and close to sold out. The Ledovy Ice palace was built for the 2000 hockey world championships, so it's a new and modern arena with comfortable seats (compared to other arenas I've been to...). And I'm always freezing, so I really appreciated that it was quite warm, it was nice indeed!
EMJO: From our seats on the second row, center ice, we had a good view of the famous people arriving. We were clueless as to half of them were, but people applauded as they arrived. We did see Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov, they sat down just two rows behind us! Alexei T watched Alexei Y very carefully during the aerial part of Passion.
Susanna: The whole event was spectacular and really earned the title "show". There were acrobats, gymnastic girls, team skaters and even some tiny ice hockey guys, not to mention the special effects.
EMJO: The setting was awesome and during some performances there were fires erupting in three different locations at the short end opposite the stage. Even where we sat could feel a little of the heat!
We will not even try to describe all of the 2 ┬Ż hour performances; we can only give you the highlights, and not always in the right order. We had plenty of opportunity to listen to the very beautiful language. There were no printed programs, but an announcer spoke and some parts could be guessed (at least the names).