(Note: no time to edit, forgive typos and gibberish)
For some reason, when I asked for paper, my friend’s father gave me this pad and wrote “can write!” at the top of it. I’m not sure what he meant by that. He also insisted, once I explained that I was writing a story about my trip (the best I could do- blog is just too much to try and explain in simple words and sign-language), that I take a second pad of paper as well. So I think he gets the gist of why I need paper. I still don’t understand what he meant by “can write!”. Yet it is pertinent. Although I cannot get to the web at will, I can, in fact, write.
So, day one in St. Petersburg. First I tracked down the Go To Russia office, the local branch of what I know as Dimitri in Atlanta, my game ticket connection. I picked up my tickets after an interminable walk off the beaten-by-tourists path. I was early. Apparently they did not expect my until noon. I don’t know why. Also, to get in to their building, I had to go through security. The security guys didn’t speak English, but they asked for my passport. That made me nervous. I had not been able to “register” in Moscow because I arrived on a Friday and left on a Tuesday, and people only get registered on weekdays. Then it takes 2 more days, so… I was still not registered. This was the other reason I needed to find Go To Russia.
Not sure why security wanted my passport, I help it out for them to see. One fellow studied it and wrote a bunch of stuff on a slip of paper. While he wrote I heard him say something about “America.” The other guy repeated “America?” and looked at me. I nodded and said “America.” They seemed surprised. “Off the beaten path I am, ” I thought.
When he had finished writing, the first guy took hold of my passport. I resisted a strong impulse to hang on to it. He put the slip of paper inside it and said a bunch of stuff while patting the passport. “Oh god,” I thought, “he wants to keep it.” When he handed it back to me I was able to pay attention as he explained something about an aquarium and the fourth floor.
The Russian word for four is almost the same as the Czech word for four, an almost unpronounceable “chvertec” or something. I recognize it by my inability to pronounce it.
Anyway, I found a stairway near an aquarium with turtles in it and made my way to the fourth floor. Finding the office locked, I dialed the phone number I had on my Moscow cell phone. I got a “no such number” message in Russian and English. I tried some other combinations of numbers, using suggestions from the Frommer’s book and eventually got through. I would have to wait for about 30 minutes. To have that ticket in hand I would wait all day. In my heart I had already risked imprisonment by handing my unregistered passport over to a guy in a uniform.
Ticket in hand and registration under way, I went to find SKA’s Ice Palace. These places can be hard to find. For some reason, I have a piece of paper with a map showing the Ice Palace, and on the map there is an address and a metro station name. I have no idea where this paper came from, but I decided to trust it at least on day one.
Exiting the designated metro station, I saw familiar ugly soviet style housing, enormous, characterless apartment blocks. I thought “yep, this is just what I would expect from a district that 1) is shown on no map in my Frommer’s book, and 2) the site of a big new stadium.” Still, where to start? I could not see any street signs.
I walked a little this way, and a little that way, and was forced to stop as a flock of pigeons took flight straight at me. I shut my eyes and turned slightly to the left until they passed. When I opened my eyes again, I saw this (forgive the file size, no photoshop at the internet cafe):
I was sure that was just too easy to be the answer. I stared suspiciously at it for a little bit, then wandered over to a sandwich kiosk. A man was ordering a sandwich. I planned to ask the women inside where the Ledovy Dvorets was. You can ask that by just saying “Ledovy Dvorets?” and raising your hands in supplication. But the women were busy with the sandwich making.
I broke down and asked the man who had ordered the sandwich. “Ledovy Dvorets?” He nodded his head across the street and said “da.” Before I could check myself I lapsed into Czech and said “tam?” while pointing at the to-easy-to-find-to-be-what-I-wanted goliath structure. He repeated “da.”
“Excellent…dek… spaciba,” I stammered. (“dekuyu vam” being Czech for thank you very much).
Luckily, a lot of Czech words can be understood by Russians, even more useful words than “pivo” (beer). “Gde,” which is part of “where is,” I believe the “where” part. Also, “tam” means either “there” or “here.” In any case it indicates the desired thing when preceded by a “gde” inquiry.
One would think I’d have acquired a dictionary by now. Nah. You can get by with very few words if you are motivated enough.
Having no other pressing business, and partly not wanting to find the Amex office to inquire further about whirlwind Omsk travel, I decided to walk around the Ice Palace.
I found the dressing room entrance, subtly marked by a sign above the door that read “Dressing Rooms” in English. It faced a parking lot full of fancy cars (mercs, beemers, other high-end labels.) Among these cars was a lone Lada. It looked okay in this high-brow scene, clean and with nice lines. Near the dressing room doors was another entrance marked “skate.” Next to the door was a picture of an ice skate.
Short of going through one of these doors, I believe that I have verified to my satisfaction that ice skating and probably even hockey games go on in this building. According to the girl at Go To Russia, my ticket also says “Ledovy Dvorets,” and the Frommer’s book says that “big” hockey matches go on here as well. Satisfied, I took one last picture of something I do not understand:
As I said, I do not know what this means.
Mission accomplished, I set out to find this internet cafe.
I hope that Nabby and/or Hasek show up tonight. This is technically St. Pete’s day two, and I wrote most of that yesterday, but… whatever. Game tonight, maybe I’ll see some sights tomorrow.
Oh, and regarding the Kazahk camel hair slippers- they really do cure sore feet and are not scratchy at all against your skin. This is good to know when you came loaded with cold meds but no aspirin or ibuprofen.