I have met nothing but the nicest people here in St. Petersburg – friendly, super helpful – glad to have tourists and willing to put up with our occasional oops.
I think the folks that have to deal with the tourist mobs in the bigger museums must be saints. I’ve seen tourists doing some pretty rude things – and the folks who do the security, protect the art, sell the tickets, take the tickets – have never been anything other than polite and pleasant.
Granted genuine smiles are few and far between – clearly ear to ear grins are not natural to the Russian face – but I’ve been treated to a few – and they are better for their rarity.
People get up on the metro to offer us their seats – particularly the Intrepid Traveler – she hasn’t had to stand on a bus or metro since we got here. They carry our luggage up and down stairs – sometimes without even asking permission! They just grab and go. On the bus just now, this charming gentleman carried our bags off for us – then turned around to lend us a helping hand. I mean – this is above and beyond!
And there are tons of people who speak at least a smattering of English. We never lack for help – people on the bus will tell us where and when to get off once they realize what we are looking for, store clerks help us make the right change, even taxi drivers, once we’ve negociated the fare – are nothing but pleasant. One lady actually physically threw herself in our way to prevent us from getting off the bus at the wrong stop.
But all that didn’t protect me from becoming a target for a Russian Thug.
We’d tried to attend services at the Cathedral of Spilled Blood – which meant getting up at 6:00 AM – and while we were suitably dressed – we were still turned away. Services at the Spilled Blood are only for locals.
That put us up really early – and with no coffee. So we opt to walk down to Nevsky Prospect and find an open coffee shop. The CoffeeShop Company fit the bill. It was open, it had coffee, it had inside tables with a view to the street – and it had food.
What more can you ask?
We had gotten our coffee and were just relaxing and chatting when the Intrepid Traveler noticed that 2 ‘larger’ men had sat down directly behind me. I didn’t see them – but she noted that they were pretending to read an English language newspaper while looking hard at my back-pack and hat. Unfortunately, she didn’t say anything to me, although she did mention her concern to MP after I went to the bathroom.
But before that – We continued to chat, I paid our bill – and eventually I got up to go to the bathroom. It was occupied, so I stood and waited my chance. I think this is when he got into position – but I must admit to not being aware of him at all.
I entered the bathroom – but when I opened the door to exit – this man was directly in my way. It was a narrow hall – and he bumped into me hard. I promptly apologized and went back to our table, thinking nothing of the encounter. Since the bill had already been paid, we just gathered our belongings and left.
When we got back to the Hostel about 20 minutes later, I realized my little brown wallet was missing. I assumed that I had dropped it at the restuarant – although I couldn’t imagine how. I ran back to the restaurant – but no good – no wallet.
The Intrepid Traveler and I saw MP off on the metro (she’s heading back home) – and I immediately called my credit card company. I told them to stop both my credit card and my access card – if only they had listened!
The bum had already used my credit card (good news – after $40 the bank had gotten suspicious and shut it down), and then used my access card. The bank was slower on this, the TD representative had blocked my 2 credit cards – leaving the access card open. So the Rotten Bum managed to pull out some funds before they stopped that as well.
Most annoying – in the wallet was my student card and drivers license. It could have been much worse of course – those were the only 2 id’s in the wallet – but still – now I have to replace them – and I have a yucky feeling about St. Petersburg.
I doubt I could have prevented him from taking the wallet – they are fast, with quick fingers – and I’m not really very defensive. IT and I have talked about it – and aside from her thinking they were odd – we had little warning.
Oh well – live and learn. I’ll have to deal with the driver’s license when I get back to Montreal – and I’ll have to let the banks do their thing about the fraud.
Never mind – The Intrepid Traveler and I continued with our plans for the day – laundry and blogging. She even got a nap. A nice dinner at home with a bottle of Pinot Noir from Moldova and early to bed.
Tomorrow will be a better day.
Signing off – The Soup Lady and the Intrepid Traveler