Shopping and Sightseeing

I love the Russian phone system! After buying phones and SIM cards, we finally got our phones activated. Then we had to go and put money on them. There are numerous little kiosk-esque stations where you walk up and touch the screen to indicate your provider, then put in your phone number and put money into the machine. No more high phone bills! You just pay as you go. It’s great! Plus you punch in a code on your phone to check how much credit you have left. And incoming calls are free! Super, no?

On the other hand the ATMs here don’t always seem to want to accept our credit/debit cards. One of my friends and I ran around everywhere before finally stopping at the Pribaltiyskaya hotel and using the ATM there. As we walked in I felt happy that we spoke English as the security there looked pretty intimidating. We seemed to blend in though and could have easily been mistaken for tourists staying at the hotel so we didn’t have any problems. It’s good because I’m sure we’ll be coming back often…it’s the only place so far that takes her card.

Then we went to Kazan Cathedral. It’s incredibly beautiful inside. We covered our heads with a scarf before entering which was also a new experience for me. Then went shopping at Riv Gosh (рив гош), the incredible cosmetics and perfume store! Also stopped at a second hand store but was shocked at how expensive it was. Second hand usually means cheap, not sure what it means here but it was really pricy. Then we stopped for sushi and bought ice cream. The ice cream here is so delicious and there is a huge variety…flavours and combinations that I never knew existed or never would have dreamed to put together. It’s all delicious though.

After that we stopped by the Church of the Savior on Blood (Храм Спаса на Крови). This is the first and only church I’ve seen so far that has the colourful onion domes. The first day we drove through the city and I saw it, I said to myself, “Now I know I’m in Russia.” It’s like a mini St. Basil’s Cathedral. Yes, I know, the architecture isn’t classically Russian but it’s what most people associate with Russia. So beautiful up close.

Near the church there is an outdoor souvenir shop. They have a lot of interesting things but as you walk through you begin to see that many of the shops have similar items. After speaking with a few of the sellers it was easy to catch on to their bargaining tactics. They all seem to know English quite well and are excellent salespeople.

We finished the day by drinking wine on the beach in front of our dorm. I’m still not used to the alcohol policy here and seeing people drinking in public or walking down the street with a beer in hand.

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