The Heart Of The Russian Language

30.06. – 07.07.2012 St. Petersburg – Helsinki
Skipper Peter and Isabelle

Crew: Christoph, René and Anthony

Everyone who has ever been on a cruise knows the importance of the mood on board to the pleasure of his crew. After we dumped our luggage on the boat, Christoph, René and I go shopping, while Anthony, together with Peter, our skipper, takes over the boat. Instead of a supermarket we found a small shop near the metro station of the Krestovsky Marina – oh dear, of course, customers do not serve themselves, and the people of St. Petersburg do
not all speak a foreign language …

The shop is small and divided in two, but with appropriate patience you can muster almost everything you need. The woman behind the counter has a friendly smile, luckily she speaks and understands English, we are most anxious to get the large bottles of mineral water. Then she hands us on to the next staff in the next room.

We need butter for breakfast. “What,” asks the seller. “Butter” we repeat. “Ah. Finnish or Russian?” No
idea, but if we are already in Russia …”Russian”, and she puts a bottle on the counter. “We need two” and stretch out on two fingers, so just one more thing. We need milk. “Which one? Finnish or Russian?”
Oh, yes, of course, then stop again Russian milk. “Russian milk no good, suomi milk better”, adds the seller. Then we’ll take Finnish milk. What is not good about the Russian milk? Does she want to treat as tourists and sell us the best products, or just raid our wallets? The Russian sausages, which we did in fact try later in a soup are, in fact, a little weird, with red plastic skins, and accordingly taste rather strange.

René is armed with a small Russian dictionary, and each time it is used, the phrasing doesn’t go quite right. We are looking for preserves and pickles, for sandwiches or cold cuts. René tried it with “огурец”. The seller shows the round the room and says “other side”, there among the fresh vegetables are cucumbers. We then show her on the shelf and say “no, this.” “Oh, маринованный огурчик”. Apparently we had used the wrong word, and let the matter rest.  Everyone seems to prefer  English. “Which one?” “The big jar, please”.

After water, yogurt, cheese, meats and salami, fruit cocktail stuff, vegetables, salad – only cucumbers and tomatoes – we get onto wine and beer. The beer is in the fridge. “Which kind?” Asks the friendly server who had greeted us at the beginning. We look at her blankly. “Russian or Finnish beer?” This time we do not give up and want Russian beer. “Bottle or can?” We have a discussion about whether bottles or cans are better onboard. “Cans, please”. The seller takes 6 different cans from the fridge and lined up on the counter. “Which
one?” No idea … one is dark beer and already ruled out. Since we will be way on the Baltic, we choose the brand BALTIKA.

“Anything else?” We still need paper towels, how do you say that well in English? In adversity, we just ask for toilet paper. “Which one? This one, this one or this one?” We take the toilet paper on the far right, which turns out later to be household paper …

A backpack, two paper bags and some cardboard boxes and our goods are transported by taxi to the marina. The trip should have cost 400 rubles, then the driver asked for 500 rubles for the distance that you can
cover in 10 minutes on foot. The next day, we pay 500 rubles for the taxi to us all the way from the marina to the Mariinsky Theatre in the centre of town!

Without muesli (there isn’t any in Russia) and jam (I forgot it) we are off at about 4 clock in the morning going towards Kronstadt and into the channel. 12 hours to Vyborg, our only other Russian port. The outbound
clearance the next day takes almost 2 hours to complete, the officials are friendly and conscientious, they come with his laptop on board, passports and visas are examined and checked, the boat’s papers too. It’s raining as we set out, the weather is improving gradually and after 7 hours we put in on Santio with sunshine, a small island with Finnish border post where we toast and are relieved that everything went well.

From now on, we enjoy the beautiful Finnish archipelago on the way back to Helsinki.

Reported by Isabelle

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