On Thursday evening we enjoyed our farewell dinner at a Georgian style restaurant near our hotel. Georgian food is a fusion of Middle Eastern and Russian cuisine. The country of Georgia was once part of the Russian Federation and is located on the east side of the Black Sea, north of Turkey and south of Kahasakstan. Our distributor Zurab’s family were originally from Georgia.
Our flight on Friday from St Petersburg to Frankfurt, Germany was at 6:25 am. We were up and checked out of the Majestic Boutique Hotel Deluxe by 4:15 am. We had ordered a taxi the night before. We needed a taxi driver that accepted credit cards because we did not have any rubles. At 4:20 am no taxi had arrived. Kurt checked with the desk and even though we thought we had made prior arrangements no taxi had been ordered. The desk clerk called the Six Million taxi company. They said it would be 15 – 20 minutes until the taxi arrived. We decided to flag down a taxi to save time. A taxi stopped and in my best Russian I tried to confirm that the driver would accept a credit card payment. The hotel doorman wanders over and speaks to the driver in Russian. Our favorite doorman was a fellow we nicknamed Lurch (Adams Family reference). We asked him how tall he was. He replied “I am seven feet minus three inches.” He is 6’9″ tall and skinny as a rail. With the right beard he would make a perfect Abraham Lincoln. The driver seems agitated but finally opens his trunk for our luggage. At that moment the Six Million taxi arrives. We had not put any luggage in the first cab so we chased him away and took the second cab because we knew he would accept a credit card. The ride to the airport was quick and uneventful. The main thoroughfare is the St Petersburg Prospect (boulevard). It is straight as an arrow for 15 miles. When we arrived at the airport I handed the driver my Visa card. It did not work in his machine. I gave him my Amex card. That did not work. After several minutes of fumbling with his credit card machine I offer the driver a US twenty dollar bill. Deal!
For security purposes we had our luggage X-rayed before we could enter the airport. We checked in with Lufthansa to get our boarding passes. There were only two lanes open for immigration so we picked the one on the right with five people ahead of us. The other line also has five people in it. After about a minute a Lufthansa flight crew of six got in line ahead of us and everyone behind us in line bails out for the other line. You would think that clearing a flight crew would be fairly routine. It took several minutes for each flight attendant to clear immigration. Kurt and I headed over to other lines that had just opened up. No big deal. We still had plenty of time to clear security and get to the gate.
We boarded the plane and looked out the window at the sleet and the snow that was the start of the next blizzard and were happy to be headed home to a Chicago where the weather is still a balmy 60’s F.
A highlight of our trip was the Hermitage museum. The museum contains three million items on display. Our tour guide said if we wanted to spend three minutes looking at each item it would take 15 years. We had three hours to see what we could. Most of the items were collected by the Russian royal family over the centuries. Other items were confiscated from the aristocracy by the Bolsheviks before or after they killed them. We viewed paintings by Rembrandt and DaVinci among numerous others. Originally the style of painting was called dead nature but eventually was called still life. Some marketing person must have thought that through in the 1500’s.
The Hermitage Museum
Inside the winter palace in St Petersburg. Tom, Kurt, Zurab and John
A contemporary French artist Jan Fabre had a controversial exhibit. He uses beetles as his medium. The beetles are glued onto various shapes such as skulls. Dead animals are added for effect. He claims the animals are dead as the result of road kill and he never harmed an animal in the name of art.
He also creates artwork using only a Bic pen. Many, many Bic pens. He creates a subtle image within the Bic artwork that can only be seen at a certain angle.
When we arrived in Frankfort, Germany there was a Lufthansa gate agent holding a sign with the name Reed. Our company president Tom Reed is flying Lufthansa first class. The plane is parked on the tarmac and the hoards of passengers are being loaded onto buses. Mr. Reed is invited to ride to the terminal in a new Mercedes van. Of course he invites Kurt and me to accompany him in the Mercedes. I love international travel.
Tom had a 2.5 hour layover and Kurt and I have a four hour layover in the Lufthansa business class lounge. That might seem like a long time but the lounge has a full open bar, huge meal buffet, comfortable seating and lots of electrical outlets if you have the right adapters. Most countries have different shape plugs for electrical cords than the US. I have an adapter for every country.
We boarded UA flight 906 and took our seats in our first class pods. We pay for business class seats and get upgraded to first class. The pods are quite spacious and the service from the flight attendants is almost too attentive but you get used to being pampered. The flight time was 9 hours. The pods have separate mattresses that the flight attendants attach to your lay flat bed when you are ready to go to sleep. When we arrive in Chicago I will bypass the long lines at immigration and go through the automated Global Entry lane. A private limousine will meet me at the baggage claim exit. International travel does not have to be stressful.
So ends another international adventure.