Monday, November 01, 2004

Back from Russia! What an amazing trip! Pictures to cum soon, but here's a quick rundown:

Tuesday Night - Had a couple pre-trip beers in Stuttgart waiting for the 6 AM flight to St. Petersburg.

Wed 10 AM - Arrived in St. Petersburg via Denmark, totally running on no sleep, surrounded by an entirely different country and the first where there is absolutely no english anywhere, not on airport signs, nothing. Got totally f$%Ā§cked over by the border control, they wanted to scam my Canadian beer and coffee I brought as gifts. Fifty euros finally settled the issue. Met up with my guide and good friend "Russia Maria" and took a "route bus" (which is just a big white van that expels more exhaust than a 18 wheeler diseal truck and which sounds much worse) to her place where we were staying.

Arrival time at house: 11:12 AM local time
First Homebrew Vodka shot: 11:14 AM

The Vodka was as to be expected, the first shot was exciting, good and hard. The second was bigger and had an ever so harsh burning effect... and then all of a sudden you feel like the world is a great place to live and every shot after that is not only desired but enjoyed. We got loaded in the middle of the afternoon on a Wednesday, not that uncommon for this country :-) As is customary we followed every shot with some homemade pickles. I thought it was weird at first, but trust me, they become totally addictive after a couple.

Over the next couple days I checked out the city, "registered" like fifteen times (which is basically just bribeing the local authorities), caught a hockey game, hit the nightlife, visited the uni, had traditional (and non-traditional) eats, and basically drank a TON of Vodka. Very cool.

Rocked on over to Moskow via the all night train on Sat night. This is the biggest connection in Russia and since there was a soccer match for the St. Petersburg team near Moskow the following day it was quite a ride. Of course when it was time to finally catch some sleep we also had to contend with the worst snorring Russian the world has ever known.

Moskow is completly different than St. Petersburg. In the interest of time I'll save most of the details for over a couple of beers at Irish on Wednesday, but basically got to Red Square, 2 more hockey games (including one in the same stadium as the famous 1972 Canada vs. Russia Summit Series), saw Victor Tikanov, had a Big Mac in the first ever McDonalds in Russia and all that jazz.

All I can say is what an amaying trip! It's surreal that it's over and I'm already back in Pforzheim. I highly recommend it to anyone who's able to go, although I would suggest hooking up with a local friend since I would have been totally lost without one. Thanks to Russia Maria for all your help and good times, CHIBO!! I can't wirte Russian Survivor with this keyboard :-)

Anyways, more later, but for now here's some of the things that happened while I was away:

It's great to see the greatest hockey product in the world (the CHL, Canadian Hockey League, home of the best development league of junior hockey as proven every year by the NHL draft), expand in it's reach. They definatly need a team in the Montreal market again. Some worry about having to compete in a city with an NHL franchise, but teams like the Ottawa 67's show that it can be successful.

Baseball finished while I was in Russia, apparently the curse is over, the Boston Red Sox are World Series champions. Not such a great season for my Toronto Blue Jays who took a nose dive in their progression under the watchful eyes of J.P. Richardi. They also happen to be in the same division as Boston AND the Yankees so it doesn't figure to get better anytime soon. I thought that this was a great idea though, free round trip airfare to Spring training in Florida for season ticket holders. Great job marketing dept.!!

This story broke while I was in Russia and was the headline of most major newspapers. It was interesting to me since I had never really heard of him before and it seemed weird figureing he'd signed for the league maximum 86 mil US dollars over 6 seasons.

Schumacher's leadership is undisputed. He (as well as a 1 billion dollar budget) is the sparkplug that lifted the Ferrari team from development to championship. Maybe he's able to inspire and push some of the German players going into the 2006 world soccer cup. Go Germany Go!! In other F1 news, I'm glad to see the return of Canadian Jaques Villeneuve to a dreadfully borring F1 season, but these comments don't inspire confidence for next year.

Looks like nothing new is going on for the NHL, same bitching. They better get this thing ironed out or hockey is going to suffer a mass exodis much worse than the fallout from the Major League Baseball strike.
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