I’m neither a ballet expert, nor a ballerina, but there was one thing I really wanted to see. The famous Russian ballet. I was calling with Marloes, a friend from the Netherlands, and she told me she loves ballet. I asked her: “What are your plans for next weekend? Why don’t you come here and we go together?” The next day she texted me her flight details and before I knew we were all dressed up on our way to the Mariinsky theatre. We were so excited. The ride in our Russian Uber went smoothly as well as dropping off our coats in the cloakroom. We ordered a glass of champagne, made a few selfies and before we even finished our drinks, we heard a bell ring. That was the sign to go to our seats. I soon found out that it was not allowed to bring the drinks (so we finished them like it was a shot), that the seats were uncomfortable as hell and that you are allowed to enter the theater even though you are dressed like you just have been chopping wood in Siberia. What a shame. The theater itself looked mesmerizing with its golden balconies and beautiful chandeliers as well as the ballet dancers and their costumes. Halfway the play, there was a small break. I was glad I could get up because my butt hurt from that chair and I have squeezed my body into all kinds of positions to look past the broad shoulders of the female lumberjack in front of me. We were thirsty and needed to go to the toilet. The bar next to our exit was closed and the queue for the ladies room was infinite. We found another bar and finally when it was our turn to order, the bell rang and the bartender came with the disappointing news that the champagne was finished. We rushed back to our seats to enjoy the rest of the ballet. It is a beautiful experience and definitely worth the money, because the tickets are not cheap. Attempt three of enjoying a drink also failed because by the time the ballet was finished, employees of the theater were already wearing their jackets and escorting everybody out. Anyway, it was a great experience and I can recommend this to anyone who visits Saint Petersburg.
The evening was still young. Across the street there was a pub with live music. We entered and sat down at the bar. All tables were occupied. A guy next to us started a conversation. I still remember the terrible smell of his breath. Clearly drunk, he invited us to his house. In the meantime he was fighting with his wife, who was home, over the phone. They were going through a divorce. Thanks for the invitation, but no thanks. He left. We ordered a drink and were talking about the ballet performance when suddenly a small group of locals got our attention. They introduced themselves and we started talking. They were very friendly and treated us with champagne and coffee. In the Russian culture this is common. In the Dutch culture it is not (anymore). So to all the ladies, if you want to get spoiled, go to Russia!
When the live music stopped, we decided to leave. They helped us with our coats and opened the door like real gentlemen. One of them had a great idea. Because of the huge language barrier, we didn’t know if we fully understood each other but we agreed. After a few minutes walking we arrived at a building. It was in the middle of the night. It was cold and dark. A guard was opening the back door. We entered the building and were led to a small room. The room was a mess and we both had no idea what the purpose of this trip was. We were a little concern if this was not a big mistake. He told us not to worry. It was a surprise.
And a surprise it was. A few minutes later we got a private tour in an old film theater. It looked like a museum, but it was not open to the public. Turned out that our Russian friend works here. Marloes and I even got the chance to play on an old piano. After the tour we listened to music and had a lot of funny conversations with Google Translate. The hours passed and we lost track of the time. Early in the morning we said goodbye. Our Russian friend give us both a t-shirt from the theater as a souvenir. On our high heels and in our XXL t-shirt we left. We looked at each other and smiled. This was a night we will never forget.
My adventure in Russia is coming to an end. I said goodbye to Marloes, received my diploma and spent the rest of my time at my colleagues house, enjoying delicious dinners and wodka nights. They really feel like family and I’m so grateful for everything they did for me. When we said goodbye they gave me a souvenir, a big hug and an invitation to visit their summerhouse. I also met my Russian friend again from Mariinsky who brought even more souvenirs for me (a hat, a Christmas t-shirt and a pomegranate!). Not much later I received a phone call from the office to confirm my next ship. Soon I will travel to China. But before going to China, it’s time to go home. With a head full of memories and a suitcase full of souvenirs, I leave Saint Petersburg.
Until we meet again…