June 1:  Helsinki to St. Petersburg

Going to breakfast in the morning I saw a table strewn with liquor bottles and playing cards.  Evidently not everyone went to bed at 10:15.

Leaving Helsinki, Matt played the day song for the first time:  "Bohemian Like You" by the Dandy Warhols.  It's no Bon Jovi, but I can learn to like it.

Chris King was presented with the Boob Shirt for falling asleep on a bench in Helsinki and attracting the attention of the local constabulary.

The difficult border crossing into Russia went relatively well.  It took only a little over two hours instead of the expected 3-4.  Jared later revealed that he had to bribe the Russians to let us in.

At the St. Petersburg hotel we had our first experience with Russian food.  Dinner started with a "salad" of cucumbers, tomatoes, red peppers and no lettuce.  After that came perhaps the worst mistake ever produced by the culinary arts:

The partially-eaten item above is jellied chicken.  It tastes slightly better than it looks, like meat with a whole lot of fat.  I feared that was the entree, but fortunately we got a dish of pork, onions and sour cream after that.

More info from the Love Boat:  Bushy says I tried to touch his penis, and I have a vague memory of talking to a Swedish girl.  Looking back I suspect the umbrella sticking out of my bag knocked the Treo off my belt after I left the room in the morning.  The umbrella had been banging against the Treo for several days.

Sure enough, I'd developed the Contiki Cough by this point, and had a bit of a runny/stuffy nose.  The cold kicked in so early, I must have caught it from those filthy French cretins on the plane.  Fuck the French.  Good at creating problems, afraid of solving them.  At least they had the sense not to hypocritically ask the US for help last year when 15,000 of them couldn't figure out how to turn on an air conditioner.

On the way to the folklore show we met our local guide, Anna, who would be accompanying us throughout our stay in St. Petersburg.  We also pulled over across from the Bronze Horseman and Matt & Jared cracked open a surprise stash of champagne, and we had a roadside celebration of our arrival in Russia.

The folklore show at the Nikolaevsky Palace was better than expected.  Lots of singing and dancing, with unlimited free drinks and caviar at intermission, which was only 15 minutes so we didn't have the Love Boat problem again.  But Anna did instruct us to drink as much as we could, so I quickly had some vodka, wine and champagne (aka "champansky").

A guy doing that cool arms-folded dancing thing.

The hotel had a bowling alley!  The lanes and balls were in terrible shape, but I still got a 140, which was the high game for the 12 of us.  Our lane finished too late for me to join a second game on the first lane, where Bushy got a 183.  I certainly would have gotten close to that after learning the lane.  On LG's recommendation I had 3 Baltikas while bowling.

For the record, there are 5 Americans in our combined group of 36:  Michelle (19) from Brentwood/UC Berkeley, Jeff (20) from Colorado, Biagio from Boston, and Dave from the other group.  All the others are Aussies and Kiwis.