Gary and Barbera did not have a tour booked today and so it was just Dave and me who headed on out to brave the passport control desks. We left early this time to try to avoid the queues but were scuppered when no lines had been opened....not to be detered, we hung around for a few minutes and, no suprise, were interrogated about what we were doing off the ship so early lol. They did however allow us to go through and we waited outside in the docks for everyone else to join the coach.
Only 16 people on total on our tour and what a tour it was....a real gem. We walked around a traditional food and sweet market and had time to buy whatever took our fancy. Marzipan was first mass produced in St Petersburg and there was a fabulous array of marzipan treats on display. Most of them had been crafted into extravagent other food stuffs like fruit or candy. Sadly, being made from Almond, i could not sample these delights. I have a recollection as a kid of going to a party where marzipan fruit was served and i was violently ill....was this a genuine memory mum???
After the market we were driven to a traditional Russian resturant where the chairs had been set up to have us facing a table at the front of the room. it was a working resturant and, after a few minutes, one of the head chefs came out and introduced himself. He was fully kitted out in the all whites and we could see that in the kitchen other chefs were working furiously. The head chef, with the help of an interpreter, took us through the making of one of Russia's most famous staples. The dumpling or Pelmeni made with wheat flour, egg and water to make the dough and then stuffed with mincemeat....this little gem looks and sounds basic but it really is the staple, go to food in Russia and each family will have their own tweaks on the recipe. The chef made the dough and showed us how to form little parcels to hold the tasty, garlic and herb beef mince. we were then able to join him at the table, stuff our own pelmeni, seal each one and form them into shell like shapes ready for boiling in water. Boiled dough and beef mince sounds bad but, honestly, it was delicious and really is just the same as fresh ravioli. We got to try our own creations and then the chef made some for us to try too. his were much better but they were finished nicely with herbs and olive oil to be fair! The Pelmeni should be eaten with a dollop of sour cream and vodka should also be downed before and after the meal.
We were served four different types of vodka on this tour and they were all very good. I really liked the pepper vodka! Oe couple on this tour didn't touch their vodka shots....i mean??? why come on this tour if you are not even going to TRY the vodka.
We had one lady with us today who was in a wheelchair....Russia again showed just how behind they were when we arrived at the market and she was told that there was no wheelchair ramp and no one could help her navigate the stairs....She managed in the end but the look on the security guys face was almost like he was disgusted that she dared to be disabled....shocking really.
No gay people allowed, no disabled people allowed.... but we managed to get past the bigotry and had a really good day anyway. The tour guide was, as yesterday, awesome and much more foward thinking than a lot of her country folks. This was probably one of the best tours we have ever been on and it has encouraged us to, in the future, choose something a bit different and to take that risk.
Last night was spent at crooners as usual....no one died in the toilets this time though. I am still a day behind the blog and so we have actually already spent a day in Helsinki today.... I have to say this... Barbera genuinely thought that Helsinki was in Japan.... god knows what route she thought this cruise was taking to go from Southampton to bloody Japan... her excuse was that "it sounds japanese"
anyway.... Russia was brilliant....people in authority are still miserable gits. We were actually told that Russian people save their smiles only for their families.... there is something in that!
If you go to St Petersburg on the princess cruise.... do the cookery tour. Brilliant!
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