After a well deserved catch up sleep, it was time to settle slowly into New Years Eve mood. First up Yura’s father, who had recently moved here from Murmansk, was super-proud to show me his newly refurbished apartment (with compliments to his sons). Naturally, that involved a few shots of vodka and of course food (Olivier, Olivier …). Russian hospitality. We discussed football with the confederation cup coming up June/July 2017 ahead of the 2018 world cup. None of us was sure if the new stadium in St Petersburg would be ready in time (by now apparently the most expensive in the world yet it failed a fifa inspection … Wembley all over ;o). Some stage his other son Vitaly with wife Katya and daughters Lisa and Nastya arrived and we made our way back to Yura’s. Get the drinks on!
The flat slowly filled up and amidst much chatter the party got going. Soon Yuri, a good friend of Yura, stopped by (well, we picked up more chairs from his flat in the same building) and he had some shocking evidence of an Absinth fuelled night a few years back. Memories (or lack thereof ;o).
By midnight I had easily gained 2kg given all the salads, caviar and meat on the table. Delicious, but also quite heavy. Plenty of vodka to help digesting. Then it was time for the traditional new years speech of the president. Absolutely no clue as to what Putin told his electorate this time round, but he must feel quite smug given recent events in global politics that make Russia look like a relatively sane place! In any case, always a special occasion and everyone in the flat listened (and sang).
С новым годом!
Eventually we took to the streets that had livened up significantly after midnight. The night wasnt too cold (snow still absent) and so young and old enjoyed themselves dancing around a large xmas tree, watching whatever fireworks went off or just having a chat over a drink. Party on! By the time we made it back to the flat in the early hours it was bedtime. Well deserved. Great end to a nuts year.
Our first day of January started slow. Well, not so much for Nika given little Maxim required her attention. Pleasures of a mum! By 3pm we both went to see my in-laws (well ex in laws technically). More food, more presents, more drinks (so another kg added to carry around). It was nice to catch up be it that daddy Viktor still vastly overestimates my Russian language skills (he talks, I listen … but I couldn’t tell you what we talked about in any detail). Afterwards back home and a little rest for the night ahead.
Nika had arranged to leave both kids at the grandparents and so we adults all headed out to the center. Belgian beer, hours of waiting for food, cocktails, a gift from Daniel (thanks again) and finally karaoke followed. The latter place, while we remained mostly observers, kept us going until early morning. Some singing along and a bit of dancing (Nika & Yura had some romantic moves to show off). We also met a few new faces including a totally nuts guy (riba or ‘the fish’) who kept breaking glasses (even a table) and I am not sure how he wasnt kicked out and a Finnish biologist (Maari) who works in the botanical gardens in St Pete and translates finnish into russian for a living (both languages being a pain in the a$$ to learn!). Good times and good vibes overall. By the end we even got a little taste of winter as it had started snowing. Snowball fight mandatory! Beautiful.
The last day in St Pete was reasonably quiet. Much fun at Co-op garage (highly recommended) with my former colleague and good friend Ekaterina & her husband Hadley. Much to chat about despite having met up very recently in London for x-mas drinks. In the end we struck agreement that I can go and work on their farm in summer while also becoming their investment advisor at the same time. Lets call it hands on involvement m! ;o) Can’t wait. It appears that St Petersburg will become the first destination of the places I always wanted to live in. Letom baby, letom!
Now back home and back to the UK in the morning. Hope no more delays at the airport ;o)
Thank you St Petersburg especially my hosts Yura & Nika. All time great!