You need a visa and a serious face to pass through Customs at the Russian border along with a measure of patience to handle the red tape (no pun intended) .
My visa is a single entry for 29 days, which I already obtained from the Russian Consulate in the US.
I wore red along with my tour mates to make a good impression at the border. Not a smile from the officer at the booth, nor a nod back to me as I stood in front of her.
My traveling agenda is five days in Saint Petersburg, easily the most majestic city anywhere, and Moscow for three days.
With 6 million people, Saint Petersburg is crowded with citizens and tourists everywhere. There is no signage anywhere in English; however, most can speak well enough to engage with you.
Vodka warms the spirit and supposedly keeps the germs at bay. Who am I to argue? There is no proper time to drink vodka according to the Russians. I had my first shot at 10 am in a store (complimentary) while shopping. Yes, I made purchases, too, caught up in a grand mood.
Winter is here without a doubt, and everyone is bundled up in parkas, scarves and hats. Russian drivers make New York City cab drivers look timid as they blow their horns and weave in and out of lanes.