I cannot disclose the details nor show photos of my hitchhiking journey. They must remain an exclusive for the newspaper that will carry the article. I will tell you, though, that it went very well, too well, miraculously well. 48 hours (including two nights of sleep) after standing with my thumb up in Venice's Piazzola Roma, I was in a gas sation on the outskirts of Helsinki.
I ended up four days early for my Finnish appointements, and so decided to head on to Russia, arriving in St. Petersburg at night. It was a good decision. The lights on Nevsky Prospect were blinding and the sidewalks filled with elegantly dressed, beautiful women. I had a crepe with caviar on the street, then headed for a hostel to sleep.
The following day was cold.
The afternoon was colder, but the hostel supplied fine company: Piti, a landscape architect from Bangkok, fresh off the Trasn-Siberian railway.
We went into a canal-side dive for a drink and some food and met the local clientele. One guy was an art museum to rival the Hermitage.
His friend was a proper Nazi.
"We are getting out of here without a fist fight," I whispered on Piti's ear. The guys actually knew I'm Jewish (I never hide it), and my friend is obviously Asian, yet somehow it worked. We all made brilliant chums, shot down several rounds of vodka and beer and left with hugs.
Outside was dreary and getting drearier.
So we went to the Ballet.The Mariinsky company was presenting three works by George Balanchine, all set to non-narative musical scores. There was Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings, the staple work of the New York Ballet. Piti almost fainted by how good it was.
There was Ravel's "la Valse"
and Bizet's symphony in C. "This is the best, most beautiful show I've seen in my life", said Piti.
Outside, the snow ceased and a random pretty girl handed us a baloon. A new night was ahead.