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Kelorn's CCSummit18 Travel Blog

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From Left: Yuro, Kelorn, and Jingles

The Trip Begins:

For me, our trip began when I picked up Bted and RadarX from the Wargaming Office in Austin, Texas where we'd agreed to meet and I would drive us to the airport. I arrived a little early and took the opportunity to park next to the World of Tanks-wrapped Hummer and take a picture. It wasn't the right game, but it was close enough. (See this twitter post for a picture) Once we were loaded up, we had an easy trip to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and had no trouble getting checked in (which we weren't allowed to do online since they needed to inspect our Russian Visas) and through security. Cue Bted's first attempt to get Rubles from a currency exchange, which was unsuccessful.

 

The first flight (of 3) took us on JetBlue to JFK International Airport in New York. We landed at Terminal 5 and had 90 minutes to make it to our flight to Moscow. Since we were flying Aeroflot, we had to hustle to get to Terminal 1 and back through security. When we got to the security line, I went in search of the Aeroflot desk to try and obtain an upgrade and told the other guys I'd meet them at the gate. I had just found the Aeroflot desk when Radar and Bted showed up to tell me that the tickets issued by Jetblue were not valid to get through security and we had to get tickets from Aeroflot. Luckily there was a seperate line for that and we had no issue getting "transfer" tickets. At this point I again stated I was going to go to try and get an upgrade and would meet them at the gate. 

 

The customer service desk was run by two Russian ladies who appeared annoyed at the world. When I first asked, I was told there was no upgrade in a gruff voice. Then the 2nd lady said I could get Premium economy for $100, which I jumped at, given the 9 hour flight to Moscow. Fifteen minutes of paperwork later I had my new seat, but not before a young man in the garb of an ascetic jew came up to the desk to ask about a name change on a ticket for his infant son, only to be literally yelled at by the Aeroflot lady. This kind of gave me a warning to not test Russian customer service. Security was long at Terminal 1, but I made it to the gate to find that Bted and Radar had already found Hyf1re, who was on the same flight to Moscow as we were. There was a small delay before we could board, but we used it to get to know Hyf1re a bit before we boarded. 

 

Premium Economy was nicer than I expected, closer to a business class seat and service. We were in a small area curtained off from Economy and First class, but with 4 inches extra leg room and 3 inches of extra arm room. I had a bulkhead aisle seat with no one sitting next to me, so it felt like space galore. Still, 9 hours on an airplane is 9 hours on an airplane and I was ready to get off the flight when we got to Moscow. Bted and I did get in a little trouble with the male flight attendant when I went to visit him and knelt on a seat to talk to him, but I just had to go back to my seat. 

 

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I was offered a glass of clear liquid or orange juice before the flight took off, I was a little disappointed the clear liquid was water and not vodka...

 

This was the part of the trip I was most worried about, going through passport control in Moscow, but it was super anti-climatic. The officer asked me where I came from, scanned my passport and visa, and stamp stamp, I was out the other side and officially in Mother Russia. This is where things got a bit messed up for me, because I was used to customs in the other countries I've been to, where you have to get your bags and have them inspected by customs before you re-check them for your connecting flight. So I waited at the baggage carousel for 20 minutes before I realized that none of the guys I was flying with were showing up. I quickly confirmed that my bags were checked through to St Petersburg, walked unchallenged through the customs green line and made my way to the domestic terminal and through security again, where I literally almost ran into Bted who was in line to board the flight to St Petersburg.


On the flight to St Petersburg, I was in the window seat of the last row of the the Airbus 320 and really didn't talk because I was too busy looking out the window. For the most part, that part of Russia looks remarkably like where I grew up in the Midwest of the US. Pine trees, fields, and little roads that cut through it. I didn't notice the Flight attendant until she was asking me (in Russian) if I wanted something to drink. Apparently I look Russian, at least until I open my mouth and they hear my voice...

 

After retrieving our bags, we found the guy holding a Wargaming sign in the Terminal, who quickly arranged a ride for us to the Hotel. On the schedule we were originally given, Jingles was supposed to arrive about the same time and ride with us to the Hotel. It was just as well he didn't, as Bted, RadarX, Hyf1re, and I more than filled the small sedan for our somewhat harrowing ride into Saint Petersburg. (Apparently Russians only have a casual relationship with the painted lane lines). Our hotel didn't disappoint, located in a gorgeous building across the street from the train station and a huge mall called the Galleria. We quickly checked in and went to find our rooms. The CC's had been communicating on Whatsapp to keep everyone up to date on our travels and location, so after quickly dropping my bags I went back down to the lobby bar and ordered a Coca-cola, trying to caffeinate myself to try and stay awake the rest of the day. 

 

Before long, CC's starting appearing in response to my photo of empty chairs around the lobby bar, and we had some quick snacks and drinks before the crowd got so large that we decided to go find a bar. Some of the Russian CC's had invited us to a Bar "just down the street" and given us an address. I consulted google maps and thought that I'd found where they were, but once we left the hotel my wifi would stop working and we'd be out in the wild. As I'm not the sort that often suffers from self-doubt, Mister Conway from WGEU declared that everyone should follow me. 

 

Fifteen minutes later, the bar was nowhere to be found and we decided to backtrack to an Irish pub we'd spotted on the way. (This is apparently where some people started freaking out at Wargaming when no one knew where we were). We walked down the steps to an empty pub, which we promptly claimed for the Warships CC nation. I found myself sitting next to the Mighty Jingles, who was reading and responding to Youtube comments on his tablet (because the pub had free wifi).

 

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It had been decided that the EU and NA CC's would be going out to dinner, so Mister Conway had previously made reservations (with the concurrence of our hotel concierge) at the restaurant "Moskva". Because, I mean, where ELSE would a bunch of Warships players go to dinner in Russia? Hilariously, the paper placemats at the restaurant had a version of the "Battleship" boardgame you could play. We wined and dined, with some of us running out of gas sooner than others as the night wore on toward 9 and 10 o'clock. 
 

 

It was the beginning of the Summit in some ways, I met EU CC's I'd never heard of before and was astonished to find out that the podcast is apparently really big in the German warships community. A CC named Takru and I started a friendly debate regarding Shimakaze that lasted most of the evening. It was apparent to everyone in attendance that the collaboration was going to be friendly and lively for the length of the summit.

 

Around this point, one of the Wargaming Saint Petersburg employees came running in the restaurant out of breath. Apparently Sub Octavian and the RU CC's got worried when we never showed up to the bar they invited us to, and people were dispatched to find us. This guy had been running all over the place trying to find us, and was obviously relieved to see us enjoying dinner and not in a gulag somewhere.

 

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Lord of Droid took this at Restaurant Moskva as I enjoyed my Roast Veal.

Summit Day One:

We were told that Breakfast at the Hotel started at 7 and the bus to the Summit would leave at 9. Most of us groggily rolled into the breakfast area at about 8 am to find a pleasant surprise of a buffet style meal with every breakfast food you could want. The bacon in particular was fantastic and I had a made to order omelet topped off with a hot chocolate. We quickly found some of the Russian CC's and started to get to know them. Their English was limited and our Russian non-existent, but we started with hand gestures and quickly resorted to Google Translate, which worked better than we expected. Soon we were fast friends with people we never expected to talk to. 

 


The bus ride to Lesta Studios (Wargaming St Petersburg) was our first glimpse of just how large and pretty the city of Saint Petersburg really is. I can only describe it as the most beautiful city I've ever seen, with all of the gorgeous French style architecture of Paris, but without the dirt and smell of urine. When we arrived, we were quickly shown to our conference room home for the Summit where we found visitor badges and cool Warships branded notebooks for our use during the summit. It was around this time someone told me that we shouldn't drink the tap water, something I'd been doing since the day before. In short order I started to feel sick to my stomach for much of the day. 

 

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We started with introductions and I was unlucky enough to be the first one to do so, but as we went around the room, it was apparent that the NA, EU, SEA, and RU regions were all well represented. Only one CC wasn't able to make it, Flamu, who fell ill at the last minute. Other than that there were many names I recognized and just as many that I didn't. After some opening words (in both Russian and English) from Sub Octavian and Philigula, we were ushered onto a tour of the studio. This is when Jingles decided to colonize the Wargaming offices and we saw some hints of things to come on the screens of people working!

 

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Colonization complete, we came back to the conference room to have some light snacks and receive our swag bags with sweet CC branded gear, including an awesome sweatshirt. After that, we dug in and started designing a map together. Eventually we split into four teams and each designed a map. My team consisted of one of the Russian CC's, Noster and his girlfriend, Hyf1re, and Ev1n who was the Executive Producer of World of Warships. We tried to make a map that would give class on class warfare, and we ended up getting 2nd in the voting after Jingles and Fem's team.

 

Hilariously, I saw the name Fem had written on the top of their Map and mis-read it as "CA Stay Away" which I snorted in my head and thought that was the perfect Fem name. Turns out the map was actually called "Cast Away" but when I shared my nickname, it was quickly adopted as an alternate by everyone. 

 

We broke for lunch at a nearby Cafeteria place, but by this time my stomach was all kinds of upset and I found myself pleasantly surprised that they had something like chicken noodle soup, which tasted amazing. I sat with Fem, Jingles, and Mister Conway at lunch and we had an entertaining time exchanging anecdotes.

 

Back at the conference, we broke into English and Russian speaking groups and had a quick roundtable discussion about the CC Program and what the future would entail. Everyone had great feedback, but we all knew what was coming next. When the Russian CC's re-joined us, we got our first peek at the CV Rework. After the quick demo, we all got a chance to try it a couple of times. Once we were done the room was abuzz with speculation and we all sat down to provide written feedback. 

 

The bus took us that night to Menshikov Palace, where we had a 7 course meal at the restaurant Mein Hertz. The night started with Horseradish vodka that somehow magically dispelled the sick feeling I'd had in my gut all day. Maybe that's why Russian's drink vodka, it poisons all the sickness in your body...

 

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After 7 courses, 7 vodkas, and two glasses of wine, I'd had more to drink in one sitting than in years, and my famously loud voice started to compete the equally famously loud Mister Conway. The echo's from the acoustics of the dining room were unhelpful to many people's hangovers the next day. Needless to say, much food and alcohol was consumed, and everyone had an amazing time. As an aside, while all the non-Russians were drinking vodka, the Russians were drinking bourbon. When we asked why, they told us "Why would you drink vodka if there's Bourbon?!" Let's just say the chilly night air didn't feel nearly so chilly as we waited for the bus back to the hotel. A few brave souls decided that we'd have a couple more beers in the hotel lobby bar, but that fizzled out pretty quickly, but not before I learned that Vulgarr and Bted used to do professional wrestling. Who knew?

 

Summit Day Two:

Day two the bus was to arrive at 10 AM to pick us up and most of us thanked the gods for this small mercy. As they say, "the wages of sin (vodka) are death" and there were more than a few red-eyed hung over people on the bus. We started off, headed toward the Central Naval Museum when someone called for the driver to stop. Yuro had lost his passport, and he got off the bus and took a taxi back to the hotel to meet the police. We'll get to more on that later.

 

The Naval Museum was amazing, with a knowledgeable (if slow walking) tour guide who fascinated us with the stories of the artifacts and models on display. The NA CC's took the opportunity to take a group photo in the largest gallery. 

 

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I got to spend some time talking to DojoKame, who is part of the World of Warships Japan office and is responsible for all the anime collaborations. He was great to talk to and we'll have him on the show very soon. We wrapped up our visit to the museum and were told we were walking to lunch. In an underground tunnel that let pedestrians move around a busy intersection, we stopped for a little souvenir shopping at a local store. Nesting dolls, Putin T-shirts, and hats were purchased and admired. 

 

Lunch was to be at the Vodka museum and more than a few of us cringed at the idea of more alcohol. Thankfully, vodka was nowhere in sight with lunch, and we enjoyed a pleasant repast. I was seated across the table from CaptainArya, the only CC from India. He told us about his stream and how most of his followers are just starting the game, playing low tier ships. We shared our stories of high tier battles and I managed a pretty epic photograph of him with his new hat.

 

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After lunch, we took the bus back to Lesta Studios and on the way, I was seated near Ev1n, who is the executive Producer of World of Warships (and Sub Octavian's boss). We talked about Wargaming's hopes for the CCSummit, what the CC's hoped to get out of it, and he even told me that he listens to the podcast and had some feedback for me. That he listens to us really blew me away and I was super happy to hear his feedback.

 

Back at the conference room, we were treated to a presentation on the roadmap for warships for the next 6 months, the slides of which we can share you've all seen already. After that, we had a Q&A session with the Developers where we all go to ask one question. Meeting the real devs and hearing their passion for the game gave me a huge appreciation for how much work they put in and what they do on a daily basis. 

 

Then the moment arrived that we got to play "CA Stay Away", the map we had created. Laughter filled the room as we saw the mountains that reached into the sky due to a misunderstanding (or deliberate trolling) on the part of the map making devs. We enjoyed ourselves, and if you want to see what it was like, watch this week's Mingles with Jingles.

 

This was the end of the Summit and it was a little sad to realize that we were done after such an amazing two days. We packed up our things and said goodbye to the people we'd met who weren't joining us for dinner. Dinner that night was an experience in and of itself. We were told that we were going to a Czech Burger restaurant, but it turned out to be something like a Bavarian pub. Beer was served in up to 1 Liter glasses, and the food was basically MEAT with a side of MEAT! Everything was fantastic and we really did ourselves in drinking and generally enjoying each other's company for the last time. 

 

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Would you like some meat with your meat? Yes please!

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Mister Conway teaches Yuro how to drink his first ever Tequila shot.

 

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Getting my picture taken with SubOctavian while wearing Arya's hat.

 

After dinner, we walked back the mile and a half to the hotel. Which would have been fine if I'd not assumed I could wait out the short bus trip to the hotel to use the bathroom. There were several of us in minor agony by the time we got back and a group even had to stop a McDonalds to use the bathroom there because they weren't going to make it. After we made it back and found some relief, a group of us followed the Russian Devs and CC's to a bar a few blocks away. 

 

At this point I ended up at a table drinking with an Estonian, a german, a frenchman, a swiss, and two russians. It was really a microcosm of the whole trip, cross-cultural camaraderie and just general fun. PrivatePinguin asked for a drink that didn't taste like alcohol and the Bartender asked if he wanted "Pussy Drink" which we all found hilarious. The CC's were actually pretty tame drinking, but the WG EU and NA guys got pretty drunk doing shots. As an aside, a set of 5 shots of different flavored vodka was about $10. 

 

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PrivatePinguin and the "Pussy" drink

Aerroon and I decided to walk back to the hotel at 2AM and call it a night. I had a brief stare down with a couple of Russian guys who tried to surround us, but we got back without incident. We found Fem waiting in the lobby for her ride to the Airport (she had to leave at 215AM) and sat with her until CaptainArya made his drunken way down to the lobby. We called it a night after seeing them into their Taxi.

 

The Way Home:

 

The trip home started at 8AM Saint Petersburg time when the Wargaming Saint Petersburg van took a group of us to the airport. We were treated to some really horrendous Russian versions of 80's and 90's pop songs, but the ride was otherwise uneventful. We talked about how Yuro was having to ride in a car to Moscow to go to his Embassy for a temporary passport and I think even now he's finally making his way home to Indonesia. 

 

After going through security twice in Saint Petersburg (once to walk in the door and again to get to the gate), Hyf1re, Bted, Vulgarr, RadarX, and I boarded the flight to Moscow. I ended up next to a woman traveling with her 4 year old son. He was super energetic but was having fun playing with his toys and books, though he was a little loud. At the beginning of the flight, the woman told me she was a drummer in the Military. After talking on and off through the flight, I asked her what branch she was with. She told me she was in the army and part of a motorized rifled division. I was processing this and trying to remember the name of the equivalent formation in the US Army (Mechanized Infantry) when she leaned over, looked both ways, and whispered in my ear that she was a sniper. Then she told me she was going to a marksmanship competition in Amsterdam in May. Who knew?

 

Passport control in Moscow to leave the country was a little intimidating, but we made it through with no problem, only to find that Aeroflot wouldn't let us upgrade our seats on the flight to New York. So all of us were stuck at the back of the plane in economy. As we were boarding, several people were pulled out of the line for extra checks at the gate, one of them was the young woman I ended up across the aisle from. To Bted's amusement, I spent 6 hours talking to her as we flew across the Atlantic, with her asking questions about America because she was moving here for a job. I found out from her that the people who had been pulled aside at the gate were all people leaving Russia permanently and were subjected to an extra search. The only excitement on the flight was when someone smoked in a lavatory and they announced what the penalties for that were. Apparently they figured out who it was, because they were arrested when we arrived in New York.

 

Immigration and customs in America took a while, but there was no real issues. We paused to take a final photo before we dispersed to our various destinations. Vulgarr to upstate New York, Hyf1re to Oregon, and Bted, Radar, and I to Austin.

 

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We landed in Austin just before 1 in the morning and I made it to my bed just after 2 AM, capping off 26 hours of traveling home. It was a great and unforgettable trip. I'm eternally grateful to Wargaming for inviting me and I hope you enjoyed my stories!

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