Our intimate group of 11 had suddenly expanded by 2. Zhayna had been our wonderful local guide for the day in St Petersburg and as we explored St Isaac’s Cathedral, the final attraction on the itinerary, she’d gained a couple of new fans.
She, dressed in a smart trench, and he, in a cosy jumper, didn’t not easily blend into our group of mostly female bloggers, not least because they were a good foot taller than me who was now struggling to see from behind them. Still, they might have got away with gate-crashing if it weren’t for the fact we were all wearing ear-pieces to hear the guide better and they, having appeared from nowhere, were clearly not.
At first, we all thought it was fair enough. We’ve all been exploring solo before only to hear an animated guide bring something to life and decide to linger around them a bit longer. When they first began lurking around Zhayna I almost gave them a nod of approval – she was definitely someone worth listening to.
But as we moved on, stopping to examine different ornate parts of the architecture, the unlikely duo decided to tagalong for the full experience. As more of the group noticed our new friends we started catching even other’s eyes and nodding our heads towards them asking ‘Who’s your mate?’ in amusement.
To the guide’s credit she said nothing, continuing unperturbed in front of the new faces until suddenly the absurdity of it tickled her. She giggled mid-sentence and then that was it for me. The plot, I lost it.
Things got more absurd as giggles spread throughout the group. The guide had to wipe away tears and I had to move away from everyone entirely, gasping for air I was laughing so hard. The fact we were all in a church and trying to act piously only made it harder to contain the laughter. It was like being in school assembly and someone farting; our shoulders shook with suppressed merriment.
And our new mates? They continued to stand there. Right at the front of the group for everyone to see. I saw what I thought was a smile flicker across the man’s face but as quickly as it came it was gone again, leaving me to wonder if they even knew they were the ones causing all the chuckles.
The guide decided to wrap things up then and walked towards the exit to discreetly laugh into her hand, or so she thought. Her mic was still on and the tinkle of her giggle played across all our headsets, setting us off once again.
I must confess it was hard to take in all the extraordinary details of the cathedral with this distraction but luckily I have photos, memories and Wikipedia to fill in the gaps for me. Now I’m just left wondering about where our friends came from that day. Was it an innocent misunderstanding or a blatant attempt at some free guiding? Did they even speak English? I’ll never know their story but I’ll always remember this one.
Have you ever experienced tagalongs on a guided tour? How did your tour guide react to them?
I travelled to Russia as a guest of Princess Cruises. We spent 2 days there with the wonderful Zhayna as part of a Russia and Scandinavia cruise which departs from Copenhagen. More on these destinations and the overall cruise experience will follow in the coming weeks.