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Published: December 7th 2009
Been There - Done That
The Hermitage challenge has been accomplished
Two major disasters occured in Russia during my the 29 day stay in St. P.B. ... a colossal train wreck and a nightclub fire. Even though France is Paris and Paris is France, St. Petersburg is not Russia. Small incidents which happened where I usually passed or stopped made it to the evening news. Although my visit was not reported I am filing a report on St. P.B.
The centre St. P.B.is laid out like the spokes of a wheel with The Hermitage at the hub. Take away the second half of the wheel, mix in the canals, add the round squares, work around historical monuments, find street signs five steps from the corner or not at all, write everything in Russian and you are ready to tour the tourist area of Peter the Great's Venice of the North.
The streets all look the same... the buildings are tall, have lots of windows and are mostly of a similar colour. One starts to distinguish streets by neon signs, stores, and chinese lanterns hung above windows with Asian motifs.
There are many canals and bridges in the city.
It is important to know where the bridges are so
as to avoid long detours.
Underground passageways provide a safe crossing of busy streets and shopping opportunities.
Angora kittens have been seen for sale under Nevsky Prospect.
There can be a Prospect = major street; Ulitsa = a street; Bulvar = street with trees.
The Metro is convenient to get to the suburbs.
In the centre it is quicker to walk to where you want to go.
The StPB Metro is the deepest in the wordl and 100km long.
The tram system has 690.6 km of track and 2,402 waggons running to 64 routes.
Buses run on electricity and the lines are attached to the sides of buildings.
Small buses that stop at the wave of a hand are called 'marshrutkas'. Seems every country has this convenience.
The Metro costs 20rubles ...above ground transport costs18 rubles.
Cars park on the sidewalk and anywhere else the car will fit.
The nose of the car can be on the sidewalk and the rest of the car is at right angle to the street.
Pedestrians do not have the right of way.
Thick white lines denote crosswalks. Use with extreme care.
Crossing at traffic lights is only
Braving the Traffic
Cars come out of now where.
safe when the little green manwalker is lit ... and then watch for turning cars.
No speed limits signs have been observed.
Men walk in the street drinking beer from cans or bottles at 35rubels bottle ...cans cost more.
Groups of two or more congregate on park benches drinking beer.
Beer is cheaper than milk or bottled Lipton Tea.
Starbucks has not arrived in St. P.B.
Have heard tea more favoured than coffee, although many Kafe signs are in evidence.
Lipton Tea has spread its logo cups everywhere.
Lipton tea is one of the sponsors of the Dance Skating Competition.
Meat dishes in the cafeteria are expensive considering the quality served.
Meat, potatoes and cabbage seem the basis for russian cuisine.
Fridge magnets in the shape of a slice of bread covered with plastic caviar are sold as souvenirs.
Borcht is not red soup.
A soup that has everything in it including cucumber and olives tastes great ... sounds like salamanka.
Toasted bread cut into little soldiers is served, generously buttered, garliced & sprinkled with parsley.
The Village Salad I have been eating in a local, inexpensive Russian restaurant, the Visala, is the first thing
I will prepare when I get back to Canada ... it is that good. Baltica beer drunk with it made it even more pleasant to eat.
Smoked fish I bought at the specialty fish shop is very good and very salty.
Tea and cake at the Renaissance Hotel cost 600rub ... tip included. Picked up a great advertising poster depicting the Bronze Horseman.
Coffee and a croissant at CafeMax with my 20% Hermitage Friend discount cost me 70rub.
Wedding pictures are taken along the River Neva.
Hummers have been turned into overlong party limos.
After the wedding the champagne is popped and the party starts in the Hummer.
Outside an officious building, red rose pedals are strewn along with kopeeks and then swept up by a building employee in readiness for next happily ever after couple.
Wedding dresses are white, bouffant, strapless and sometimes covered with a short white furlike jacket. Veils are short.
Grooms seem to take second place in the whole production and are often seen holding the bouquet.
Wedding photographers come in all shapes and sizes and always seem to have forgotten to dress for the occasion, appearing in jeans, non descript
jackets and unpolished shoes.
Do not know to where the white pigeons from one of the wedding shoots flew. Hope they were homing pigeons.
Babushkas stand at street corners selling boots, socks, scarves, sweaters ...souvenir stands are everywhere a tourist could make an appearance ... fur hats are sold out of duffel bags ... monkeys have on tiny snowsuits and are ready to have their pictures taken for a price ... Louis XIV dress-ups parade about the city for photo opportunities ... a woman dressed in a fur coat holds up a sign asking for money because she has no work ... a man with no legs empties the rain water from his plastic begging bowl ... many people walk without umbrellas ignoring the sprinkles, drizzle or downpour ...flurries of frozen pollution fall on the city ... the air can be tasted in the form of grit between the teeth ... cars are forever covered in heavy clay like matter that window-wash only smears ... ATM machines are encrusted in city grime ... people go to work and children go to school six days a week ...there are very few morbidly obese people to be seen ...
The sandwich board people, the flyer people and the megaphone ladies are out on the street even during downpours; some luckily have an umbrella.
One job group seems to depend on the other. The flyer people provide work for the sweeper uppers; the megaphone lady helps the canal boat driver and the sandwich board guy enables the shop girl to earn commission.
Nevsky Prospect is the cleanest street. Even though there are scores of people handing out flyers these flyer cannot be seen flying about. Women with florescent green jackets, branch brooms and plastic pails on a little trundle buggy keep everything looking spotless. They have been seen on the street doing their job at 06:00 ...in the dark.
Men with similar pails and aluminium stand up shovels have been seen sweeping up cigarette butts ... this is not to say that the two sweeping jobs are not interchangeable.
Women with megaphones shout about river tours near the canal.
Young persons dressed in Subway colours hand out flyers to attract
Persons of all ages walk the street in front of the store with sandwich boards. Sometimes the shop is in the basement and needs
to attract attention to its existence.
""And there s an evil plot about to keep tour guides earning money ... no one else is allowed to learn English!""
When it is not drizzling or raining, city dust becomes visible and finds its way into everything.. Anyone know a quick lung cleanse?
Coloured toilet paper is sold here.
The paper towels fall apart as soon as they get wet. They are covered in blue dots of dye that comes off, when in contact with moisture ... how much blue dye can one absorb in a month?
The food that one can buy at 'Diete' is top notch and not overpriced. In the suburbs the discount grocery
stores are much bigger than the little Dixie in the basement of some set of flats or offices.
There are two chocolate Museums in St.P.B. with the same Louis XIV suited guy in front waving in visitors. What has St.P.B. to do with chocolate ... not enough to warrant two Museums ...???
Most of the windows seen from the street house flats. There are two types of flats. The common flat has rooms for five or more
people and these people share one kitchen and sometimes bathroom facilities. When the windows are in bad shape and the curtains are raggedy it can be a common flat. These flats can coexist with historical monuments and four star hotels.
Then there is ownership of a flat that can have one room, kitchen and facilities. A flat can be bigger, with two rooms. In central St.P.B. the flats are in buildings built in the 19th century. Renting a flat is unusual. In the suburbs luxury flats exist. Buildings reflecting the architecture of Soviet times are also evident in the suburbs.
There is evidence of much renovation and restoration work. Whole buildings have been torn down with only the front wall remaining. New structures are being built behind the refurbished facades. Cobble stones continue to be used for sidewalks and squares.
The smell of cats at the Central Post Office and at the Hermitage comes from the obviously unspaded permanent dwellers ... the felines keep rats and mice under control ... and not little rats either!
Men wear fat ties, including the president and Putin.
For those who engage in shopping as a sport, Nevsky Prospect
Entrance to Luxury
THis entrance is a part of a housing complex built in 1913. There are still many common flats here. When people die those with money snap up the spaces and renovate. Were talking megabucks!
is the place for you. Here you will drop when you shop. There is no limit to high end spending opportunities.
The Uzbekistan fruit at the market beside St. Vladimir Cathedral is presented gloriously and tastes delicious ... better than California!
The food at an Azerbijan restaurant was simple, tasty and only cost 1700 rubles, tip included, for a salad, a main dish, three beers, a tea and a specialty of the region ... a sunny side up egg, runny, on top of melted cheese, on top of bread dough that was crispy at the edges but too undone at the bottom to be eaten.
Macdonald's smells the same ... the toilets are always clean.
The most lovely little cakes have been spotted in the window of a very large patisserie. Inside the shop was full of people eating cakes and drinking tea. Its the perfect outing for a Sunday afternoon.
Its Dec 6th,Saint Nikolas Day, and slowly the Chrismas lights are beginning to glow. Around the staue of Catherine II a small village of plywood huts is being erected ... kiosks for holiday wares? Or children amusements? Probably a Chrismas market.
dipped below freezing and an ice structure is being erected .
When ordering coffee quality varies to such an extent that it is safer to order tea.
A cup or pot of tea comes in the form of hot water in said vessels. Ask for the lemon or milk otherwise only sugar accompanies the hot water and tea bag.
Eggs sit on a shelf waiting to b e bought ... no refrigeration... same in Helsinki.
The lady at the post office who taped up my parcel speaking a few words of English as pertains to her job, was very helpful and friendly. It cost the same amount to send my 8.5kg parcel to Canada as it cost to eat in the Azerbijan restaurant. The parcel should arrive in three months. Did not ask the price for Air Mail!
To send the parcel Ifilled out six identical forms ... shades of Tanzania!
The downspouts for rain are the size of dessert plates.
The lights always have to be turned on when inside the apartment because of the dullness of the weather.
St.P.B. has only 40 days of sunshine per year. Does that mean 24
hrs. of sun shine? ... think not! Have seen the sun for no more than five hours in 29 days.
People have black thread at work. Twice now I have borrowed thread from people at work.
There are many musical instruments on the backs of people seen in the streets.
Chandeliers are very popular! ...churches, restaurants, renovated kitchens, palaces, Hermitage ...
There is a restaurant that is called Beef Stroganov
Six liters of water, a loaf of bread, or 400gms of cheese all cost 29rubles each ... that's one $US!
Young couples, families with small children, old ladies and old men, Japanese, Dutch, Italian, Chinese, German and American groups visit the Hermitage.
Movies from the eighties, from France, Italy, India, or America, with the worst dubbing ever, play into the night. The original voice plays on low volume and the Russian translation plays over it.
Alexi Yugadin, my skating hero, who is also getting older, is in the equivelant of Dancing With Stars, except the performances are on skates. This evening he and his partner danced to a song entitled Valenki ... in opening they both had felt boots - valenki -
covering their skates. Then they danced to a song about the boots.
Have sent two pairs of these felt boots to myself in Canada. Many people helped to find them. The boots are for cold weather wear. It apparently no longer gets cold enough in St.P.B.and so the valenki have becomes scarce. On line there are shops that will deliver, the price being much greater than I paid ... 1700 for two pairs of boots and two pairs of ugly galoshi which are needed to protect the felt from wetness.
Will use them to go snowshoeing.
And that's it concerning St. Petersburg.
Went to the Finlandia Train Station ...caught the 07:17 Repin to Helsinki and have begun my next Adventure.
More photos below!
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