St. Petersburg (санкт-петербчрг)
Add somehow, after 9weeks of wandering and ever changing plans, I made it to St. Petersburg bang on schedule. Managed to get on to the metro and to the hostel without much incident (although obviously, I went the wrong way out of the station to begin with – following their instructions – so walked an extra couple of KM) although almost had an altercation with a street cleaner. On Nevsky Prospect, St. Petersburg’s main street, in the early morning (7am-sh) they go around cleaning the streets and pavements of the excesses of the prevous day and night. The Footpaths are qute wde, so they drve large tankers up and down the pavement at full tlt, sprayng vast amounts of water out of the front, and stopping for nobody. The unsuspecting or those not payng attention get first utterly drenched, and then run over a few seconds later if that hasn’t woken them up…
I spent 5 full days in St. Pete’s (4 nights) and took n all the major sghts and attractons, as well as suffering horribly from mosquitoes (and bed bugs) for the first couple of nights. It had been their 300th Anniversary only last year, and as such, much of the city had been cleaned up and was pristine-ish. Got my visa registered and my tickets to Moscow without incident, and took in the Kazan cathedral (slightly odd looking to my mind), St. Isaacs cathedral with it’s huge dome (which i climbed for the views), the amazing Our Savour on the Blood Cathedral - which is not entirely unlke St. Basil’s n Moscow, but to my mnd even prettier and more ornate – Alexandrovsky Park, St. Peter and Paul Fortress (where i caught some international beach volleyball), Tomb of the unknown solder (of which I think there is one in each city) and the park/reserve complex of Krestovskiy and Yelagin Islands and Kamenny Ostroy amongst others
Kazan cathedral, Our Savour on the Blood Cathedral and St. Peter and Paul Fortress
Took a day trip by Hydrofoil – those things really move, especially in the city areas where clearance under the centres of the bridges is barely a metre, and room for error slim - out to the amazing Petrodvorets (Peterhof) Palace, the former Summer Palace residence of the Tsars, with wonderful gardens, hundreds of fountains and so many Gilded gold statues as to be scary, although they didn’t really look out of place.
Petrodvorets (Peterhof) Palace
Also spent almost a full day wandering around the Admiralty square near the hostel and into the Hermtage museum – one of the worlds premer art galleres wth over 3 mllon works of art and artifacts, and with the bonus of beng housed n the former wnter palace, wth all the splendour of the buldng itself and state rooms as an added extra.
The Hermitage Gallery
St. Petersburg is a lovely city, but in no way Russan. It calls itself the Vence of the North, but to my mind is much more similar in style to Wien or Praha, but wth the addition of canals, Islands and the River Neva. The city was mostly desgned and bult by European architechts – Italians and Dutch amongst others – as opposed to Russians. T also had the bonus of when the Capital was returned to Moscow in 1917, the communists wanted to ensure that Moscow was the main city, and with St. Petersburgs connections to the Royal history etc plus a lucky location on such wet land (lack of foundations to bear the weight) meant that it was ignored to a degree whilst construction focused on Moscow and other cities. Which actually worked out really well for St. Petersburg (or Leningrad as it then was) in that the central areas were virtually completely spared from the communist experiments in concrete which blight so many other centres. And whilst admittedly have been here a few times before, after spending a couple of months traveling in Central/SE Europe and years going to cites such as Praha, Wien and Budapest, to me St. Petersburg didn’t really have that ‘wow’ factor for me this time which I thought kind of odd. That’s not to say I didn’t really enjoy it, but rather I think I was probably about ready for a change of styles and concepts.
If it's the Venice of the North, there kind of has to be canals
One evening I met up with a friendly CSer, Lena (soon to be a staggeringly successful independent Film director if all goes to plan) and took a wander around and got some extremely interesting local perspective and thoughts, and on another night went out with a few people from the hostel and sat by the river until the ‘excitement’ of the bridges coming up. St. Petersburg is a working port, and in order to allow ships and larger boats to pass, ALL of the cities bridges rise between 1.30-2am and 5 – 5.30am (just make sure you aren’t caught on the wrong side of a bridge, or you just have to wait). It makes an odd spectacle as huge crowds gather to watch something which in fairness is about as exciting as bridges risng ever can be, but also the fact that there are normally 20-30 boats waiting at each bridge for it to rise, but 95% of them are actually low enough that they could pass anyway, even with the bridges down…
Lee, Karen, Elan and Anya in a floating bar on the Neva waiting for the bridges to rise at 2am. And then they did
The most striking thing for me about St. Petersburg wasn’t even to do with the cty or its architecture, but rather about the people. It’s not specific to St. Petersburg at all – it occurs all across Russia – and isn’t even a new phenomenon to me, but I had forgotten about it. Street drinking is huge in Russia. It’s not exactly unknown anywhere in Europe to see people out drinking cans/bottles of beer, but it is mainly obvious alcoholics and a Fri & Sat evening issue amongst younger people. In Russia, it happens at all hours of the day and night, and covers young and old, male and female, rich and poor alike, and whilst I have been known to enjoy a beer on occasions, the whole idea quickly changed from one of possibility, tone of depression. For some reason I just found it depressing to see so many people walking around drinking, especially during the daytimes.
I must be getting old.
Saw this and thought of a certain TP member...