One Great City
Saint Petersburg Travel Blog› entry 15 of 31 › view all entries
Well ... this is one great city. Built 299 years ago on marshes and islands as a planned city. Gorgeous buildings everywhere, wide streets ... and once you get into some of the museums and palaces, it is pretty unbelievable the amount of money that's been spent originally and in the restoration. Parquet, carvings gilded with gold-leaf, paintings, murals. Apparently Putin is from here, and Muscovites are getting jealous at the amount of money diverted to St P for restoration. There is considerable work around the place in preparation for the 300th anniversary of the city next year. Recommend you visit in 2004 to avoid the crowd.
Our Russian package is certainly the way to go ... yesterday (one day late) we had our half-day orientation tour of the city in a car with a guide and driver. Personalised attention with a quick tour of all the major sites, so that we could decide what we could come back to independently later. The tour included a guided tour of the Peter and Paul fortress built at the founding of the city ... now containing the remains of the Romanov Russian Royal Family (if you're not the French government who claim they all escaped to France). The plaques over their tombs were done on wood with painted marble ... rather tacky in comparison to the tombs of the previous generations of royalty located within the same Church. Thoroughly informative guide who could answer all of Kim's questions, ranging from the royal family to the various wars.
We've found the metro here really convenient, clean and impressive .... the one closest to our hotel is some 25 storeys underground ... accessed with ONE escalator ride (ie. no stops or changes). Had to quickly refresh my Cyrillic as signs aren't in Roman alphabets as I had expected (must have been thinking of Moscow).
But today, we had an incident down on the metro. We had just waited for passengers to disembark, then were getting on the train ourselves ... when I noticed that a 6 year old gypsy girl with her mother re-boarded the train after hopping off. They started pushing on me and I felt someone reaching for my knee-high fastened pocket. I quickly grabbed the girl's arm and checked that the contents of my pocket were still there (thankfully yes) before whacking her and releasing her. Both mother and daughter hopped off promptly before the doors closed ... must have all happened within seconds and I surprised myself for acting so quickly.
The lesson (and I guess the precautions that we usually take) is to split your money and cards between different locations ... bag, safe pocket (never front or back), and locked in hotel. And daypack on our fronts ... look like idiots but better safe than sorry.
We've been very fortunate with the weather the whole trip. We were roasting on arrival here in the back of our taxi (but was pleasant outside) ... had a couple of eerie misty cool mornings (suitable for spy thriller movies) which turned cloudless blue. We can tell that it had snowing just before our arrival ... we saw what seemed like scum (from a distance) in the waters of the Grand Cascade / Water Avenue at the Petrodvorets Palace but it turned out to be dirty sheets of ice floating on the water. All we needed was long-sleeves and a vest.
And in the Middle East it was pleasantly warm until Aleppo and Damascus where we suffered a cold snap, which wasn't unbearable.
Bye for now. Or in Russian, das vidanya ... really glad I took that Russian night class as English is far less understood here compared to the Middle East.