I know I said I was going to write a post after I landed in Petersburg, but the past 3 days were just so full of excitement. I met my host at the airport, naturally, a very nice, good looking middle aged business woman (she actually has a daughter my age, so quit thinking I could be her son), we left the airport, and she asked me if that was all of my luggage. I looked behind me to see what she meant… Oh, wait a minute… Where’s my backpack? Unlike any Airport I had ever been to, in St. Petersburg you arrive at the arrival hall to meet whomever is waiting for you and THEN you claim your baggage. We went back inside, I got my backpack, and we got in her black Toyota and took a short tour through town. Unlike Moscow, there is actually enough room to drive a car in the streets of St. Petersburg, and I have yet to see any indicators of speed limits anywhere, so when they can, people drive 60-70 mph. In town.
Petersburg is a beautiful, no, romantic, city, all with Italian baroque buildings, cathedrals with golden and enameled domes, zounds of canals and rivers, bridges designed by architects from all countries and eras of europe. I have up to today had the great luck of experiencing three of the six sunny days of this year, or so my host and her daughter say. After tea with a traditional Russian pastry filled with cabbage (sounds weird, tastes awesome!), we took a bus tour around Petersburg with an audioguide in some 11 languages to choose from, followed by a visit to a most exquisite restaurant and later, just after midnight, a boat trip on the river Neva to watch the opening of the draw bridges. A jolly good evening we had, and I must have learned 10 new words in Russian. Since the Docking area was on the opposite side of the river from my host’s apartment,and all the draw bridges were up, the cab driver had to take us around the entire city, which took something around an hour and a half and meant we arrived after first light.
In all this excitement I forgot to mention the two Yorkshire terriers. One of them is not much of a bother, but the other one seems to have a dissociative personality disorder, with the nasty persona being brought out whenever I stand up, which results in her barking at me and occasionally attacking my feet with her biting thing. It would seem, however, that my heels are so large that she can’t fit my achilles sinew even between her frontmost teeth, which results in more of an awkward situation for her than in pain for me. So, the next day, my host’s daughter and I boarded a bus to Puschkin, the historical suburb of St. Petersburg where the summer palace is located. I am not going to go over the tour, which took 6 hours including the bus ride, but more on the fact that getting up at 12.30 after the last nights adventure was hardly my idea of отдыхать (resting). Side-note: My host and I started talking about the various artistic and philosophical achievements of our respective home countries, which ended in a contest of who could list more famous influential scientists/artists/philosophers; My host would throw a volley of names at me, I would return some, adding more while the other thought of new names to through into this battle of wits. I don’t think I could have had this contest in any other place in the world. Who would’a thunk that education could be so much fun!
My host’s daughter and I returned to Petersburg some time around 8 and had some pizza and red wine at a local Italian/Japanese restaurant, took the Metro to ПИОНЕРСКАЯ, and boarded a Маршрутка. I sat more or less behind the driver, so at every stop, people would give me money to pass on to the driver for tickets. My host’s daughter congratulated me later on how well I handeled that situation; she said nobody suspected that I wasn’t Russian. We watched a few movies, drank beer and медовуха, and finally went to bed, so we could rise again at 9.30 in the morning for our next tour, this time to the winter palace/hermitage. Highly interesting, great art, absolutely recommendable, and I’m not going to repeat what our guide, a friend of my host’s, said. Go and visit yourself!