Marvellous St. Petersburg

Trip Start Jun 03, 2010
Trip End May 28, 2011

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Flag of Russia  , North-West Russia,
Wednesday, July 7, 2010

July 7

Our first real look at St. Petersburg, and it revealed itself as one of the most glorious cities in the world. Being built in a planned way, in relatively recent times (18th C), it is quite wide open, with huge wide streets lined with architectural gems at each new corner, and with canals and parks to match, or indeed surpass, Paris.

We set off on the Metro in the morning. The walk from the hotel campground was a couple of blocks through residential apartments. This is working class territory, with Moms and babies, older folk with their shopping bags, and rather chaotic, helter skelter shops, apartments and courtyards.

We found the Metro OK, and it was fairly easy to pay (about 75c each in cdn) and figure out our way. When we emerged, we were on the very busy, very wide main drag, Nevsky Prospekt. We found an info centre, and then sat for a cup of coffee (more expensive here… almost $3 each, but it was a nice place) to get oriented.

Then we started walking… and were delighted at every view and street corner. Ornate shops and theatre buildings, beautiful 18th C bridges with dramatic sculptures, a huge multi-acre palace around this corner and that corner… we saw about 5 of such on our first walk, and there are many more to see… glorious cathedrals of vastly different styles… orthodox, Romanesque. All this, and we have not yet seen the main sights!

We were accosted twice as tourists, in two very different ways. The first was as we were passing a five star hotel, the Keminsky, right near the Hermitage. The doorman started chatting us up, and invited us in, whereupon a bellhop took us and showed us around the lobby and the tea room. It was quite delightful, and a compliment that they thought we were of their potential clientele. He asked us where we were staying, and I couldn't quite bring myself to say "in a 23 year old Volkswagen camper in a hotel parking lot in the sticks", so I just said “the Elizar Hotel”.

The second experience was a bit nastier. As we crossed a street, there were a bunch of men on the corner. Sure enough, as I passed through them, they all squooshed together around me as they chatted with each other. Luckily I clued in pretty quick, reached for my wallet pocket and grabbed the guys hand as he was giving it a good feel. I pulled his hand away, saying loudly “get the fxxx off me”, and carried on. I paused and checked that all was in order, and then called back to them about calling the police. They all looked so innocent… “what, me?” Pat was there too, of course, and got caught up in the little crowd, but backed up into another couple of tourists, so her back-pack was not an issue. No harm done… thanks to Tilley pants with all their Velcro and secret pockets, but it was a warning to be a little more alert.

This evening we are off on a real adventure. There is a bicycle tour called “The White Nights” tour. It does not even start til 10:30 pm, and wraps up around 2 am. We are excited about it, as a unique adventure, but also a little nervous about he late night streets, Will let you know how it goes….
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