Tour to Pushkin and Pavlovsk, English Boat Tour

Trip Start Jul 10, 2008
Trip End Jul 15, 2008

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Where I stayed
Prestige Hotel

Flag of Russia  , Sankt-Peterburg,
Friday, July 11, 2008


We got up early, and hit the road (taxi). At 7 AM, we walked to the Underground and found a surly policeman telling us we could not enter the station. We didn’t understand until he crossed his arms that definitely indicated the message that we should not go any further, “nyet”.

Flustered as to what to do, Kathy asked a freelance cab, not the regulated version of public transport and we got taken. 1000 Rubles to the Moscow Hotel. $43. Wow. But we had no power. We had to get to the hotel so that we could climb a bus and head out of town to the Summer Palaces (Puskin and Pavlovsk). Obviously, we were not in a good mood and then when the driver in minimal words said that the main road, the Nevsky Prospect was not open we realized as the trip unfolded that this was a round about way of going. We were nervous not knowing what thus guy was doing by circling outside the city center. Later on, we realized that this was the only way, but under the circumstances, if felt like another difficult moment in Russia.

Anyway, we made it and after some searching for coffee (we had had no breakfast), we got on board with our English speaking guide and headed for the country.

Within an hour, we at the bucolic setting that Elizabeth, wife of Peter the Great, startedbuilding in 1744. This palace is known as Tsarskoe Selo. Katherine the Great continued the project for many years. The guide was very informative, though I spent much of the time searching for interesting visual subjects while she was talking. The overall impression of grandeur was overwhelming. Governments cannot do these kinds of projects in this day and age, unless they were dictatorship. So much gold and marble. I think that knowing many of these palaces have been so finely restored is just as impressive. World War II did its number on Russian soil. I cannot imagine the effort that has gone into rebuilding these great sites.

After a satisfying traditional lunch including stereotypical bottles of vodka in a rustic remake of a country-hunting lodge, complete with singing and instrumental talents, we ventured to Pavlovsk, the estate that was to be “lived in” by the royal family. Katherine the Great gave the place to her son Paul (Pavel) in 1777. I like this better than Puskin. It is more modest and gentler on the eyes. We did not get a chance to see all of these grounds, complete with gardens, buildings and bridges.

On the ride home, I talked with the guide asking about the Siege Museums. If we cannot get to the Heroic Defenders Museum, then we will go to the Blockage Museum, which is located in town.

We stopped at a small café with Near East motifs and observed what we would remember as a classic scene. A large man was guarding an expensive car outside a café across the street. Later, the “businessman”, a young suit attired man, without tie, strolled to his car escorted by another man with an earphone who sat in the back seat with him. We figured that this was his bodyguard. Was this your image of the Russian money wheeler-dealer or perhaps Mafia type? Who knows, but let’s assume.

Later that evening, at 8PM, we toured on an English speaking boat, the canals and the part of the Neva River. The young tour guide who spoke our language sounded as if he had been educated as Oxford. Yet, he said that he listens to British music to learn English. I am sure he has a gift for languages. You cannot pick up all those sounds from listening to just music. As usual, a view from a boat on the waterways is such a different perspective from sidewalks and highways. Just like kayaking, the unique view is experienced from its uncrowded and proximity to the land.

Our guide recommended an Uzbek restaurant near by. Great place with inexpensive offerings. Sometimes, after paying so much for regular meals, it is just fun to eat for less. Nevertheless, the food was also outstanding. The wait staff knew no English so we pointed at the menu and they smiled.

Walked home again. About a 45 minute venture.

I found myself staring at the attractive, slender women. They seem sexier than most places, probably because they wear high heels and short dresses and pants. Very tempting. I mentioned this to Kathy and she said the same alluring scene distracted her French colleague. She mentioned that the men seemed so unattractive. I agreed. They presented a kind of grunge look. Usually vests or T-shirts with jeans or cargo type pants. Totally informal next to their girlfriends. Maybe this is an international trend. Similar male/female contrasts in style was happening in Vancouver/Seattle. The guys sported short buzz cuts, which still to this day reminds me of criminal types.

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