. The mansion is situated by the sea and has enormous gardens for walking and around every corner is some kind of elaborate fountain with golden and guided figures spewing out water in some fashion - be it a pyramid or chess board or Adam and Eve fountain or the Grand Cascade, a massive golden bespeckled, monstrosity of a fountain, which would help explain SP's occasional water-shortage by itself! We toured the area and talked about various things and eventually caught a bus back into town and then we separated as he hadn't seen the Hermitage yet and I wanted to walk around the city a bit. The highlights of my walk were the 1859 bronze domed St. Isaacs Cathedral and its skyline viewing platform where you can take in SP's as a whole with towering churches and brilliant waterways and the amazing Palace Square mixing with the city businesses and housing. Between St. Isaacs and the Hermitage is a nice park with a few fountains (would've been nicer on any other day...I was fountained out by then!) and marble statues and places to sit and just chill out for awhile. It was a beautiful day and SP's on a good weather day with blue skies is a must-see place!
At the hostel there are quite a few interesting people, there's Paul from England who's only been here like a day but already seemingly knows everyone in town and Matthew, from Austin no less, who I had fun reminiscing about Austin with; a small Chinese girl from San Francisco whose name I cant recall and a few others as well
. At night, there's a great little bar a few doors down from the hostel...it's above a bakery and must be the best bar in all of SP's, it's small, but they play great music, there're really friendly young Russians there who actually speak some English, and it just has a great atmosphere. We chill out here and meet a few people and dance the night away - it's great because they dance crazy and anything goes...in the States people would be made fun of for dancing like that or would be too self-conscious about dancing, but its fantastic here as no one cares and its all about having fun. People are twisting and writhing and shaking and seemingly mimicking crabs in a fight and all sorts of craziness and its absolutely great! I guess copious amounts of vodka might help too!!
In the previous evening I met a fellow from the hostel from Slovenia, Klemen, and since we both wanted to see the same are we decided to go together. So the next day we took off for Petrodvorets, or Peters house, after stopping off at the bus station to get tickets to Estonia, because he was leaving that night to catch a plane and I would be leaving a few days later because my visa ends soon. Klemen speaks Russian so we went together to do this and he was quite helpful! Anyway, we then took a minibus into the countryside to a place where the old aristocrats used to take vacations and breaks. Peters House is a magnificent mansion built by Peter the Great, which was to serve as his Versailles-by-the-sea (Versailles being the grand gardens of the opulent French royals of old). IN fact it seems that the story behind the beauty of St Petersburg has much to do with tying to keep up or outdo the French in style and decor and pompousness! peters House is a beautiful pale yellow mansion, but the real treat comes in its vast grounds, gardens and the 144 different fountains it has