Beautiful = Freezing. A Paradox perhaps

Trip Start Jan 31, 2011
Trip End Dec 15, 2011

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Where I stayed
Apple Hostel

Flag of Russia  , North-West Russia,
Thursday, February 10, 2011

I actually woke up at a reasonable hour today - 10am. Fully expecting to look out of the curtainless window and see grey and still snowing, I was rather surprised to see a full on sunny day without a cloud in the sky. 
QUICK!!! GET UP! I jumped into my silk long johns and water/windproof trousers, my new hat, fleecey scarf, and not forgetting my gloves, hurried into the kitchen and tipped some cereal and tea down my neck before bounding out into the streets on my own. 
I was incredibly thankful of all the clothes I'd put on because it is SO COLD! -14 apparently, and I've never been in that cold. I had to fasten my hat up tight and tuck my fleece scarf around my chin, I put my sunglasses on but managed to steam them up every time I tried to warm my nose inside my scarf, so I had to balance the cold nose to visibility ratio quite carefully.

I managed to retrace the steps that I took with Victor on Tuesday and went back to the Savior on the Blood church which was even more beautiful against the blue sky. The bright colours of the domes and the gold shining in the sun. One thing that is a shame is that on or around so many of the buildings there are just wires all over the place. It's actually quite hard to get pictures without any in! Photoshop will come in handy.There were a few people there, and one couple were taking rather odd photos I thought. They sounded Russian, and instead of having a picture of themselves against the church, they were facing the church with their backs to a park, and didn't smile, just looked quite stern as if saying fiercely "I am here. Next to this park." and then swapped places so the other could take a picture of the other one looking just as stern....Odd.

Anyway, I wandered round the church, and headed over to the riverside to see I could get a better view of the Peter and Paul Cathedral/Fortress. Yes! Clear as day, took a couple of snaps, but it's a long way away so I headed down by the river towards the Hermitage again. This walk was all in shade and as I went on my thighs got really quite cold to the point of stinging and going numb, my cheeks and nose too. On I went, looking for the corner to turn down and finally I got there and emerged back into the sun which shining on me for a few minutes gave some relief to the bitter cold was feeling. I took some more pictures and admired the gorgeous bright green it is painted in, and then walked to the Admiralty which is just next door, there a bit of a park in front with a walkway framed in trees. It was so quiet and peaceful, the main roads were close by, but I couldn't really hear them anymore, it was just serene and quiet, and all I could hear as I walked along was the squeaky crunch of snow under my boots.

Shortly after was St Isaacs Cathedral - another building with such detailed ornate carvings that it would take hours just to look at it all. I paid 100 Roubles for a ticket to go up to the Colonnade on the roof. I was sure she said go round to the lift, maybe her accent actually just meant go round to the left! Because when I got there and scanned my ticket on the turnstile to go in, a spiral staircase began. I started counting. 270 steps and 4 small rests later I reached the top and sat down. It's quite painful breathing hard in very cold air, but I caught my breath, only to have it taken away again by the view of the city. The colonnade is a dome on the Cathedral which you can walk around and therefore get a 360 degree view of the city for miles. The huffing and puffing was worth it and I feel fitter already after the vast amount of walking and stair climbing I've done. I think my trousers are starting to fall down with getting baggy!

Having admired the view for quite some time, I decided to wander down and then just find my way back by strolling around the streets in the general direction of the hostel. I passed a statue of Nicholas the 1st on horseback as well as the Marinsky Palace then walked by the canal to Neviskiy Prospekt, which also passed the university. 

I passed a couple of things that I feel worthy of commenting on. The snow by the canal has been heaped to the side of the pavement to make a walkway, but also creating a faux wall of snow about 5 foot high. There was fair amount of yellow snow down there, and vague attempts to write/draw? I also rather randomly passed a key that was hanging on a branch. Almost as if some homeowner had secretly hung their spare key there. But the winning random comedy moment of the day was passing a pimped up Lada. It had blackened out windows, a fat exhuast and was playing deep bassy rap music at the volume of an african taxi. I wish I could have caught a picture, but I feared Lada bashing might come my way so quickly passed by with a smirk on my face at the ridiculous notion of it all. 

I soon had to stop in a shop just to warm up a bit once again as my poor nose is feeling quite abused with exposure and might drop off. Then I carried on back to the hostel for a warming cup of tea and Alla produced 2 more pies and more cabbagy vinegary stuff for me to fill up on. 

Tonight at midnight I am getting the train to Moscow. I probably won't post any more today as I have seen all that I think I will see today, and it is getting dark now. 

I have arranged to meet Zoya in Moscow, who is the girlfriend of Neil (my gorgeous and lovely surfer dude neighbour who teaches kite surfing in Turkey by the way- and is the attic king! some of you will know what I mean :D) so I think we shall have a chat a a drink and gossip about Neil! (only joking Neil!)

Some final thoughts and notes on St Petersburg. 
The people here are lovely and friendly, even the ones I've walked up to in the street thrusting a map into their face and pointing frantically at map and directions have done their best to help me. People say pointing is rude. I say pointing is good. It gets the point across! (haha no pun intended) no really, I have pointed at food, drinks, maps, general street directions and all of which were hugely productive and got me just what I wanted. I now feel more confident at being landed anywhere and somehow getting by. I sad to Alla this morning, that I didn't suppose I'd be looked after as well as I've been looked after by her, here. The staff and guests in the hostel have been absolute gems and started to restore my faith in humanity which has been so shaken these last few months. I've received genuine hospitality and generosity from people who earn and have barely nothing, and have seen such hardship through the years even as far back as their grandparents. I wish I had something to give back to them as I have felt very lucky and spoilt in my own life with what I own. 
Unlike England, where if 1 mm of snow falls, schools close, trains stop, people don't go to work, fuel and food stops being delivered and generally we come to a standstill. Here, I can confidently tell you there is at least 2 foot of snow out there, it snowed continuously for the last 2 days and yet the streets are clear, people are at work and school, cars are still speeding (and right in front of police cars too noticed), and everyone carries on. What's different? Well I haven't seen a single gritting lorry. Instead I have seen plenty of snow ploughs, big and small, that clear the pavements and the roads. Little trucks shovel the snow into big trucks and take the snow away. People have snow shovels and clear the streets (as well as the snow ploughs) and men stand on roofs and clear the snow to stop any snowslides onto people's heads. Magic. Everyone is productive, everything works, and they don't have magic fairy dust to make it happen.
What an incredible place! Every building I have seen in the centre is old, ornate, covered in carvings, or colour, or has columns or statues. There were plenty of buildings I asked Victor what they were and he said they were nothing special, just buildings. It really pays to walk around the city and look up as well as where you're going, because there is so much to see. 
Terrible - had to be said. I've said it. I'm probably biased because I have no idea what they're saying and I haven't seen Top Gear or Friends on any channels yet. Nuff said.
Am I allowed to mention these? I feel I have to really, it's a part of life, and something no one talks about. In my book High Heels and Head Torches there is an entire chapter devoted to this topic. Anyway, Toilet paper is not for the toilet. I did have to check on the specifics of this from my dear friend Helena who lived in Corfu for a while and lived with this concept. I am now clear with this concept! Phew. They seemed surprised here that in England we can put any old thing down there more or less. I guess we're actually quite lucky to have good plumbing!

I have noted the requests that have come my way for more hat footage - by the way I do take requests for pictures of anything (within reason!!) and perhaps you'll see my hat a little better as I took some pics of myself using the stretched out arm technique. My aim is getting pretty good :). It wasn't expensive, it's not real fur, but it is warm, I think it suits me, and Im glad I have it (if only to cover awful hair...must get a haircut soon)
Oh yes and Andrews...can you denote yourselves Andrew B (or Bloomy) and Andrew D - just so I know who's who :D

Best Feeling today: Has to be yet more awe at the beauty of this place

Worst feeling today: poor cold nose!

Best thing today: waking up to see sun!

Worst thing today: Having to leave

Most Beautiful thing today: Nearly everything in fact - but I'll plump for the view from the top of St Isaacs.     
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Glenn D on

That is indeed a fine hat! Definitely more hat photos required :)

Chris on

Beautiful pictures - I had no idea it St Petersburg was so stunning or with so many ornate buildings, especially from your colonnade view. It sounds like you're having a ball out there so far. I hope the Moscow train is kind to you tonight.

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