BootsnAll Travel Network


Sleep until almost eleven. Get up, go out to see the Hermitage, which is a giant stately building situated in an equally giant square, at the center of which is a towering obelisk crowned with a statue. I admit to being apprehensive, almost paranoid from all the stories about the cops here, they are all over the place and I feel like the KGB is going to hunt me down or something. Police, military, officials of all shapes and sizes with all different uniforms – it appears that Mother Russia is having a bit of trouble letting go of the Cold War. Next, I wander over to the adjacent park to see the statue of the Bronze Horseman. The military is everywhere, all over the park, and then it occurs to me that this is probably for the G8 summit that is going on right now in the city. Putin and Georgie and all the other big wigs are in town, and I’m sure that is causing the heightened security. I turn down a small side street and there is a small bear chained to the wall (seriously). He has a muzzle on and people are stopping to pet him. Parts of this trip have been surreal. I walk back to the hostel to get my free breakfast (bread), and chat briefly with a French girl from Seattle named Ann. Then go back out, first see St. Isaac’s cathedral, then walk down Nevskiy prospect again. The street is bustling with activity, this is certainly the center of town. I turn and walk north towards the river, past the Engineer’s castle and stopping to see the Church of the Spilled Blood. This is one of the most amazing churches I have ever seen, it has a multitude of Russian-style domes, and the colors are unbelievable, so vibrant, the building just jumps out at you. Some gold, some stripes, all different colors and intricate patterns. The people here are a bit dour in appearance and I wouldn’t call them overly friendly, but given their reputation for being stone-faced, I don’t think they’re all that bad. There does seem to be a certain dangerous undercurrent running through the culture though, hard to describe exactly, of desperation, almost violence. They have had a very rough history. Other observations: some of them drive like maniacs, and almost none of the men wear beards. I thought everyone in Russia had a beard. I walk across a bridge over the Neva river, take in the palaces and the Peter and Paul fortress. People are sunbathing and swimming in the river. I take a long walk around, past an old Soviet-era Navy battleship, and arrive at Finlandsky train station, where there is still a statue of Lenin standing in front (most of them have been ripped down). He stands there, pointing the way. Later I sit down to have a few beers and get out of the sun. After a lengthy rest, I get up and resume walking, discover I have to go to the bathroom, so I find a bar, use the toilet and have another beer (real clever strategy). I walk over to a nice park to the east, lots of trees and people lounging around and playing soccer. Then, to go back I had planned to use the metro, since there is a stop nearby on the map, but I am unable to locate it and wind up walking all the way back. This is undoubtedly the most walking I have done in one day on the trip – St. Petersburg is a big city. On the way I stop for dinner, I order ‘roast’ and I get a cup of soup. I follow it up with a Big Mac next door. When I get back, I find Ann the French girl sitting on the balcony in the hall smoking a cigarette, so I stop, take my beers out of my pockets (from the supermarket) and socialize a bit. A little crowd gathers around, an Australian, a few English, and we all decide to go next door to the bar. We drink beers and a bit of vodka and talk until past midnight, when it is still not dark. The Australian guy is trying to get to Moscow, but is having some trouble booking accommodations in advance. I head back to the hostel after a while and call it a night.

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