BootsnAll Travel Network


Sleep in again until almost noon. Am a bit hungover. Have my free bread downstairs. Head to the bank to change some money, they are all at lunch. Wait until they come back, then I am escorted to the window by a serious looking fellow who looks no more than twenty years old. At the counter, he asks where I am from in good English. I tell him the US. “You only pay bills once a year there, yes?” I tell him no, he is probably thinking of taxes. He tells me that the heat they have been having is very unusual, in fact it is the hottest it has been in ten years. I leave and head for the Hermitage. The Hermitage is absolutely gargantuan; they say that if you looked at every exhibit they have for thirty seconds each, it would take you about nine years. I walk and walk and walk, it is seemingly endless. Sculptures, statues, painting, furniture, jewelry, you name it they have it. I see Renoir, Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, they are all there. In each room sits a little babushka, watching over things and sometimes nodding off. There are so many rooms and corridors and levels that you wind up spinning around, not sure of where to go next. Tour guides lead people around here and there, and there are large groups of Japanese moving in unison (as usual). I am generally not a museum or art person, but I am duly impressed – it would be hard not to be. Just the size of the building itself is impressive. When I have had my fill, I find the exit (no mean feat) and head out. Once more I’ve done quite a bit of walking and am tired, so I go back to the hostel and lay down for a while. In twenty-four hours I will be on a plane home, the trip is almost over. What I thought was poison ivy or warts appears to be accompanied by a rash, which is spreading. A bit worrisome, some vile thing I probably picked up in one of the seedier hostel showers or something. In a while I get up, walk down Nevskiy and eat a sandwich at Subway (again, not feeling energetic enough to brave local cuisine). After, I decide to take a walk down one of the main crosstown drags to the west side of town to see St. Nicholas cathedral. It turns out to be worth the hike, as the cathedral is very nice, light blue with white trim and big gold domes. It sits alongside one of the many canals in St. Petersburg – in fact, the canal layout reminds me of Amsterdam. St. Petersburg is really a beautiful city. After the cathedral, I grab a beer and drink it on the walk back. All the locals are doing it, so I guess it is all right here. Then back to the hostel to drink the last straggler and relax once again. I go to the bar next door, there are a bunch of Brazilians I had met earlier drinking there. Brazilians are among the friendliest and most light-hearted people I have ever met, it is ironic that such wonderful people can come from such a troubled place. They tell me they were stopped by the police that afternoon and had their paperwork checked, but nothing else came of it. One of the guys offers me his phone number and e-mail in case I should ever want to visit Brazil. A gang from the previous night shows up and we drink together, laughing and having a good time. Midnight comes around and the Brazilians want to go to a club, and foolishly I agree. I have almost no cash and have resolved to not be hungover for tomorrow’s trip. But there I am, getting in a cab and going across town to the Metro club, a flashy dance club full of glitz and pizzazz. Well, sure enough, it turns out to be a bad idea, as the cover alone at the place is more than enough to clean me out. I decide to cut my losses, duck out and head back on foot. I check my map, and I am miles away from the hostel, so I hail a cab (after a good half hour’s walk) and get back that way. Good and tired, I crash for the evening.

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