Welcome to Russia and awesome newspaper headlines. The title of this entry was just below the fold on the free English paper that you find around town. Others beauties include Police Bust Estonian Vodka Pipeline Gang, an article I initially ignored thinking it was merely a euphemism for some smuggling ring blah blah boring; but no it was an actual 2km pipeline from some illegal stills in Russia across the border to Estonia where, as a result of joining the EU, vodka prices have skyrocketed making the product a prime target for mafia types. The best part is that it’s not the first one they’ve found, quite how you secretly lay a 2km pipeline across a border I’m not sure. The main headline was Condeleeza Rice embarrassing herself calling Russia irrelevant, you’d think with all those Russian experts they still have knocking around over there they’d be able to come up with some accurate analysis.
One of the best tools for interaction so far has been the fact that I am reading Dostoevsky. The number of copies of Crime and Punishment around the hostel alone is testament to the fact that a lot of people had the same idea though not exactly as the one I am embarking on is The Idiot. Think I’ve seen at least eight copies of C&P in three languages lying around, not much Tolstoy though. Sitting in my favourite bar here in St Petersburg waiting for the dryer cycle to finish three conversations have been had all started with comments on my choice of reading material followed by a barrage of recommendations to further explore the heart of the question of Russia.
Crime and Punishment is a book that, when I read it a few years ago, left me in an absolute daze. Maybe it was locking myself in a room and knocking it off in an afternoon but the images painted of Raskolnikov’s room seemed all too apparant. Now walking through Sennaya and past the three houses where Dostoevsky lived here and the houses of the woman money lender and Raskolnikov it really doesn’t strech the imagination too much to go back a century and a half to what it was like. The streets are still bustling, narrow and filthy the canals not much better. The cold and maze like layout lend to the oppression where the only ones who seem truly comfortable are the cats, dogs and rats who all act as though they own the place. Add in a huge market populated by bahbushkas selling vegetables and row upon row of leather jackets, boots, and atrocious jeans the whole place is just about perfection.
It seems that bars are about the only place that you actually interact with locals. On the street everyone is very much going about their business in a serious and unsmiling manner. But on every encounter so far this is definitely a facade and once you walk through the front door into a conversation they are some of the most engaging and friendly people I’ve met.
This is definitely the case at my new favourite bar. Found quite by chance as it was the address given to us for the laundromat, no clue is given to it’s name and after four or five visits I’m none the wiser in that regard. If there was one thing needed to make me love St Petersburg anymore this place would be it; perfect decor, great DJs unusually playing stuff that you actually want to listen to, cheap drink, cute and flirty waitresses, three washing machines and two dryers out the back, getting involved in love triangles, great grafitti in the toilets, chainsmoking locals, being sketched (yeah, I can see you repeatedly glancing up over your pad), and maybe it’s just Russia but where else can you just sit in a bar and play chess like it is the most natural thing in the world.
Sitting there waiting for the dryer to become available I got drawn into a conversation with a group of three students and so the night’s entertainment was found and also an introduction to some more of St P’s great nightlife, complicated relationships and far too much vodka. Meeting back up with the others from the hostel and introducing Tania, Lena and Eugene we set out first to a strange place hidden behind a ballroom, then the site of Monday nights problems Fidels, and finally past the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood to Achtung Baby. On the way between these last two things had got interesting with Lena and more so when it became known that she and Eugene had been/were a thing. Walking the streets with your hand clasped resolutely by a girl as she’s arguing fiercely with her ex/current flame is definitely a new and quite uncomfortable experience. Also unfortunate as Eugene was a quality guy and getting to Achtung Baby it was apparant that we were not going to be getting on quite a famously as before. Still didn’t stop him from buying round after round of drinks which went something like beer, shot of vodka, beer, shot, beer, beer with shot dropped in, shot, shot, shot. The best part of this was Rdoc working his magic on Tania, worst part was some Russian bastard knicking off with my beloved kuffiah while we were dancing. Or maybe it was the blonde that plonked herself down and proceeded to tell me all about her brother who had been shot in their apartment by people who didn’t like the way her father ran a power station or something.
Russian naval game – Achtung Baby
Rdoc and I also learned an important lesson last night, more important even than the nature of Russian girls. That is despite what is coming out of her mouth ignore Arnika. Leaving Fidels where she was firmly ensconsed on the dance floor with Dutch Joel we were told over and over that “I’m fine here, go, go, go. This is fun, I’ll be fine,” repeated each of the five or so times we tried to get her to join us. Next morning this had changed to shrieks of “How could you leave me!” and “what were you thinking?” The answer to the latter is still a bit muddled as were our replies, just wanting to reduce the level of shouting and curl back up into a quiet ball. More so in Rdoc’s case.
Song of the day: I Kissed A Girl – Katy Perry. Heard at least 10 times while in the Sennaya market, kind of hard to relax over a mystery pastry with that sort of racket going on.
Tags: bar, drinking, girls, literature, market, Russia, St Petersburg, theft