Our tour

Trip Start Apr 29, 2006
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41
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Trip End Nov 15, 2007


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Saturday, June 24, 2006

Our helpful guide, Antonina, who looks just like Barbra Streisand, told us the average wage is about $300US per month, there is a flat tax of 13% across the board and there is a GST or VAT of 18-25%. Tertiary education is not free, and there are 42 Universities in St Petersburg. It is often cheaper to go overseas for tertiary education. At any one time there are 1 million tourists in St Petersburg. The city has a huge representation of Police, Armed Services and Security on the streets, who take their jobs very seriously.

Our hotel was comfortable and all the meals provided on the tour, exceptional. The restaurants we were taken to were different and had very original decorations. Of course we had Borsht (beetroot soup), quite tasty, but I wouldn't want it every day. We drove by many wonderful Cathedrals, churches, palaces and museums. The one which stands out in my mind is the magnificent Cathedral of the Resurrection (Our Saviour-on-the-Spilt-Blood) with its 5 vivid coloured domes and gilded porches and a height of 81 meters. Antonina told us "Everything which you see which is gold, is gold". All the places we visited had some form of entertainment, bands, singers, musicians and they all knew Waltzing Matilda and Advance Australia Fair.

The Hermitage Museum is huge with 4 main parts. The floors and ceilings are equally as magnificently decorated as the walls, many wonderful mosaics, parquetry and murals. The art work is priceless and without sounding like a tourist brochure, it's a must see for any traveler. It houses the largest and most valuable collection in the world. My eyes were agog with so many, many beautiful things. It was great and grand and awesome. Artists' names whose work I had seen in many other countries were all represented here. Check the Hermitage Museum on the web. Also check out St Isaac's Cathedral, I won't go into it all here but it too is splendid.

The Russian people suffered greatly during the Second World War and St Petersburg alone lost 1.5 million people, mostly women and children. Bread was made up with sawdust and glue and many of the citizens died of malnutrition. As the war wound down, all available land was turned into vegetable gardens, even in front of the great museums and cathedrals.

We got the impression the people were currently happy and satisfied with their environment. The young women are beautiful and fashionably dressed. There are many coffee houses and restaurants and the existing small flats are being refurbished into larger housing (one family housing instead of many). New apartment buildings are also being constructed on the outskirts of the city. Bungalows and free standing houses are not the norm because of heating and building costs.
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