St Petersburg, Russia: Venice of the North

Trip Start Jul 28, 2013
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Trip End Feb 06, 2014


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Flag of Russia  , Saint Petersburg,
Wednesday, September 4, 2013

From Russia with love - what a beautiful city! We've been in St Petersburg now since Wednesday morning and have loved every minute of it. We've caught shuttle buses, navigated our way on the metro (which makes London's underground look a filthy mess), struggled with taxi drivers who don't speak a word of English, cruised the canals by boat and walked for miles. A few things we've noticed along the way:

1. People are friendly and the vast majority of women are beautiful, very well dressed and wear killer heels.

2. Security in some form or another is EVERYWHERE! The range of uniforms is mesmerising and number of official looking people mind boggling. Police are stood at every single intersection and in every single metro. Wherever you look there is someone there making sure everything is running according to plan. Makes you feel safe but watched. Haven't seen any crime though so it must work.

3. Drivers are mental. Seriously mental. How they leave the house and return without a fender bender or complete side of their car scrape I've no idea. Crossing the street in turn feels like a game of froggy.

4. Weddings Weddings Weddings. Each day we've seen at least 20 brides some of whom we bump into more than once during the day. Sounds strange yes but after looking up on trusty wiki we understood why - "A traditional Russian wedding lasts for at least two days and some weddings last as long as a week. Following the civil ceremony, the newlyweds and their witnesses, travel around the city in a limousine and view many historical sites. Sometimes very close friends join as well. This presents the primary opportunity for the majority of the wedding photographs that are taken at varying historical places around the town or city." Which also explains why there are probably more limo's here than Hollywood.

5. If you go to backstreet local bars beers cost about a quid.

6. Food options are endless. Siberian dumplings are tasty but don't end well for Sam - went down quickly, came out quickly - were his words. I've fallen in love with a place called "Schastye cafe" which means happiness and apparently made Sam feel like a girl within minutes. Come to think about it he was quite entertained by the placemat dot to dot. I was more immersed in the Tiffany green and cream decor set off by cascade lights, cherubs adoring the walls and jars of multi coloured macaroons scattered about. A perfect sanctuary for tired feet and hungry stomachs.

7. The buildings smell like an old peoples home. Well actually our hotel room smells like mould but for 30 quid a night I guess that was inevitable, at least we have a cracking view. The St Petersburg History Museum definitely had a certain kind of odour but whether that came from the building, exhibits or elderly attendants, who stalk you then ghost into the next room without you noticing, I'm not sure.

8. The metro is amazing and you only have to pay 50p (per ride) to go anywhere you want. The escalators are three times as long as those in London. The walls and floors are made of marble. Train carriages are twice as wide as are the platforms. Oooh and there's a little lady that sits at the bottom of each set of escalators looking into security videos just to make sure you're behaving. It's all spotlessly clean too. How do they do it? Probably by employing about a million more people than London I'd say. It does however only cover a relatively small area which is a pain when trying to zip around the city.

9. Everything is done on a grand scale. The boulevards are super wide and stretch for miles. Buildings ginormous yet contain the most intricate of carvings and design. They are also beautifully painted in pastel pink, blue, green or yellow.

10. G20 screwed us over. After seeing numerous black town cars cruising the streets with police escorts we thought something might be going on. Then we walked along the river and spotted all the hydrofoils covered in G20 designs being escorted down the river by police boats. Unfortunately we didn't put two and two together until we went to do a day trip to see the palaces at Peterof and read that between 4-7 September day trips were cancelled due to a section of river being closed for G20. Doh.

So I think that about sums up our time here. It's been fabulous and we can't rave about it enough. Let's hope the same can be said about Moscow.
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