October 19

In St. Petersburg

Slept very poorly, thanks perhaps in part to the howling of the wind outside, perhaps to the unfamiliar bed. This apartment is significantly smaller than Olga's, or at least it feels smaller. The view out the window, behind the opaque red and gold floral curtains, is pretty dismal regardless of the weather. A bunch of concrete (post-Stalin?) apartment blocks above a potholed roadway covered with mud and puddles. People hurry past, bundled up in layers of clothing. None have umbrellas even though it's drizzling. You'd go flying like Mary Poppins if you tried to open an umbrella in that wind. Today I am wearing a shirt, a turtleneck sweater, a white cotton sweater, a jacket, gloves, and my wool cap. I hope it's enough!

Lovely apartment buildings

On the upside, though, the place has hot water. There is even a shower curtain, though it doesn't seem to prevent a large pool from forming on the floor.

Olga and I first headed for the bus station to buy tickets to Novgorod, which we intended to visit on our way back to Moscow. St. Petersburg's public transit system is as crowded as Moscow's, though as Olga points out repeatedly, the metro is much simpler because there are only three or four lines.

The city is much cleaner than Moscow. I've seen very few intentionally ripped-up roads, and most of the ones I have seen have had men working or construction equipment nearby. I can only conclude that SP is either wealthier than Moscow or chooses to direct its money more heavily at the city itself. I wonder how it manages that.

Dom Knigi, the House of Books

Nevsky Prospect was our first excursion. It's the main street in town, lined with shops, street vendors, banks, and cafes. The distinctive bookstore Dom Knigi, pictured above, is there. Very few kiosks compared to other parts of the city we'd seen so far.

We passed by a "stereokino" movie theater. A dinosaur poster caught my eye. On closer examination, sure enough, it turned out to be "Jurassic Park." I figured it'd be fun to see a movie I was familiar with dubbed in another language, and that the effects and nifty digital sound would interest Olga, so we bought tickets. Which was an excursion in itself. The door between the movie posters and under the STEREOKINO sign wasn't the theater at all. A woman told us to go around back. We did, and sure enough, through the alley and across a small parking area, there was another door next to movie posters. So we went in. But you can't buy tickets in that building; another woman directed us across the alley, where a third door led down a short hall ending in a ticket window. Olga paid for the 6:00 show (250 rubles each) and we were on our way.

The weather had begun to clear by then -- the clouds had lost their ominous grey shade and become mostly white, and the air was actually still from time to time -- so we decided not to visit the Hermitage as planned but instead to walk around the city center.

Scenes from the park in front of the Admiralty
And the Admiralty itself

And walk we did. St. Petersburg isn't wanting for spectacular buildings. First we went to the Admiralty, where some kids were playing among the statues near an empty fountain in front of the building. One statue was especially interesting, a famous scientist (whose name I will need to ask Olga again) and a camel. Apparently he went into the desert and managed to find cures for a couple of fatal diseases.

St. Isaac's Cathedral

St. Isaac's Cathedral was nearby, so we went there next. It's not too exciting from the outside, but the inside is spectacular, all gold leaf and malachite pillars and huge, elaborate frescoes. Unfortunately, they wanted extra payment for the privilege of taking pictures inside, so I kept my camera in its case. In retrospect, I probably should have forked out the few dollars.

The city as seen from St. Isaac's

The most interesting thing about the outside of St. Isaac's is that you can, for an extra fee, climb to the collonade and get a nice panoramic view of the city. Actually, it's kind of a depressing view. St. Petersburg looks a lot better from the ground.

Continue, go back or go to the index

Maintained by Steven Grimm <koreth@hyperion.com>.
Send mail if you have comments or suggestions.