Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Eurotrip 2012 - Day 5 (6/19) - St. Petersburg

Our train arrived in St. Petersburg right on time at 8:35 AM. Our first task was then to find the 5-Rooms Hotel (so named for its total of 5 available rooms). We took the metro one stop to the nearest station to the hotel, then got a little turned around, but we eventually found the hotel by about 9:30. Unfortunately, we could not check in at the time, and were asked to return at 11, which was still 2 hours before normal check-in. Joe and I stowed our big bags, and headed out to cross off some sights in the meantime.

Our first stop was the Russian Museum, which we almost confused with the Russian Ethnography Museum (housed in the east wing of the former), but it was closed - Tuesday is its day off. So we instead headed to the Hermitage, a huge museum in the style of the Louvre. Along the way we stopped at Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan and strolled through Palace Square and by the Alexander Column (apparently the world's largest freestanding monument). We also ran into the mother/daughter pair from the train on the way over - they were at Kazan and were also headed to the Hermitage. The line at the Hermitage was ridiculous, and took about an hour to get through. When we finally did, we wandered semi-aimlessly through the bottom 2 floors for another hour or so before tiring out. After leaving, we headed to the first food provider that we saw, which happened to be a (light meat) gyro place.

After satisfying our hunger, we wandered toward St. Isaac's Cathedral, but were distracted by a small park that had a bunch of bears arranged around the central fountain (I later found out that this was the traveling United Buddy Bears exhibit). We found out that each bear represented a country, so we had to get pictures with certain "meaningful" ones. Once that was accomplished, we rejoined our path to St. Isaac's. At the cathedral, we bought tickets for both the museum (i.e., general entry) and the collonade (a trek to the outer balcony of the top dome, which offered some nice views of the city). After finishing both of those activities we walked back over to Nevskiy Prospekt and took the metro back toward the hotel. It was also on Nevskiy that I got my first picture request in St. Petersburg - according to Joe this young lady had been following us/me for a few blocks before finally gathering up the courage to ask for the picture when we stepped aside to look at a map.

When we arrived at the hotel a bit after 4, we were pleasantly surprised to find that they had started the check-in process for us and moved our bags to our room. We finished up checking in and settled in for a bit. We then decided that we had done enough exploring for the day, so our only venture out for the rest of the evening was a brief walk down the street to find some dinner around 6:30. We eventually settled on a cafe that served crepes (I went with minced meat this time), where I also tried out (and enjoyed) some hot borsch. The rest of the evening was spent lounging lazily in the room, and resting my weary feet.

Observation of the day: The metro system in St. Petersburg is just as great as the one in Moscow. Although it doesn't have the same extensive coverage (I suspect due to the smaller population), it went everywhere we needed it to, and was just as timely, if not more so. And the stations are just as beautiful. One definite improvement over Moscow is that the signage includes the English spellings in addition to the Cyrillic lettering. The cost of a single trip is 27 rubles in St. Pete, as opposed to 29 in Moscow. I also noticed (and later confirmed via the Internet) that the stations are even deeper in St. Pete, thus making for longer escalators (3 minutes to ride).

Bonus observation: Russians call crepes pancakes. They must not have the thicker variety of real pancakes over here.

3 comments:

  1. I am intriguied by your Russian celebrity status. Is it inappropriate for me to ask if you are the only black person in Russia? Or is it more the hair? Or are you just that good looking in general, and I never noticed? Have I crossed some sort of a line? I feel like there was a line back there somewhere.

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    1. There are very few black people in Russia - we saw no more than 15 or so in our 6 days there. Plus my hair is unusual to them. But thanks for calling me ugly...

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  2. The more I think about it, what I'm really surprised by, is that the Russians in particular seem drawn to you. I would not have predicted this.

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