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Here, there, everywhere... A modest attempt at chronicling my around the world adventure over the next year (or so).

white nights and красный days...

RUSSIAN FEDERATION | Friday, 4 July 2008 | Views [337]

St Petersburg, a city of such important history in Russia yet struggling to find it's place in the modern world. Filled with high rises and high fashion, and the deepest metro stations we have ever riden. First a word about our hosts, Lyubomir and Olga (Днгщиьшк anв Olga). Lyubomir met us at the train station after a four hour journey from Helsinki. Taking us on a brief tour of the suburbs of  St Petersburg he got lost on the way home, which seemed quite the opposite of this seemingly organized, put together person Once Olga came home from shopping we all took a long nap so we could participate in what is called "White Nights". Essentially every night at around midnight the city opens all the drawbriges to let big and tall freighters through to connect to the larger bodies of water.

During this evening they light up all the buildings along the river and bridges with lots and lots of people out walking around. Since Lyubomir and Olga (L&O) live outside the city center we used the metro for everything but it closed at midnight and reopened at 6:00am. This meant we would be staying out all night in order to catch the first metro in the morning. This explailns the long nap! Needless to say I did stay up all night and during this time L and O showed us all the wonders of the city by walking around-palaces, catherdals, fountains, etc. And this is highlighted by the fact that it never really got that dark because of the midnight sun effect. It was a great way to see the city. An astounding thing during this all-night walking tour Jessica and I noticed there were not just young people out all night but older folks, kids, teenages, everybody was out. Oh and everybody had big beers in their hands! Very russian. We drifted home at about 7:00am and went to bed. again waking at 2pm!

We stayed with L&O for 6 days and during this time we say all of St Petersburg by night and day. We also took a day tour to Novgorod, the original capital of russia way back when with a catherdal from the 12th century and the original kremlin. Kremlin actually means citadel (walled fortress) but in the west we all attach it to the "Kremlin" with red square, etc. More on that later. Novogorod also was a nice day trip out of the city even though we had to ride a bus 4 hours each way.

We also spent another day strolling the grounds of Peter the Great's summer palace about an hour outside the city. the grounds are massive and beautiful on a nice sunny day. We opted out of the palace tour on L&O's advice and it proved a good decision as we walked through the gardens, photographed the fountains and laid on the "beach" I don't know we would classify it as a beach and the water was a little toxiс looking but the russians were swimming and having a grand old time!

On our final day we toured the Hermitage museum, world famous for it's art collection. It was rather impressive but jessica and I were struck at the condition of the museum itself inside and how many of the treasures were stored for viewing. Having been to other world renowed museums it seemed the Hermitage was in need of a serious capital campaign to raise some badly needed maintenance funds. P.S. For all you thnking of traveling to the Hermitage, the first Thursday of every month is free. Great deal but expect a huge line to get in. Once in the line is not bad because the grounds are so massive.

Couple of highlights: Catherdal of the Savior of Spilled Blood (not worth 10 bucks). Do not lay on the grass unless you see other russians doing it (this will come back in Moscow). Booking and getting train tickets (again a theme see Moscow). The deepest, I mean deepest metro stations you have ever seen. Accoridng to L&O once former military tunnels, no photos allowed and very deep. Somewhere bewteen 50-100m down for each line. But a great way to get around St Pets. Neuvo Riche in Russia means building poor architecturally designed mcmansions. Damn spend some money on a good, not-russian architect. Jessica was horrified! Money does not equal taste....Another theme carried into Moscow.. girls done up, boys done down. Going to the museum? Women-dress up, going to the lake? Women dress up, getting on the metro? Women dress up. You get the picture. Jessica has a theory about russian men and women. The Princess and Frog. Translation-cute girls with toad boyfriends.   A final thought-love that blockade living.

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