We arrived at our apartment in the early afternoon, were given the keys and signed
some paperwork. Actually our apartment is in the yellow building behind the red
one. There is a courtyard accessed through the tunnel that can barely be seen between
the two silver cars on the street. We are across the courtyard and up to the third
floor (second floor for Americans, Europeans count the "ground" floor as the "first"
floor). It is a lot bigger than our Nordkapp cabin, has bedding, towels, kitchen,
dishes, bathroom, and satellite TV, and costs less than the cabin! We are in the
old part of town and can do well here. Most sights are within walking distance.
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering our neighborhood, getting local money
from the ATM (a Ruble is worth a little over 4 cents US, our cards can get up to
over 10,000 Rubles each) and having a beer in the Liverpool Pub just across the street
from our building (the tan building to the right of the red one). A pint of a very
good British ale is 290 R a pint (about $14 USD, very close to Norway's high prices)
but local beers are 120 R a pint, looks like we'll save the ale for special treats.
Our first full day was spent walking down Nevsky Prospect, the "Times Square" of
St. Petersburg. There are many "Art Deco" buildings.
Look at the supports for the wrought iron balconies of the pink building.
We also passed lots of statues like this one of Catherine the Great. And on the
front of the yellow building is a chariot and horse team.
St. Petersburg is a very young town by European standards. It started as a fortress
at the mouth of the Neva River when the Russians took this area away from the Swedish
in 1703. About 10 years later Peter the Great decided to make this his capital instead
of Moscow. I know that was well before the USA was started but that is still young
for a European city. This also means that it is a "planned" city. Peter hired planners
to lay out the streets and set up the city. All the streets are straight and wide. They're
not all on a square grid but that is because it is built on a series of islands. And
like other European cities a "single" street can have multiple names, changing names
as it goes along, essentially becoming multiple streets. And addresses are numbered
as you go along. Unlike back home where the first block will have 100's, the second
200's, etc. here they start with "1" and go sequentially to the end of the street,
address number 42 may be a couple of blocks down.
We turned alongside a canal and walked to a spectacular church. We have seen pictures
of the famous St. Basil's in Red Square, Moscow, this reminded us of those pictures.
But this was nothing compared to the inside! The mosaics covered the entire walls
and ceilings without end. During the regime of the Soviet Union there was no religion
and this building suffered damage during the revolution and then was used as a warehouse. They
have completed almost all of the restoration and it is stupendous.
On the left is a view straight up to the central dome, on the right a detail of one
of the lower mosaics on one of the pillars holding up the roof, it is about 2.5 meters
(8 feet) across, two of the pillars are visible in the left picture.
The figures in this picture are almost life sized, and are on the backside of the
right hand pillar.
We then toured a market area with lots of tiny souvenir stalls. We didn't buy anything
yet, just looking at prices. Next we went across the Neva River (about 500 meters
(yards) wide) to the Saints Peter and Paul Fortress. This is where it all started
in this city. This is a huge fort planned in the "modern" style popular then of
triangular bastions with cannons that could cover along the side walls as well as
shoot out into the river.
The yellow spire is on the Saints Peter and Paul church in the center of the compound. This
was a small city in its own right with housing, stores and church. It was never
attacked as the Russians soon pushed the Swedish back as far as Vyborg.
We saw several museums inside the fort showing the history of the fort, the city
and of Russian space accomplishments. They were in the original buildings and under
An interesting note on museums. We have visited museums in a lot of countries over
the last three years and all of them have had displays with explanations in the native
language and one or more other languages, except for France. There may be more but
most of the other languages will be German, Spanish, French, Italian, depending on
what countries are nearby, but English is always included. It seems to be the "international"
language of travel. That is except for France, even in the Louvre there was little,
if any, other languages on the displays. Even here the displays are done in Russian
and English (English is on the right). What's wrong with the French that they can't
do it too.
Another thing all the museums have in common is guards. Almost every museum in Europe
has one or more guards in each room. In some like the Louvre in Paris, France there
may be several guards in a large room and they are in uniform and carrying 2-way
radios. Here it was a lot more casual. The guards were most often an elderly women
who would be sitting on a chair near the doorway. This one must have had a hard
night because she was sound asleep. She didn't move or lookup as people clumped
by within a few feet of her.
The second full day we went to the office of the apartment rental company and took
care of the rest of the paperwork. We had to pay the rest of the rental fee on both
this and the Moscow apartments and we had to get our visas registered, a government
requirement that must be done within three days. Normally your host (read hotel
or rental agency) does this or it can be done at the appropriate government office. We
chose the rental agency.
The rest of the day was spent wandering through some of the markets of the city,
flea, farmers and meat.
And then we hunted up a brewpub listed in the guidebook and had a pint before returning
We have walked quite a few kilometers these two days and its time for a rest. Tomorrow
we go to Peterhof, Peter the Great's palace on the Baltic.