Saturday, 28 August 2010

St. Petersburg (28th & 29th of July)

My birthday began in style with one middle-of-the-night wait followed by another at the Estonian and Russian borders. At the Russian border we had to get out of the coach and queue up to go through. There was not a lot to it. In the early morning we arrived at the bus stop in a busy St. Petersburg. Everyone was rushing to the metro with great purpose and after a bit of observation, police avoidance and purchasing our chips for the metro we followed suit. We figured out how to use the lockers in the underground maze of storage and left to explore the city. The police were everywhere and since our guidebook advised us to do our best to avoid them that's what we continued to do. Crossing the roads was a challenge but we just followed the flock and remained unharmed by the police and traffic. Tiring quickly from walking the long Nevsky Prospekt we took a trip on the sightseeing bus. This turned out to be a bad idea and we slept our way around St.Petersburg. The bus stopped all the time and every time it stopped the temperature would rise, resulting in us nodding off. What we did see of St. Petersburg was rather nice, if somewhat pompous.

After retrieving our luggage we took the trolleybus to the 'Graffiti Hostel', a colourful yellow, red and blue square of a hostel. In the buses you pay a lady who has her own reserved seat, often with a coat (leopard print or otherwise) hanging on it. An evening walk took us along the river past the ballet, which was closed, poodles, drunks, a few soviet style cars and some pretty onion domed churches. Watching the sightseeing and wedding party boats zoom under the bridges in front of the hostel was quite entertaining.

Queueing in order to deposit our bags back at the station ready for the evening's train to Moscow, we saw Julie Walter's Russian counterpart in the queue. Maybe she was the real McCoy and is incredibly good at pretending to be Russian. We took the bus back up Nevsky Prospekt and wandered across the river. In a park there were lots of wedding parties taking pictures in all the scenic spots. One bride sat herself on the back of a bench with her husband sitting on the bench underneath her dress, swinging his legs in the air. It was pretty funny and the description doesn't do it justice.

As it was a Thursday there was no entrance fee to the Zoological Museum, so we had no excuse not to visit. Housed in a long hall with a small space upstairs the museum is really impressive. There are about 40,000 specimens in there with displays of animals in their habitats on the right hand side and glass cabinet after cabinet of species grouped by family on the left-hand side. There were just so many animals, particularly birds, that it was no wonder that we ran out of time. Upstairs there was a small exhibit of origami animals on a little tour of Europe, some photos and quite a few moths and butterflies. And to my joy, after all those animals, I discovered a few leaves (they did have leaf miners on them though!).

In the evening we decided to treat ourselves to a boat trip along the canals of St. Petersburg. The route wasn't great and we didn't get to see the youth hostel from the water as we had hoped. However, Dimitri the guide who had learnt his English from listening to music, was hilarious and his commentary kept us entertained.

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