Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Whirlwind Weekend in St. Petersburg

I'm completely wrecked right now after only getting about 7 hours total of sleep this weekend, my calves are so covered in bug bites that I have to keep applying my Itch Eraser every 5 minutes, I have a bruise the size of Mongolia on my back, and I think I somehow ingested some bacteria-infected st.p's water, but other than that, this weekend was pretty great.

We took the night train up, in sleeper cars, and basically started drinking while we were in the train station waiting to board. I'm not sure if anyone was sober that night, I sure wasn't. That's how I got my bruise, alcohol + trying to stand up in a swaying train cabin + not much foot room = C falling backwards onto the table and sustaining a brilliant purple softball-sized bruise. 

Aside from that we had a great night, played cards and basically kept drinking through til about 3 am, and the people coming through with buckets of beer for sale didn't improve our state much. I think I passed out in my bunk before the sun came up, but I can't be completely sure. And then at 6:15 am, they turned the radio on in the train, and god help the person who decided that Russian pop was a good thing to subject 25 hung over wannabe diplomats at the crack of dawn, because everyone was cursing his existence. Somehow we managed to stumble out of the train and find our guide.

Went to a nearby cafe to sober up before our whirlwind St. Petersburg tour by bus (thank god for the bus, otherwise I think we would have lost half our group).  Got to the Hermitage (right) and followed our obligatory guide while she explained some of the highlights of this massive museum-in-a-former-palace. It was so huge, it would take weeks to get through it, and they have so much art that they only display a fifth of the collection - the rest of it they store off site somewhere.

After the Hermitage we saw a church that is prettier than St. Basil's in Moscow, but not nearly as famous, called the Church on Spilled Blood (left), and I like it a lot better because it has blues and greens and yellows on its domes.

That night we walked so damn far...it seems like its all we do sometimes. I'm pretty sure we walked the distance of a triathlon or something. Finally found our way to an outdoor sushi cafe (the site on which the bugs commenced to gnaw on my legs for fun and leave it looking like I have the chicken pox). Pretty much sat there for 3 hours, drinking and playing games and eating sushi,and then went down to the river to see the drawbridges open.

St. Petersburg is like Amsterdam - its on a river and has 43 islands which the city is built on and therefore a million canals, and the bridges over the main ones open up at 1am ish to allow bigger ships to pass through so they can carry all things shipped into the city, and its a spectacle. It was nice because there were so many people out that late at night, we didn't feel like we were out late at all.

Sunday we went to the Peterhof - a ginormous palace (a la Versailles) built by Peter the Great, the guy who had St. Petersburg built in 50 years to his exact ideas. This place was massive, with some gorgeous fountains, but it was swarming with people, just a sea of humanity, so we didn't go inside, just stayed out and wandered through the gardens. Back in the city we had a nice dinner at Pushkin Restaurant, with really good Russian food. I had borsht and pelmeny, basically meat-filled pasta. It was sooooo good, and the place was air-conditioned, so we spent a good 2 hours there. Plus the service was snail-slow, as per usual in this country, good thing we weren't in a hurry. We eventually made it back to our hotel before we had to get on the night train back to Moscow, and some of us (me included) almost missed it b/c we were waiting for one girl who decided at the last second to go buy some snacks for the train.

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