Monday, March 9, 2009

St Petersburg: Sunday 8th March 2009

Today was into the swing of St Petersburg. The apartment was about 30 degrees but it was only -4 degrees outside, but it was a beautiful clear and sunny day and it got to 2 degrees later so it was all quite manageable. We had a walking plan sorted to the St Peter and Paul fortress which was on an island on the other side of the river.

On the ice with the fortress and Cathedral in the background; and the thaw in the middle of the ice

When we go to the river we saw lots of people walking across the frozen river Neva – so we joined them. It was fun, but interesting to see it had been carved up by an icebreaker and the river was flowing not that far away (it was all quite safe)

The fortress was built early 1700's and in the middle of the fortress stands the Peter and Paul Cathedral, the burial place of all the Russian Emperors and Empresses from Peter the Great to Alexander III. Nicholas II and his family killed at the time of the Russian revolution were moved there in 1998 amongst controversy over authenticity of the remains by the Russian Orthodox Church. This was approved by the Govenment.

The cathedral (minus the spire) and the interior

We had lunch at the café at the fort – our 1st attempt at communicating with the locals (except at the supermarket where you don’t have to say anything – you don’t have to say anything at your local New World when you think about it either) Andrew moved into charm-mode, smiling at the two young ladies behind the counter, before launching into his ‘ do you speak English speech’ We ended up with some hearty Russian soup – perfect for the conditions. We braved the St P metro. We knew where we needed to go but had to hold the map up the station signs to work out what the Cyrillic station names were and therefore which direction we wanted to go. You line up in front of metal doors which open when the train arrives and you walk into 1960’s carriages. The train hurtles along at scarily breakneck speeds at times. The lines are immense distances underground, far deeper than anything in the London system, and it takes forever to walk back out of the stations again. Andrew has vowed not ride the metro in St P again! Nevsky Prospect, the main drag, has a mix of international retail, local retail and 1 uniformed policeman/soldier per 50 people. We saw cars constantly being checked and/or ticketed by policemen.

Some familar brands

We went to the wonderful supermarket across the street from our apartment – here you can find anything you need. Luckily a supermarket employee said to Andrew as he picked up milk for his coffee, that it was horse milk and sour and pointed us to the ‘standard’ milk. And I did do a dictionary check of the meat we bought for dinner to make sure it was what we thought it was-beef= говядина pronounced govyadina, in case you were wondering...

And our apartment is good - great location one block back from Nevsky Prospekt, great supermarket across the street. It was a bit of a worry as we approached it from outside, little alley and metal door to the stairwell

but once in it has high ceilings, is clean and very warm... Hired from http://www.oksanas.net/

The water has a faintly sulphuric smell and we drink bottled water. It also does no favours to your hair! I have never seen my hair so dull

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