Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Добро пожаловать в Санкт-Петербурге

Welcome to St Petersburg!

Today was mostly a travel day, to get us from Stockholm to St Petersburg. Pretty uneventful, actually -- the hotel in Stockholm is storing our luggage so we can fly with just a small carry-on, and it's a short flight. Waited in long lines as passport control at the airport, but everything was in order and our driver met us at the arrivals hall to get us to our hotel.

Lucky thing, too -- while quite a few people do rent cars and drive in the city, the traffic is absolutely atrocious today. Tomorrow is the first day of the International Economics Forum (the name is something like that) and politicians and high-ranking people from all over the world are arriving...which means that streets are shut down while police (with sirens blaring) excort convoys of black Audis through the city to the hotels, and it's wreaking havoc with normal traffic in the city. Streets are one way, or closed off, or completely blocked.

I didn't mean to schedule is in St Petersburg at the same time,I didn't realize until after we'd gotten tickets and started visa stuff that the timing was bad. Well, not bad -- just busy. We aren't driving anywhere in the city after tonight, so we should be fine except for crowds at the major sights. Our tour company has already gotten tickets to the Hermitage and other main museums, so we dont' have to worry about getting in (apparently people who waited until later are having problems getting the scarce tickets since so many poeple are in the city.)

We checked into the hotel, which is half a block from St Isaacs Cathedral and a block off Palace Square, near the river and a block off Nevsky Prospekt. It's a very nice hotell and our room is HUGE. Seriously, we're going to feel like hockey pucks sleeping ion the bed in one end of the room and the windows at the other end. Oy -- we ended up in a deluxe room since that was all they had left (see conference, above) and it's very nice. We could play handball in here. I'll ask Mark to take some pictures in the morning.

We didn' want to go out right away since we'd handed over our passports to the hotel for registration, and even though there is a two hour timeshift to come to St. Petersburg from Sweden, we're hungry. The hotel has a restaurant (Baron) that is actually pretty highly rated, and they have advertised a Real Gypsy Folk Show with "an almost real bear" could we possibly pass that up?

The bear is stuffed, of course, but the live folk music was great and the food was excellent. We spent two+ hours dawdling over dinner, accompanied by Russian beer and (a slightly less spectacular choice) Russian wine. It was nice to slow down, listen to the very good music, and relax. We've been go-go-go- for weeks.

However, dinner over at 9:30 and it's still light outside so we took off from the hotel to wander around a bit. Walked around the block to the cathedral, and through the gardens along the Neva, and up Nevsky Prospekt a bit, then back along the canal (and through some streets that aren't facing "the world" and are a bit less polished) before heading to the hotel. I only got a little lost, but figured if we could find the Admiralty (by the huge gold spire) or the enormous bulk of St Isaacs, we could see the hotel from here. Hah!

Tomorrow? Tours of Peterhof, Tsarskoe Selo and Catherine's Palace (I think that's the third one). We're sharing a car/driver with another couple for the day,which is nice, and we'll have a day to ourselves on Friday for sightseeing in the city center (Hermitage, Russian Museum, etc).

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