Friday, March 7, 2014

Russia Day 18: Wandering around St Petersburg

Slept in until after 7:30, and then went down for breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Breakfast has been included at the hotel here and in Moscow; this one is a little nicer, with better quality cold cuts and a little more variety.

I didn't feel quite ready for hitting museums today, so after a shower I headed out to wander some of the main streets, and maybe do a little souvenir shopping,

I took the metro to Nevsky Prospekt and started walking. It took about a block to get my bearings and figure out which way I was going! I wandered down some side streets, along one of the many canals, and wound up at the Church on Spilled Blood, one of the famous churches here. Again, I'm probably the person least interested in exploring churches, but boy, this one is really wild.

It helps me understand a little better what was behind the choice of the visually-noisy Sochi 2014 artwork that covered posters and clothing at the Olympics.

Wandered around a bit more before stopping for lunch. I've heard St Petersburg called the Venice of the North because of the canals, but to me it feels more like Amsterdam or maybe Copenhagen, since the streets are built higher above the water level and you're looking down on the canals more.

I recall the canals in Venice being closer to street level (hence the frequent flooding they encounter there). In any event, it's a beautiful city, full of distinguished-looking buildings everywhere you look. It feels newer and generally in better repair than Moscow. 

The Singer Building (yes, the sewing machine company)

The metro stations in particular feel newer (because they are!), but also quite a bit less majestic that those in Moscow, though I've only seen a few here so far.

Dostoyekskaya Station platform

Had lunch in a nice restaurant and then wandered through a nearby souvenir market, where the vendors were more friendly-aggressive than I had seen in Moscow, and the bargaining was fun. I picked up a bunch more souvenirs/gifts and also a CCCP hockey sweater with Tretiak's name and number on it at a good price.

Just around the corner from the market I found the Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines, and cool little place with a few dozen old video games and other games. Many but not all of them were in working condition, and for my entry fee I got a pile of old 15 kopek coins to operate the games. 

Tank game; it was difficult to figure out how the controls made the tank move,
or what else I was supposed to do.

 Pinball game with very very little action.

The classic claw game where you can never manage to grab anything.

Some of them were much like games I had seen years ago at home, and some quite different. I'm not sure whether these games were as inferior to western games as it seems, or the passage of time makes them all seem pretty lame. It was fun though wandering around and trying them out.

A great example of the Russian theme of "Here's a door frame; please trip as you enter".

I continued wandering around the neighbourhood, circling back across a small river/canal back to Nevsky Prospekt (the main drag) and reaching the square in front of the hermitage art museum. Found my way from there to the metro, and returned to my hotel.

I stopped at the concierge and arranged a ticket for the circus on Sunday night. I have some concerns about how the animals may be treated (not that I have read anything to suggest they are not well-treated), but I think the circus is an important part of Russian culture and I should go see it (much like going to a bullfight in Spain). There was no extra charge to have the ticket delivered to my hotel!

After a little rest I headed out to dinner at an Irish pub a few blocks from my hotel. I enjoyed fish and chips (the fish was a generous portion, and pretty good; the chips thin, soggy, greasy slices hidden under the fish) with a couple of pints of a decent dark ale, while listening to some decent classic rock & roll.

And a few more additions to my collection of entertaining transliterations from English to Russian:

"Long Island Diner"

This one I actually had to read out loud before I got it:
Syekond Khyend = Second Hand.

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