Monday, March 10, 2014

Russia Day 20: St Petersburg. Cold, rainy, windy day.

Today was the first day of really crappy weather I had had all trip; it was cold, windy and rainy. It had rained in Sochi one or two days, but it was much warmer there, not windy, and I had my umbrella with me!

I decided to explore the Peter & Paul fortress, the seed from which the city of St Petersburg grew. It's on a small island north of the downtown area. I took the metro to a sort of nearby station, and had a long walk past the cruiser Aurora, famous for firing a blank shot that launched the 1917 revolution. I had been thinking of going aboard for a tour of the boat, but the bad weather discouraged that idea (and I've done several other boat tours before, which tend to be pretty similar.

So I walked on to Peter & Paul fortress. I grabbed a snack from one of the vendor kiosks inside and explored the grounds, going in for a look at the mint & a da Vinci exhibit with a lot of recreations of contraptions he came up with.

Back to hotel for a rest, and then headed out to the Mariinsky theatre, It was further from a metro station than the other places I've been to, which made for a longer walk on a sore knee. It took me about 50 minutes to get there, including traveling one stop on the metro. I arrived at the theatre with only a few minutes to spare, and in my haste to find my seat I did not spot the cloakroom, so I committed the faux pas of bringing my winter jacket into the theatre with me. No one said anything, but I felt self-conscious about it. And I was also pretty sweaty after hurrying at the end of my walk, slightly overdressed in my warm winter coat, and of course the theatre was overheated. The seats were very cramped and packed closely together. Other than that, it is a beautiful old theatre. The atmosphere was not at all stuffy. While some people were all dressed up for theatre, others were very casual. Once I stopped sweating, I felt comfortable in my jeans and button-up casual shirt.

I had neglected to do my homework before the show; though I had read a bit about it months ago when I booked the ticket, I came in not remembering much about the story. I was seeing Nabucco: an opera in Italian, with Russian surtitles above the stage. I understood exactly one word of the Italian singing ("Si!"), and maybe a quarter of the Russian surtitles, including the occasional complete sentence. I sort of caught the gist of the story, and at the interval I found a programme in English that explained it in detail, which made it only slightly more comprehensible. The symphony was outstanding, the operatic singing was fine (I didn't expect to like it, but it was OK). I was surprised at a few amateurish notes in the staging: a stagehand dashing across the stage after the rise of the curtain for Act 2, some parts of the set swinging around after being lowered into place, and other backstage noise clearly audible at times. Perhaps it's a tribute to the acoustics that I could hear the pages of the musical scores being turned in the orchestra pit from my seat up in the first circle. Apart from that, the theatre was impressive, and overall it was a great experience

Another long walk home and to bed, exhausted as usual!

These ramp tracks are on every stairway in the metro. 
I had seen them in Moscow and Sochi as well.
They appear to be intended for use by those in wheelchairs,
though the incline is so steep I can't imagine
anyone navigating them successfully alone,
and even with someone pushing/holding a wheelchair,
I think it would be difficult. I have not seen anyone in a wheelchair use them.

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