Our bed at the wonderful Soul Kitchen Junior hostel looks out over the Moyki canal, giving us a lovely view during the daytime, and an infernal racket at night, when party boats cruise up and down and drunken revellers make their private ecstasies public by yelling “wooo!” at every opportunity.
At least we weren’t overlooking the canal to the south, where muscly douchebags blasted up and down the quiet canal in deafening Sea-Doos.
Despite the exciting nightlife, I slept hard. I needed to make up for the complete lack of sleep the night before. Remember those old school bed massage machines, where you put in a quarter and the bed vibrated? My berth on the ferry was like that, only harder, louder, and it lasted all night.
On The Beaten Path
With only a few days in the city, we thought we’d have trouble fitting in all the wondrous sights we wanted to see. But, to be honest, this morning we were at a bit of a loss. Piter is full of beautiful churches and fascinating museums, but as you know, we don’t really like museums and churches. As usual, we decided just to wander, letting the city take us where it would.
Our first stop was the rather magnificent St Isaac’s Cathedral. We marvelled at the sheer size of the marble pillars outside, but declined the $10 fee to see the interior.
Then we stopped in at Rolls Royce. The salesmen were very welcoming, and only a little snobby about us being in their glistening shop.
We discovered that everything looks cooler in Cyrillic.
From there we sought out a photo exhibit I had found by chance on the web. It was in a tiny gallery called Rosphoto, which has galleries on three floors in a rundown building that shows signs of past glamour, not far from Nevsky Prospekt, the main shopping street.
We had a little trouble finding it and a little more trouble gaining entrance, but once we finally did, it was well worth the admission fee.
The main exhibit was reGeneration2: Tomorrow’s Photographers Today. As is usual with modern photography, some of the photos are stunning, and some just look like bad snapshots that anyone could take. Our favourite shot was from a series called “Temples” and was a geometric partial shot of a Best Buy store.
The other exhibit was of Svedlosk Photos, the underground photography movement in Russia during the 70s and 80s. This was a fascinating look at real life on the streets of Russia, at a time when you weren’t supposed to be taking photos of real life on the streets of Russia.
After the gallery, we were inspired to take a bunch of arty photos. We may need more practice.
For a laugh, we stopped in at the fancy Nespresso shop, to see how they packaged something we consider so pedestrian into a luxury item. To give them their due, the branding and packaging is incredibly well done.
Stephen then boarded a rocket ship to Mars.
We walked around the Building of the General Staff, but were more interested in the renovations going on inside.
Breaking our “no churches” rule for the second time today, we visited the Church of our Saviour on Spilled Blood, a spectacularly colourful cathedral not far from the Winter Palace. It should be ugly, since it looks like God’s crayon box melted all over it, but it was actually quite lovely. A tsar was murdered on this site, and then the cathedral was built in his honour, hence the weird name.
As we were looking up up up, we heard the strains of Radiohead’s Creep from ground level. This young lady was playing and singing (not very well), but we had to applaud her effort, and gave her a tiny donation.
Since we’d spent about an hour walking, we decided we deserved a return trip to Biblioteka, a cafe on the main shopping street, Nevsky Prospect. The carrot cake I had yesterday was still dancing in my dreams. Today, I took the waiter to the cake display and told him to choose for us. He selected the red velvet and an almond mint cake that I’d had my eye on anyway. Stephen didn’t love the red velvet, but the almond mint was possibly the best cake I’d had in my life. If it had been a little less sweet, it would have rivalled even the pistachio cake Stephen had in Ljubliana.
After all that cake, we headed to the hostel for a pre-Hermitage nap.
The Wondrous Winter Palace
For me, the joy of the Hermitage Museum was in seeing the fabulous furniture…
…the endless hallways…
…the amazing objets…
…the ornate walls and doors…
…the strange portraits…
…and the chandeliers…
I love to walk through these spaces imagining how it was to live there and what the people were like who used the items that fill these rooms. I also like to imagine what they would think if they could see the hordes of tourists trooping through their home every day.
All this imagining is tiring work, and after a few hours museum-leg started to set in.
Just as I was pretty much ready to fall down in the middle of one of the gorgeous inlaid floors…
…we finally made it to the Oriental art of the 19th and 20th C. The amazing Tibetan and Japanese art gave us a little energy to go on.
Of course, we also made time for a little spot of yoga.
It was closing time before we finally wound our way outside into the bright daylight.
Yes, it stays light here until almost midnight at this time of year. White nights y’all.
Despite having splurged on dinner last night, we were so hungry after all that museum-ing and cathedral-ing, we headed to another trendy eatery we had heard about. Clean Plates Society is a cute cafe and bar. If you’re coming from a normal country, the prices are pretty normal – we spent about $40 on dinner. If you’re coming from a trip through Eastern Europe, it feels very expensive.
The only thing that was inexpensive was the vodka, so I started the meal with a raspberry vodka shot, made with fresh raspberry juice. It was still half-frozen as I drank. The perfect way to end a day in Russia. ♥