St Petersburg, Russia

So far, it seems to me, a disproportionate amount of our time in Russia has been spent in queues. Even, in some cases in queues with no one in front of us – while the attendant doodles, has a lengthy conversation with a colleague or even takes a 15 minute break while the queue waits. At the train ticket agency we queued for an hour to buy tickets on the Trans-Mongolian Express, only to be told, when we reached the front, that we were at the wrong window. The queuing etiquette is different too – it’s OK to walk away and come back later expecting your spot to be held for you, to this end, when someone new joins a queue they always ask who was last, so they know their place, and if they walk away they report this to the person behind them. Complex. 
St Petersburg  reminds me a lot of Amsterdam, with its wealthy houses lining the canals, and indeed, apparently Peter I had Amsterdam in mind when he founded the city 300 year ago. Today, it is opulent and shabby in almost equal measure, with our youth hostel fitting solidly into the later category. From the opulent side, the Church of the Savior on Spilt Blood is staggering – like something from a religious attraction park. The ‘spilt blood’ in question is Tsar Alexander II’s who was murdered on this location. My favourite fact about the church is that during soviet times it was used to store potatoes. 

In general tourists seem to travel in groups here so outside of the actual hostel and the biggest attractions there don’t seem to be any non-Russian tourists at all. 

At the moment it’s the festival of the White Nights here in St Petersburg (which I am assuming refers to the fact that it stays light until about midnight and even then doesn’t really get properly dark) so last night we ventured out at 2am to see the highlight of this festival: the cities bridges opening to let the boats through. Unfortunately, the thrill of this is a little lost on this little adoptive-cloggy, but it was fun to be out amongst the party atmosphere, and watch all the boats stream through along the Neva unfettered by bridges which for most of them would have been no obstacle anyway. Apparently later in the festival there is a night when films or animations are projected on some of the uplifted bridge segments. 

We have booked tickets for the opera and the ballet and I have been Googling the dress code as my backpack doesn’t hold many evening gowns: it seems we will not be kicked out for wearing jeans. Good news. 

On the photo: I couldn’t find much of St Petersburg that was rights free but do note the 1984-esque caption of this one. 

Photo: Minister of Ways and Communications & his staff. St. Petersburg [between 1910 and 1915] Notes:
Title from unverified data provided by the Bain News Service on the negatives or caption cards.
Forms part of: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress). Repository: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA,

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