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The fountain system behind Peter's Palace

From Russia With Love - St. Petersburg, Russia

G from a small room

We have arrived in Russia. What a way to start a trip. I think the culture shock actually began in the airport in Amsterdam where we changed planes to fly to Russia.  Everyone around us was Russian, all you could hear was Russian. The KLM service was decidedly less accommodating on this leg than our trans-atlantic portion. And we were not the only ones pilfering the warm, soft,  navy-blue plaid wool blankets that are perfect-o travel size.

As we taxied into the gate, the site that greeted me told me that indeed, I was in a foreign country. There was a young women standing outside, near the gate, dressed in head to toe military fatigues, very stylish army green cap over a head of bleach blonde hair, cherry red lips and spike heels. She didn't need the gun to scare me.

We arrived in Russia and spent the next two hours getting through customs.  It was relatively easy but horrendously long  lines.  And Russia welcomes its visitors with special odors that seep from the bathrooms. Resisting the hoardes of tourist taxis, we took the local way in from the airport, that is two buses  followed by metro, which is incredible.  First off, it is so deep.  To get down to the subway, you ride the steepest, longest escalator, careful not to lean forward so as to not pitch over the pedestrian in front of you and by the time you have descended to the seventh layer of hell,  you are rewarded by chandeliers and beautifully ornate Soviet realist art.  Workers of the world unite! And talk about efficiency, there is a clock at the end of the station that counts down three minutes to the next train.  We found out that during the communist era, the trains actually ran every twenty seconds! Hear that all el riders in Chicago, go and complain to Mayor Daly or join the Communist Party.  

We visited some of the more beautiful metro stations the Swan Lake ballet and I loved it but, Doug,well, he was so very tired and his eyes kept shutting. Unfortunately it was not the famous Kirov ballet. In fact we discovered it was the State Academy which trains dancers for the Kirov. So while I was happy to see up and coming stars, Doug was dragged to a glorified school production.  

Everything here has been extremely cheap (except the state sponsored discrimination as in the foriegn supplement charge.  They charge russians about

Another interesting thing that we have seen is the babushka, the elderly russian women. It is a stereotype that is alive and well.  It seems that they are everywhere and their main state-sponsored occupation seems to be sitting  in musuems. Snoozing on a chair in the corner, they will perk up instantly at the sight of a tourist trying to snap a quick picture of some artwork without having paid the requisite photo fee.  They rush over, swatting and barking at you.

Today, we visited Peter's Palace west of the city in the countryside, and had a most interesting train ride. The countryside we flew through gave us our first taste of rural Russia, truly a third world country. We saw plots of land, that were roughly staked off with broken tree branches, and enclosed a small tin shack and a little garden.  These were often next to very stagnant pools of brackish water, in utter contrast to the very cosmopolitan St. Petersburg. 

The Russian women are fashionable in their own right, while the men seem indifferent.  Honestly, I have not seen shorter skirts and higher heels anywhere else in the western world. Is there a competition? They win!

Over and out

ann and doug

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