Pictures from the Northern Venice
(Well, and from Moscow too, obviously, but proportionally fewer of those because, well, I've been to Russia before. The difference between the pictures of Moscow in October and the ones from June is that, basically, Moscow looks bloody amazing in summer.)
Special mention needs to be made of the people that I visited while I was there. My Russian hosts and (former) colleagues were incredibly helpful and decent, and gave me plenty of things to do and see and experience while I was there.
In fact, I have nothing but good things to say about the Russian people, in general. Yes, they can be cold and standoffish at first, especially relative to bright, loud, and breezy Westerners who show up with a big bouncy "HI!!!" and a cheesy grin on their faces. If you do this with Russians, they will just shoot you a frosty look without saying a word, and then go back to whatever it was they were doing.
This is because Russians have a very useful saying: смех без причины - признак дурачины. Which is to say: "Laughter without reason - that is the sign of a fool". To my mind, this one saying encapsulates just about everything you need to know about the Russian character and mindset. They are a difficult people to get to know - but once you do know them, once they trust and respect you, they are some of the warmest, friendliest, and most downright decent people you will ever have the privilege of knowing.
So, if you are wondering what St. Petersburg (and, to a lesser extent, Moscow) is like, sit back and enjoy the show.
The "HOLY MOTHER!!!" Factor
|Victory column erected to commemorate the War of 1812 in Palace Square, SPb|
All right, first things first: Russian women.
This blog is read by manly men of manliness who like beautiful feminine women. That is simply who and what we are, and we do not apologise for it. So it is with great pleasure that I report to you that, if you think Russian girls in Moscow are pretty, you ain't seen nothing yet.
The comparison in quality is based on what I call the "Holy Mother" effect. Basically, if you are wandering down the street and you see a really gorgeous girl, with her hair done right, in a nice dress and high heels, and a tasteful but not excessive amount of makeup, you will stop dead in your tracks and exclaim (or at least think) the aforementioned words.
In New York City, this happens once every roughly thirty minutes when you are walking around, say, Times Square or Broadway. But the frequency of that expression drops off rapidly once you approach the really "diverse" neighbourhoods in the city, and if you are out in certain parts of the Burroughs, you will not be expressing it at all for hours at a time.
|No, I didn't take this picture (obviously)|
In Moscow, it happens roughly once every 15 minutes - pretty much no matter what part of the city you are in. You could be in Khimki (up north near Sheremetyevo Airport) or Yasenevo (down south, where the Russian SVR, their equivalent of the American CIA, are headquartered), and you would still experience the same effect.
|Or this one|
In St. Petersburg, it happens at intervals of a maximum of 10 minutes. No more than that.
Seriously, I cannot tell you the number of times I was simply walking down Nevskiy Prospekt and found myself stunned into near immobility by the gorgeous women that were walking casually through the streets.
|Or this one|
Having said this - the incidence of women with tattoos, ugly haircuts, bad clothes, bleached hair, and piercings is much higher in SPb than it is in Moscow. I put this down to the fact that SPb has much more of a "hipster" culture than Moscow does - it is much more of a cultural and arts centre, and as a result naturally attracts more of the artist and performer crowd than its much more expensive, and much more heavily populated, southern counterpart.
Russia is day-game country. You can do reasonably well through online game, no question, but simply having the balls - and the requisite skill with the fiendishly difficult Russian language - to approach women on the street is much more likely to get you in touch with beautiful, gentle, feminine, charming women.
|Or that one|
That being said - never forget that Russian girls are some of the most devious and skilled manipulators, deceivers, and tricksters that you will ever meet. Do not be fooled by a pretty face until you get to know a girl's character.
Water, Water, Everywhere
The canals of St. Petersburg are a sight to behold, and if you are lucky enough to get good weather during summer - because, remember, SPb is built on the shores of the Baltic Sea on what used to be basically a giant swamp - then you absolutely have to take a boat tour around the city's canals.
Tours depart from right under Anchikov Bridge - right next to the Faberge Museum, actually, and there will be a picture or two from that farther down - and are conducted in English at 8pm and 9.30pm. I took the 9.30pm tour, and it proved to be most enlightening.
It also produced one of the most spectacularly beautiful sunsets that I have ever seen - and, again, this being SPb in summer, it wasn't really sunset. The Sun never actually quite fully goes down, which is where the famous "White Nights of St. Petersburg" come from. You can see them throughout May and most of June.
|View of Troitsky Bridge, taken from the Peter and Paul Fortress|
And now take a look at St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral:
|The entire front aspect of the Hermitage. That's easily a full mile in length.|
It's that big. It makes both the British Museum and the National Gallery in London look like allotment sheds.
|View of the Kremlin and St. Basil's Cathedral from Zaryad'e Park|
|Spring flowers in Alexandrovsky Garden|
|Scale model of the Kremlin from the 18th Century, Museum of Military History, near Tret'yakovskaya|
|Walking toward Christ the Saviour Cathedral over Stone Bridge - a deathbed memory, and no mistake|
|Museum of the Library of Lenin|
|Exhibit from the Pushkin Museum's collection of European and American artists|
|The view across the Moskva River from Gorky Park|
It says a lot about how much fun Russia is for a