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.)

So, as y'all know, I was in Russia last week... and damn but I miss it already. I had a fantastic time there (again). I arrived on a Saturday afternoon, spent Saturday evening itself wandering around Novokuznetskaya and then Arbatskaya, and then headed over to St. Petersburg on Sunday morning using the Sapsan high-speed train connection between the two cities. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday were spent engaged in various, very enjoyable, activities in the cultural heart of SPb, and then I returned to Moscow on Wednesday morning. I spent the next three days very happily getting "lost" - of course, this being Moscow, you're never really lost - all over the city centre before finally, and very regretfully, flying out on Saturday afternoon.

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.

Special mention needs to be made of the bridges across the Neva. These are marvels of engineering and artistry, but they are raised every night - and not according to any set schedule, which means that navigating around SPb after, say, 12pm, can make for challenging logistics. The bridges rise up one after another, but you never quite know which one will go first and when it will happen.

Now, I'm a grumpy old man these days in my early thirties, so I hate staying out past 10pm, but for you half-wit youngsters out there who actually like such thick-skulled games as staying out in bars and clubs until 3am, if you do happen to get caught short after midnight, just flag down a taxi. The local cabbies know their way around and will get you back to wherever you are staying by simply taking you on a big scenic-route tour of the city after the bridges are raised.

View of Troitsky Bridge, taken from the Peter and Paul Fortress

Commie Bastards

As I may have mentioned a time or two (or ten) here before, I REALLY don't like Communists.

My loathing for them goes well beyond my hatred of their lunatic ideology, which is both stupid and evil. I hate Communists, and Communism, because these people are implacably opposed to Truth and Beauty.

I'll give you a couple of examples of this idiocy to consider below, and then maybe you will understand what I mean when I say that Communists are evil bastards who deserve to be lined up against a wall and shot.

First, take a look at the view from the top of St. Isaac's Cathedral:

And now the interior of said cathedral:

The Commies were somehow able to hate that.


And now take a look at St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral:

I could easily have my facts wrong here, but I think this was the church that the !@#$%^&* Communists decided to turn into a "Museum of Religion and Atheism", in which they hung a giant Foucault's Pendulum to demonstrate the supposed mastery of science over superstition.

Well, guess what, assholes: it's back to being a functional cathedral now.

God, 1; Atheist scumbags, 0. Again.


But I'm not done bashing them yet. Now let's take a look at a true wonder of the Christian world - the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood:

That is just the outside. Inside it, this is what you find:

This church was built, at enormous expense, on the site of the assassination of Tsar Alexander I. It is one of the most magnificent works of art in all of Christendom - Orthodox or otherwise. It contains some of the most gorgeous mosaics and murals in the world.

And the Commies wanted to tear this place down.


Oh, the Irony

This one is just too funny not to share.

Right at the start of my boat tour, the guide pointed over to the right at a pinkish building and said, with bone-dry deadpan delivery, "There is the Museum of Russian Democracy - if you believe that such a thing exists..."

Yeah, I laughed. How can you not? The very idea of Russia as a "democracy" is hilarious.

Help! I'm Lost in a Museum!!!

The Hermitage Museum is something that you absolutely cannot miss.

The entire front aspect of the Hermitage. That's easily a full mile in length.

The Museum itself is actually a collection of buildings, all centred around the old Winter Palace. And the damn thing is ENORMOUS. Apparently, if you spent just one minute looking at all of the exhibits, and did not stop to eat, sleep, or rest at any point, it would take you three weeks to see every single thing that is in this museum.

It's that big. It makes both the British Museum and the National Gallery in London look like allotment sheds.

Here are just a couple of pictures to give you some idea of how bonkers this place is:

The Faberge Eggs

Yes, the Faberge Museum is amazing, and yes, the bit that everyone actually cares about is the room with the eggs on display. There are, I think, seven of them on display. Here are a few shots of said eggs:

I'm given to understand that the last one was the last Tsaritsa's favourite, it is decorated in her favourite flowers and was given to her by Nicolas II as a birthday gift. (I could easily have my facts wrong here so don't take my word for it.)

Я люблю тебя, Москва!

You've seen a (small) fraction of the pictures that I took while I was running around SPb with my mouth hanging open like a little kid, now for a few pictures of Moscow...

One thing I truly love about Russian and European cities is that you can just go for a really nice long walk. In the smaller American cities, this is somewhat pointless; even if they have decent sidewalks (which, being America, they generally do), everything is so spread out that you can walk for long blocks without ever seeing anything of real interest. And in most Third World cities, well, forget it - walking is dirty, noisy, dangerous, and downright unhealthy for you.

But in Russian and European cities, you can just mosey on out the door in the city centre, and there are amazing things to see on every single block.

So last Thursday I set out at about 10.30 in the am to go for a nice long langlauf, and ended up walking and seeing things all the way up until about 6.30pm.

It was really good fun.

I even got a chance to watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside the Kremlin, which was quite a moving sight. The Russkies do know how to put on a bit of ceremony when they actually want to.

(Incidentally, there is apparently a video of that same ceremony taken during a blizzard by the Russians themselves to show just how hard it is to perform those goose-steps and turns in winter. You can imagine what happened: "ЛЕВО!" Goose-step! "ПРАВО!" Face-plant!)

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

And that, boys, wraps up another episode of the Didact's travels to a country of wonders and splendours.

If you ever get a chance to visit Russia - take it. You will be richly rewarded for your efforts. Make sure that you learn at least basic conversational Russian before you go - trust me, it really helps to be able to do simple things like ask for a cup of coffee ("Здравствуйте, одно большое Американно с молоком, без сахара, пожалуйста") or order a meal. If you go by yourself, you need to have at least some facility with the language, and you absolutely must be able to read Cyrillic (which is not that difficult to do).

The thing to remember about the Russians is that they are deeply proud and patriotic about their culture - as they should be. They are also a fairly conservative people; don't be surprised to hear them speaking quite disparagingly about Western decadence. They reserve a particular loathing for homosexuality, especially of the male kind, and you would be wise not to bring up politics before they do.

If politics do become a topic of conversation, though, do not be overly surprised to find that the Russians are actually quite critical of their own government and media, at least in the big cities. And do not be surprised either to find among them an intense curiosity about the West and the strange hostility that America seems to have toward them.

I really, really want to go back to Russia and see more of it. There is so much to see that you will never, ever get bored. I would love to go visit Kaliningrad and Volgograd, for instance, and 3 days in St. Pete's was simply nowhere near enough - I never got a chance to see the Peterhof palace, for starters, but that is a full day trip. And I haven't even started on the rest of Russia yet; it's the biggest country on Earth, you could drop the entire USA into the middle of Siberia in summer, and nobody would notice except for the mosquitoes.

It says a lot about how much fun Russia is for a young single dude like me when the one thought that goes through your head after you leave is, "God help me, what have I done?!?! WHY did I leave???". The women have a lot to do with that. When you leave Russia, and Russian women, and find yourself surrounded by... well, not Russian women... it's enough to make a blind man cry.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the pictures, stick your thoughts in the comments below.


  1. The late Leo Frankowski had an interesting and plausible take on the RFPF (Relative Feminine Pulchritude Factor) of Russian women. He thought, IIRC, that it had to do with both Russian bravery and Russian incompetence in war, those leading to massive casualties among men, and that leading to surviving men being able to be very picky indeed over women, hence that generally only rather pretty women got to breed.

    As for their often rotten character...well...communism does that. And the damage lasts and lasts. That said, one suspects it goes back to the Tartars, at the latest.

    My recommendation would be to hire a hooker for week or two.

    Personally, in Russia I would want to see Kursk and Stalingrad/Volgograd, the battlefields of Borodino and Poltava (though that would require a side trip to the Ukraine),

    1. As for their often rotten character...well...communism does that. And the damage lasts and lasts.

      Absolutely true, sir. My home state here in the old country was ruled by Communists for damned near 50 years, continuously, and the damage that has done to the people of this state is tremendous. It produces some of the country's leading intellectuals-yet-idiots - brilliant men and women who nonetheless cannot see the obvious flaws of socialism and social justice even when they get slapped silly by them.

      My recommendation would be to hire a hooker for week or two.

      Well, given that the President of Russia himself once recommended his country's ladies of the night in the most glowing terms possible... who are we mere mortals to argue? ))

      Personally, in Russia I would want to see Kursk and Stalingrad/Volgograd

      Next trip, sir... I've already got the itch to go back.

  2. write that as if it were oxymoronic, but in fact the intellectual IS an idiot, a glib and eloquent ninny deeply addicted to the fantasies that can only exist in the fever swamps contained within their own neutronium-dense skulls.

    And their running dogs, the intelligentsia, are worse.

    1. Actually, as you may recall, sir, it's a Talebism which I sort of appropriated a bit. But yes, there is no question, intellectuals seem to be impervious to the lessons of logic, reason, and simple evidence. They just carry on blithely making incredibly stupid mistakes that the rest of us have to pay for.


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