Category Archives: Russia

Imperial Russians ride again! (part 2)

Right! If you’re reading this without having read ‘Imperial Russia Rides Again, part 1’ then STOP! Go back, read last week’s post about the great city of St Petersburg. Notice that it seemed deserted; and then revisit this post on the Russians themselves. Where are they in the city and what are they like….?

Well, Russians are clearly different. For example, take a look at this menu. A lunch menu, mind you. Not exactly a threatening time of day….

(I always make my bodyguard stand outside...)

So I walked the city, trying to see what the Russkies were like. And to be honest, they seemed like a jolly bunch. Intent on having a good time, and downing a lot of vodka.

Wednesday night in St Petersburg

Maybe I was projecting, but it did seem like alcohol played a big role in the everyday life of the locals. As a Brit, of course, I could empathise…

Sailor on the sauce

Midday stumble fumble

Sleeping it off...

But although the booze was in evidence, that’s not the over-riding impression of St Petersburg locals. Much more was the sense that this is a romantic city, and the people are desperate to be in love. There were couples everywhere, frequently in a clinch. Padlocks on the bridges, swearing enduring love from Nadjas to Andreys. Weddings all over the place, with happy couples posing for cliches.

Do they keep the keys just in case, or chuck them in the river?

The doves, white, of course...

The city seemed to be full of beautiful women too. Perhaps not so bad, if the city is a romantic hotspot

Preparing for the evening on the town

Shapely legs posing with Pete the Great (high heels VERY common)

And my last impression of St Petersburg… Slightly anarchic, crazy and surreal. Understandable in a country that is still waking up I guess.

A changing hut for the inner city beach

Nostalgia for the old church? Nah, she's gazing at the speedboat!

This guy is scary!

Last image looks backwards. This chap was clearly from a previous era. I don’t think he’s part of the new Russia. He simply looks too melancholy, too,…. Russian?

Those were the days...

Imperial Russia rides again! (part 1)

Do you ever play that game? The one where you choose a decade and the vote for which city would have been the coolest to live in at that time…. 60s? London, of course. 20s….? Berlin, if you wanted to live on the edgy side. 1880s? Can can-ning in Paris. Well, what about 1730s ………….? Got to be St Petersburg!!!

Imperial Eagles everywhere

And what’s amazing is that it still looks like a damn fine city. All done up in the imperial style, rebuilt, repainted, zinging with colour, not re-plani-Stalinified. And it just looks awesome. Peter the Great could ride right back in and probably still recognise it all.

The Hermitage on a Sunday morning

Not a bad spot to hang out for the winter...

He’d probably kick everyone out of his Winter Palace, which is now the Hermitage of course. He’d get the girls to put their huge dresses back on and throw a ball in the many spectacular rooms. Keep themselves warm in the winter. Good idea, dancing to stay warm…

And whilst Stalin refrained from ruining the architecture, there’s still some monumentalism (Imperial rather then Communist) – take a look at this guy’s feet (he’s holding up a huge entrance porch):

Big Foot

The whole city is pinks and greens and yellows – apparently to cheer everyone up when it’s grey in the long winter.

Venice of the North

So, Pete’s got his Winter Palace sorted. What to do in the summer? Too hot in the city, and too many smelly plebs. Better build a Summer Palace, the Peterhof!

The Summer Palace

Those Imperial Russians love a bit of triumphalism, so here’s a symbolic statue of Russia defeating the Swedes in 1721 to claim the Baltic coastline. Muscles, respect!

Russia tames the Swede

The Peterhof has definitely got a thing about gold. It absolutely shimmers and gleams. And there are ferocious babooska tourist guards everywhere that bark and frown at you if you touch any of the gold leaf. Terrifying!

Gulf of Finland

Off with her head

Alexander II got bumped off here in 1881, by some middle class norodniki terrorists (not me guv, I’d have been in Paris with the dancing girls). And lo! a church sprang up: The Church of Spilled Blood

Blood was spilled here...

It’s a fabulous, over-the-top, Russian Orthodox, onion domed, great big extravaganza. Russia wouldn’t be the same without these multi-coloured domes. cracking!

Onion domes, love 'em!

So St Petersburg get the thumbs up from me. Looks great, tons of history and culture, lots to do and see. But wait,…. when in Russia, you have to drink too – VODKA (I did, and suffered). And where are all the Russkies? Was St Petersburg deserted? What else happened on the trip to Russia…..? Ah, well. That will be the theme of the next blog post. The RUSSIANS themselves!

The Eagle has landed again!