Random Survival Tips
St Petersburg and other places. Gleaned from various sources.
- Don’t drink the water. It’s crawling with parasites, and contains various heavy metals, chemicals and possibly anything. Just don’t. This includes, rinsing, gargling and “careful” showering. You don’t want it inside you. It’s supposedly safe for external use only! So they say. What is the life expectancy in Russia again? Good bottled water is the norm.
- Keep Off The Grass. When visiting interesting places with nicely-tended grounds, beware of “authority figures” lurking to see if you literally put a foot wrong. If they catch you treading on the greenery, even slightly: they will fine you.
- Metro photographs. Don’t take them. This applies to Moscow also. For some reason it is against “the rules” to take photographs inside the Metro. If an “authority figure” catches you in the act: they will fine you.
- The traffic police. A good reason to use the Metro or to take the bus instead. Their reputation is appalling globally, but especially at home. Nadia from tells me that they hide strategically, waiting for drivers to accelerate – a justification, apparently, for them to immediately pull you over for “speeding”, in which case: they will fine you. (You may notice a pattern emerging here.)
- The Street Toilet, as in: The Street is a Toilet. Endemic occurrences of **** and ****, and maybe even **** abound. Okay, not on every other paving stone, but you may want to avoid private corners, quiet alleyways, secluded doorways and the like. Not to mention curious stains and piles of “something” that you may happen across, here and there.
To be continued…
On The Beaten Track
I suppose it has to happen: “The List” of places to see, things to do, just like everybody else’s travel site/blog/memoirs/last-will-and-testament/whatever. Okay, I guess it would be remiss not to include one (sigh), so let’s get that box ticked, right? The sights and sites here are amazing, after all. I’m going to feature some of the must-sees that keep cropping up over and over again. Just for starters. No point in repeating details that can be found readily all over the Net. So: whistle-stop tour, here we go…
The State Hermitage Museum
Vast, awe-inspiring and featuring around 3 million artefacts from pre-history to modern art, all housed in an opulent sprawl of buildings around the palace embankment. The burgeoning site includes: the Winter Palace, The “Old”, “Small” and “New” Hermitage buildings, the Hermitage Theatre, the General Staff Building and the Menshikov Palace.
A taster can be found in the film Russian Ark. It is presented as an extended single shot from the central character’s point of view, as he and his companion from another era drift through the Winter Palace, and simultaneously through Russian history itself. Remarkable. Yes, it is in Russian, with subtitles.
Buy tickets on-line prior to your visit, to save a massive queue for cash payment, where you will also be charged for your photography permit (you’ll probably want one) and pay extra for being “foreign” too. Read that again. There are two entrance fees: one for locals, one for foreigners. On the day, you’ll require a valid physical ID that corresponds with the information you provided on-line. This e-ticket already includes said permit for “amateur” non-flash photography only, in applicable areas. Read the rules on the Hermitage site to avoid starting an international incident.
The wide, central thoroughfare of central St Petersburg, at the heart of city life and the most famous street in Russia. It’s the city hot spot for shopping, night-life, prostitutes, modern/classical architecture across a range of styles and modern/historical culture and events. All with an industrial soundtrack generated by 6–8 lanes of brutal, unforgiving, pedestrian-intimidating traffic. Four kilometres of it. They honk but they don’t stop (except at red lights…probably).
Peter and Paul Cathedral
A direct connection to the origins of St Petersburg (well, near enough: this is actually the second cathedral building on the same site). It’s the city’s oldest landmark and its second tallest at 404 ft*. You’ll find it on Zayachy Island where it all began, inside Peter and Paul Fortress. It features a grand, ornate interior and houses the tombs of the great Russian dead, from Peter the Great to Nicholas II.
Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan
The city’s grand and beautiful Orthodox cathedral, dedicated to one of the most revered Russian icons. It has an unmistakable semi-circular design based upon a classical, sweeping colonnade arc with a central domed intersection. Statues of Field Marshal Kutuzov and Field Marshal Barclay de Tolly are located in front. There’s a namesake cathedral in Moscow, built in that city’s own “flamboyant” style.
Pause for breath…
*The tallest landmark is the Ostankino tower, dedicated to the great god of TV.
Next time: Trips and Tales (Part 14)
More Random Survival Tips, as well as reasons not to be so gloomy.
[Photo by Prosto Photos]