Thursday, 5 June 2008

Search for the king

First stop St Petersburg; actually my fourth, if you count 11/4, EDI and FRA. Lufthansa did their best, but despite stalling check-in and delaying all their flights (arriving after public transport comes to a halt in the wee hours), managed to find the hostel; staffed by a one armed mute. Oh, and the visa registration people kindly decided that my place of birth does not exist, and therefore could not be registered in Russia. Excellent.

As windy (of the breezy variety) and full of stone as Edinburgh, as water filled and church infested as Venice, and as huge and impressive as Buenos Aires, St Petersburg seems like a pretty decent place; being about one whole metre above sea level helps the ol' HACE too. And at just 305 years old, St P is really quite a youngster.

Peter and Paul's "fortress" appears to be 122m of gold-coated-Thailand-esque cathederal, a few one storey buildings, surrounded by a big brick wall; they shoudl go the Northumberland to see how to build proper castles. It appears compulsary that ceilings in these places are covered with small naked cherubs, but here they have a a slighty unusual take on them. Bow and arrow, check; twigs/flowers/carefully positioned cloth draped around them, check; but cherub with step ladder? - with planks of wood? - with lead pipe?

Once again, my faithful travel companion, LP, was right: the queue for the Hermitage was insane; and Russians have a soft spot for students. Inside, the Winter Palace contains more Russian/French/Spanish/British/Flemish/Islamic/Italian art/paintings/tapestries/fabrics/old things than anyone could ever want to see (although maybe that is just my pretty limited attention span). Dozens of lion x eagle hyrids, and more slighty odd cherubs were scattered amongst the hundreds of square metres of gold. Then I got bored and escaped.

So far, CT's taxi service (thankyou), two AEROplanes, a bus, a taxi, and so the next non-train vehicle list was the hydrofoil to Petrodvorets; James' highlight of Russia so far. Forty five minutes later, and we were welcomed by the fountains of Petrodvorets Palace's Lower Gardens. Actually surprisingly nice; mostly due to the "gardens" being more of a mixed woodland, rather than overly pretentious floral constructions. Fish, frogs and sprogs all enjoyied the watery cascades and fountains; and there was yet another giant palace.

The return trip to St Petersuburg started the train journey to Beijing. All twenty-nine kilometers and fifty minutes of it. Unfortunately, the train museum was closed. Dammit. Next time, eh?!

And despite all of these palaces, I still can't find out where the king of Russia lives.

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