Friday, June 30, 2006

This is More Like It

Everyone likes St. Petersburg a lot more than Moscow. The people seem friendlier, the subway is less confusing, the hotel is nicer, and, most of all, it’s the first truly beautiful city I’ve seen on my trip. Irkutsk had quirky charm, and Moscow had quite a few beautiful buildings, but in St. Petersburg, virtually every downtown building is a handsome, several-hundred-year-old stone structure. My Mom and I have been walking the soles off our shoes trying to see it all. (John regards himself as on vacation for this leg, although he has been working on a market photo project. Mostly, though, I think he knows he can’t keep up with my Mom when she has a few cups of Nescafe and goes into full sightseeing mode. And frankly, neither can I. I lost four pounds on the trip, and I’m pretty sure I last saw them in St. Petersburg.)

Writing any articles about the city is going to be difficult because it’s going to be hard for me to find the new angle—I’ve never been here before, so I’m still hung up on seeing the obvious sights. I don’t have any secret St. Petersburg-type article ideas, because I’ve been enjoying all the well-known tourist spots so much. The Hermitage was great. (I’ve never seen a museum that leaves the windows open on a hot day, though.) Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral was beautiful, and full of crowds welcoming the Romanovs home. Peterhof was great, once we got past the idea that we needed to tour the main hall, which is shielded from visitors by a baffling and frustrating array of Russian-only entry times and hidden ticket fees. The Nevsky Prospect shopping area was interesting (Shopping? In Russia? Believe it.), full of coffee houses, ice cream shops, and art deco architecture. The churches are beautiful. It’s all beautiful. It’s just not much of a secret. St. Petersburg is one of those dream cities for a visitor, where a guidebook really can lead you to the good stuff. It’s just a little bit of a nightmare for a travel writer when a city wears its beauty on its sleeve like that.

See St. Petersburg!

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