Day one of St Petersburg
I wasn’t too excited about coming to St Petersburg. It is the final stretch of my year abroad and I wanted to avoid it for as long as possible. The excitement only begun to set in on our slow descent into the city centre: the sun was shining onto the white snow and there was not a cloud in the sky. St Petersburg looked more like something out of Aladdin rather than the freezing place it really is. We got off the plane and the cold hit you even through the walkway: a momentary second of nostril freezing as we made our way to baggage reclaim.
Everything went smoothly and we were soon on our way to our new homes. I was immediately told that I was going to be dropped off first so naturally I began to needlessly panic that I would be the furthest away, who I was going to be living with etc etc. We passes St Issaac’s cathedral and about 2 minutes later stopped, which I got very excited about as clearly I was dead in the centre: Nevskyii Prospect a walk away, the river behind me, right by the cathedral and a stone’s throw from the hermitage. Perfect. The only problem is I am the other side of St Petersburg from the University but apparently that is easily solved with a half hour bus ride.
The family I am staying with seem really nice. Slava picked me up from the bus and was all smiles (a rare sight amongst the usually stern Russians) and chatted away to me on the way to the flat. I am also living with his wife (I have already forgotten her name…this must be amended) , their 21 year old daughter Lydia and their fluffy grey kitten called Marcel (who is ill at the moment and therefore likes to sleep on people. All the time). I sat with them for a couple of hours and they gave me some dinner, and then it was bed time!
Days 2 and 3
We spent the weekend wondering around the town, getting our bearings and seeing what’s around. We arranged to meet at 12 on Saturday by the metro station on Nevskii Prospect which is the main street in St Petersburg. I decided to try and walk it using my map reading skills and left at 11 to make sure I had plenty of time and allowed for the inevitable getting lost. By my map I was to make my way to St Isaac’s Cathedral (which I had seen on the way and therefore knew I was near to), walk through the park and across the River. However, it turns out that there is both a park and a river either side of the Cathedral and I therefore walked to the river, realised it was in fact the Neva and not the small river I was expecting, and turned back. I still managed to be there first and ended up waiting half an hour! We walked around the city centre for a bit, had a quick look and the winter palace (which is green this time), the apparently perfectly proportioned street and the balet theatre and went for lunch in “Teremok” which is a very cheap and delicious pancake cafe. I then walked home where I just relaxed for a while in my room and had a quick chat with the family and then went back into town for some dinner. Nevskii prospect looked so pretty at night with all the various churches and palaces lit up, we wandered up and down for a while and eventually found a pizza place that wasn’t too expensive.
Sunday we effectively did the same thing: met at the metro with no plans in particular and explored. It is cold: It has been around minus 20 so far but very sunny and with hardly any clouds! Lovely weather J it is so cold that when it snows the snow flakes look like glitter! Apparently Monday was the coldest it has ever been in February since the 1800’s. Why do they have to have these records when we are here? The weather means we often have to find somewhere to go to warm up! Today we went into stroganoff palace which doesn’t look like much on the outside (in fact I have walked past it about 5 times and not realised it was any different to the flats and shops either side!) but it was beautiful inside. It seems there will be a lot to do here, don’t think we will be getting bored any time soon!
The whole weekend I was looking around me thinking “wow, I live here”, it’s such a beautiful city and so big but we are already starting to know our way around and find little cafe’s to go in. Starting to feel rather cosmopolitan.