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9:15pm on Wednesday, 15th July, 2015:

Another Day in St Petersburg


After a thoroughly enjoyable first day in St Pete's, today we had a thoroughy enjoyable second day. It was certainly more enjoyable than the day of the woman on this billboard:

We started early in order that we could get to Catherine's Palace before the gates opened at 8:30am. "Early" in this case meant setting our alarm for 6pm; fortunately, the people on the passport desks pretty well waved us through (they had paperwork of their own to fill out by the look of it), so we did indeed arrive before the gates opened. This meant we had to wait until they did actually open. A 5-[iece brass band entertained us as we waited:

It was certainly entertaining watching the guy on the right, whose face was so red it was quite exciting seeing if he was going to have a coronary while blowing his trumpet.

This is the facade of Catherine's Palace:

It doesn't actually lean back, that's just my lousy photographic skills. The building looks like new, which basically it is — the Nazis gutted it in World War 2.

We had to wear special plastic bags on our feet so we wouldn't wear out the inlaid wooden floors:

Bear feet!

This is the interior of the palace. It's gold, gold, gold everywhere — an amazing sight!

It's like that for something like 50 rooms in a row.

It's selfie time:

Good, good, the mirrors still work.

This corner of one of the rooms has two cherubs on the left that are original, rather than restored:

I prefer the restored version, even if it is just gold paint rather than gold leaf.

This is the facade at the back of the palace:

There's always one person wandering around to spoil it.

There are some lakes at the back of the palace:

That's one of the smaller ones.

The usual restrictions apply:

No cars, frameless bicycles, bobsleighs, decapitations, cosmonauts, torture, skating, standing on cross faces, fishing, bars, dogs, snake-wrestling, tortoise impersonations, ice cream piracy, falling off slopes, urinating while lassoed, trees, ghetto blasters, hand disintegrations or murder.

We stopped at a souvenir shop on the way back, situated in what looked like an ordinary house on an ordinary street where ordinary coaches could park outside. I really liked the look of this chess set they had for sale:

Not enough to buy it, obviously.

I did spend some of the few roubles I had left (following my wife's purchases in yesterday's souvenir shop) on this unusually-wrapped bar of confectionary:

It's basically a slab of Kit-Kat.

This is the emergency exit sign on today's bus:

You hit a stick man so hard his arms fall off.

This building was over a railway line we crossed:

If they'd built a town round it, it would have made a good railway station. As it was, there werent even barriers on the level crossing.

Our next stop was at the Peterhof Palace, which is famous for its fountains:

Fountains seem to make it rain with depressing regularity.

The usual restrictions apply:

These are much more self-explanatory. No smoking, no fires, no dogs on sticks, no bottles more than 3 wine glasses high, no footprints, no fish dangling, no cycling, no Icarus, no genies.

The big feature of the Peterhof gardens are the fountains:

It had stopped raining at this point, so we could actually see the fountains.

Somewhere in this picture is a red squirrel:

We don't get many of them in the UK any more, but the grey ones don't seem to like sudden downpours and bitterly cold winters.

Although most of the top tourist spots are kept in great condition, the mask does occasionally slip:

It's as if things are either perfect or decrepit, with little in between.

Here's a nice view of some fountains at the end of a canal:

It looks even better close up, but I fought for the space to take that photo so you're damned well seeing it. This is what it looks like at the other end:

It's more impressive in real life than it is on a screen, although as it was starting to rain again a screen does have its advantages.

The sheep on the side of this vase looks unusually self-satisfied:

The ever-vigilant guards are on hand to make sure you don't step out of line:

No candy will escape uncrushed!

These are fun:

I wonder how many people get their pockets picked taking photos of these signs?

These are guest apparentments for visitors to Peterhof back in the days of the czar:

That man and his kid on the left just wouldn't move. Augh!

Here's yet another cathedral near where we had lunch:

Or maybe it's one we already visited. They tend to blur into one after a while.

We wound up our visit with a boat trip along the canals and rivers of Saint Petersburg. This sign told me all I needed to know about what to do in the event of a fire aboard:


I don't know what the sign on the left means, but I'm always happy to give games a shout-out:

The other sign is the bridge clearance in metres. They're going to have to change all those when global warming makes the water level rise.

This is one of the many, many palaces that line the banks of the rivers. It was built for czar Paul I, who apparently didn't like the Winter Palace:

He lived there for 40 days then someone assassinated him (I suspect on the grounds of taste).

Here's the Winter Palace from the Neva:

This almost does it justice — it's a very beautiful building. It has statues along the roof I hadn't noticed before:

Ooh, and chimneys too!

This stretch of sand along the walls of the fortress is used by locals as a beach:

It looks as if 17 degrees is warm enough to bring out the crowds.

This is a university building:

I wish the buildings at Essex University looked like that, instead of some brutalist concrete monstrosity straight out of a Soviet construction programme.

Contradictory signage:

I can read this! C is S, T is T, O is O, that croquet peg is P:

The Russian for STOP is STOP.

We saw several weddings during our trip. I like this thing they do with large wedding rings on bunches of flowers:

I can read the name of this boat!

Lambda is L, that I-O is U, the upside-down bull head is D, M is M, H is N, A is A. LUDMILA!

Some of the grey, depressing flats have balconies. The inhabitants of the flats personalise them by adding windows and roofs and sometimes even greenhouses:

See how much cheerier that looks.

We had to leave Saint Petersburg at 6pm, meaning we had to be aboard our ship by 5:30pm. Our coach managed to force its way through the rush-hour traffic to arrive at 5:30pm on the dot. We ran to the customs and passport control building, only to find it evacuated because of a fire alarm. Someone didn't pay the right bribes to the right people.

Finally, because Tetris was invented in Russia, I wore these cufflinks:

The background music currently playing on the ship is Silent Night.

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Copyright © 2015 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).