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St. Crowdedburg – by David

by on July 18, 2017

(Alex, I hope my title of this post is up to your standards)

We saw some old friends today…. the same 40,000 people who we met in line at Versailles and in front of the Mona Lisa on our first trip, and who we ran into again at Tianenmen Square last year, were all at the Winter Palace/Hermitage today.   You hate to get sucked in to the maelstrom, but when you go to (city), you just can’t avoid going to (big #1 sight in that city that everyone else goes to).

The good news is that we sprung for a tour guide, so we got to zoom right in and skip the lines.  Which is good because the skies opened and dumped a thunderstorm on everyone in line, as we were in the building.

Sadly for the kids, this was yet another fancy old palace with lots of crazy, over-the-top rooms, and then an art museum with lots of old paintings. Fun fun.  We’ve now seen the palaces of all the late-19th-century empires…. seen one, seen ’em all….  although this one was probably the most over-the-top.   And this was the first time we’ve had a professional guide, which to the grown ups was very interesting and informative…. e.g. seeing the table and room where the leaders of the government hat deposed the Tsar were sitting when Lenin and the Bolsheviks stormed in and threw them out in 1917.

Let the photos speak:

Anna’s favorite room ….. NOT

The throne….

The crowds at the #1 sight in the museum, the “Peacock Clock”…

In the morning we saw a few small sights, including the cathedral with the most famous “icon” gold-framed painting of Mary in Russia (the painting gave battle strategy advice in his prayers to the Russian general who defeated Napoleon).   But the thing that I liked most (and Anna was right there with me) is a wild art-nouveau building on the main street built by Singer sewing machine company in 1902. It had quite a history over the years, but it’s still standing and is now the HQ of a high-tech firm.  Very cool.  This is the kind of “fancy” design that Anna likes…..much better than baroque/rococo.  It’s hard to see but the bronze and glass sculpture of the earth on top is excellent.


Some random things from St. Pete:

– Many many weddings….apparently the line is very long, so you if you go in today to get a license they’ll tell you which day in November you can get married.  And then on that day you take your picture in a famous spot and then drive around with big rings on your car.

– We continue to see a surprising number of old 1950s and 1960s American cars everywhere we go.

– Yesterday, stopped at an intersection, we heard a “bang” from the truck in front of us, and watched one of its rear wheels roll across the road while the other one was folded up under the axle….. it just failed on the spot. Our tour guide just laughed and said “that’s how things really are in Russia”

– We were surprised to hear this morning’s tour guide hem and haw about whether she felt life is better now than in the Soviet times (she was 15 when things changed).  We gave her every opportunity to say great things about the new world, and she just didn’t quite feel that way.  Not sure why not…. we didn’t push it.

– Other than a few standouts, the city center is just mile after mile of 6-story, stone/brick/plastered buildings jammed up against each other, mostly in pretty run-down shape after surviving 150+ years of war, politics and weather.  Except for special cases like the Faberge museum, there doesn’t seem to be much incentive to do maintenance.  Even this wild pink one on a back street is just nothing special to anyone… just apartments.

– Quaint street market with a long row of “babushkas” selling berries and flowers they had picked in the forests.

– The world’s first shopping mall/department store built on orders of Catherine the Great in the 1750s (before America was a country) … it’s huge …. yes, it fills the whole picture. Now it’s like K Mart / Walmart / Target combined.


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One Comment
  1. Lucy permalink

    Anna looks thrilled (haha)

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