Tuesday, 2 April 2013

A visit from the 'rents: Part 1. Wherein Lois mostly eats food.

How is it already the end of Tuesday? I have no idea!


So Dad + Anne arrived on Saturday, I met them at their hotel (the Alexander House Boutique Hotel, it's as 4* as the name sounds, think they'd recommend it), whereupon they presented me with a massive M&S bag full of goodies from England.
Featuring: 6 Creme Eggs, a Green & Black's easter egg, several bars of Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Chocolate, 2 jars of crunchy peanut butter, 2 packets of Jaffa Cakes, vegetarian stock cubes, The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing t-shirt, the new Say Anything CD and Let's Go Nowhere's EP. You know, just the essentials!
We then went for dinner at Rada & K, a vegetarian and vegan restaurant (36 Gorokhovaya ulitsa, just off Sadovaya ulitsa). I'd rate it quite well - the system of picking from a wide choice of ready-prepared dishes, salads and desserts means no waiting for food, and the lady on the door was super-helpful with finding us a table while we went to grab our food. We tried some plov (pilaf I think in English) and potato dishes, as well as a couple salads, all cheap and cheerful. I think it's an easy place for non-Russians to go because you can just look at the dishes and point to what you want, no language necessary.


Me and my new bf, Peter the Great
Sunday D+A came to my flat, met Denis my flatmate and we all had a long chat. Then the three of us tourists went off the the Peter-Paul Fortress to sightsee. Lunch was at a cafe claiming it served 'Soviet specialities'. I couldn't tell it much apart from today's Russian cuisine, not much has changed, apart from the food's gone a bit cold. We went around the cathedral, the outside of which is unfortunately under restoration at the moment and not visible for scaffolding; we went around the prison museum (eerie and stuffy, but very interesting as it was especially for high-profile political prisoners during Tsarist times, and about as far as you can get from the London Dungeon franchise); and around the Museum of the History of Saint Petersburg (which is bigger than it looks and takes a long time to go around with the audioguide. I'd suggest walking through early history if that's not your bag and skipping to the juicier bits - my favourite exhibit is a 5' tall dollshouse which is a perfect little replica of a 19th Century St Petersburg block of apartments.

For dinner on Sunday I led them to Agravi where I dined with my friends on Friday as I'd enjoyed the food so much. The waitress recognised me, we must have been quite a rowdy bunch! My god, Khachapuri is such a brilliant thing. It's pizza-shaped, with the entire disc of the base being stuffed with cheese, more cheese sprinkled on top of the surprise-cheese flatbread receptacle, and then grilled until melted and golden brown on top. Then stuffed into my face. Oh god. I want more now. The Chakhokhbili (spiced chicken stew) was wonderful as well. It's fancy, about £20 for a two course meal with drinks, but great for an occasional treat.


The Leningrad Defence Museum
On Monday after my classes we headed to the Leningrad Defence Museum, stopping on the way at Botanika for lunch which was conveniently situated opposite Solyanoy Pereulok on which the museum is located. Serendipity worked out very nicely: I had the best salad I've ever ordered in a restaurant (warm tomato, asparagus, broccoli, kale and parmesan) and some tasty samosas. The combo plates are a clever idea for the indecisive who want filling up quickly.

The Leningrad Defence Museum I would highly recommend. I got in for a mere 100 roubles for convincing the cashier I was a Russian student. Foreigners pay higher prices for entry, so always try on your best "Один студент" ('Adeen studyent', lit. one student) and show them your ISIC card. That is, if you are a student. Adults just say "Adeen" and put down your money. That should cut it.

The museum had most interesting parts summed up in English on plaques but I understood most of the Russian. There was an exhibition of propaganda relating to WWII and the siege of Leningrad. Would you believe people made jelly from joiner's glue and boiled up leather belts to eat? It's one of the longest sieges in history, at 900 days between 1941-44. Sombre and harrowing yes, but makes far more of an impression than getting your history facts off Wikipedia.


While I was in school working away D+A kindly dropped by Computer World and picked me up a shiny new operational digital camera, so expect to see a more pictures on this blog from now on! The ones here today were mainly taken by Anne's tablet as I've only just now switched on my new camera. Though it's a Which Best Buy (Dad did all the research, I just nodded and said 'Ok, I'll get that one') the battery cover feels really flimsy, but hey, it was only £60 and when I'm buying my own digital camera I'd always go for a value-for-money point-and-shoot over anything fancy that I can't use properly.

The Museum of F.M. Dostoevskii
After a wolfing some tasty Russian-style pastries at the rather inaptly named British Bakery we went to the Dostoevsky House Museum on Kuznechny Pereulok 5. I found the museum wonderful, though it could really have done with some seats. You need to get an audioguide for 170 roubles on top of the 80 rouble student entrance ticket because there's no posters or descriptions on anything. Disadvantage being the audioguide is really long, and with no seats there's no way I could listen through the whole thing in one go. I think I'd take another trip there just to enjoy the whole audioguide talk. The museum is in two parts: the apartment itself decked out as it would have been in Dostoevsky's time there (he moved house many times, but this is the one they've preserved as a museum), and the other part which is more about his life and work. I have already studied an awful lot about this classic Russian writer but I still learned plenty new today which just goes to show it's a very informative museum.

We had dinner at Ukrop just around the corner. Very English-friendly there, with menus very well translated although missing a few tricks: we had to google a few ingredients to find they were only sweet potato (batata), mooli/white radish (daikon) and diced tomatoes (tomato concasse). I thought I wasn't very hungry but the salad only whet my appetite for more raw/vegan food, so I shared the raw courgette pasta with tomato sauce, and had a slice of vegan banana cake for pudding. Top notch grub! Nobody will ever hire me to do restaurant reviews...

This has taken forever to write, it's pretty much time for bed now! Night night!

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