Monday, 22 April 2013

Massive catch-up

I haven't written a blog in a while as I've had a most tumultuous few weeks. Last I wrote was Monday 8th, so here's run down in dates and pictures.

9/4 Meant to meet Lindsay and go shopping, was dead excited. Alena forced me to cancel and work for 4 hours. Started to regret this internship thing.

11/4 Rob arrived, we chilled and went for dinner next to the hotel at a decent Thai place. The Saint-Petersburg hotel does have excellent views from the rooms with a Neva view, and actual double beds (not just 2 singles pushed together), but in other ways is very basic - no nice free toiletries to steal!

12/4 I went to school, Rob on a tour of town. We went for lunch at Grizzly Bar, and I don't care what the reviewers say, I think it's wicked. The cheerleader-waitresses could do with being rather more cheery, but my burger was fittingly bigger than my face and delicious which is all that matters really. Then we tried to go to the bread museum and failed because they'd already stopped admissions for the day, so we went to the museum or erotica instead. This is the most PG photo I took there:

The school had a vodka party on for Cosmonauts' Day, so we went along and had what could be described as too much. I ended up playing guitar and singing quietly to myself trying to work out Swing Life Away by Rise Against, which I used to know by heart. I also chatted to lots of people I hadn't got properly acquainted with before so that was worthwhile. Afterwards nothing was happening with my friends so Rob & I went to an Irish pub called O'Hooligans which may or may not have been nice, all I remember is the Long Island Iced Tea there is very, very strong.

Gratuitous ceiling shot
13/4 Hopped a bus to my ends to grab something from my flat. Took a walk from there to the St. Isaac's cathedral which is a St. Petersburg must-see, via a great restaurant called Teplo. I've been up to the cathedral colonnade before where you can get stunning views of the city and take great photos, but entrance to the cathedral is separate. The inside is stunning, of course. In the evening we relaxed, had a picnic in the hotel room and watched Adventure Time - time well spent.

14/4 Walked all the way from the hotel to the Kunstkamera on the Vasilevsky Island. I was happy to go round again because I saw some things that I'd rushed past before, and learnt some more interesting things. Didn't spend such a long time in front of the pickled deformed babies this time round! We crossed over to the palace embankment to do the compulsory tourist thing of taking pictures in front of the Winter Palace. Then I had to go home and work on proof-reading some documents for work before DISTEMPER. Distemper are my second favourite band in the world, ever, after A. I'd only seen them live once before, and that was a brief early-afternoon set at Mighty Sounds festival last year. In Aurora they totally set it off - their fans were very up for skanking, conga lines and circle pits despite it being Sunday night. They played many of my favourite songs, so I was a very happy bunny. I bought a t-shirt too, it has a top-hatted dreadlock-wearing skull with crossed pimp-canes on it. Sick as :D

15/4-18/4 Nothing much happened. I broke up with Rob (I always had the feeling it would be a make-or-break trip, bit disappointed that it was the latter, but glad I ended it because it was not a thing that was going to make either of us happy in the long run). I baked brownies round at Lisa's house and we ate them half-burnt, half-raw with lots of ice-cream. I did a lot of laundry too, and I got excited for...

Saintly halo? On the upper bunk of the train!
18/4 MOSCOW! On Thursday night I met Yael and Lisa outside Stockmann and we headed to Moskovsky Station to take the night train to Moscow. After a great deal of confusion with ticket-machines and queueing at the ticket offices we managed to exchange our printed coupons for real train tickets. The train left at 11pm and got in at 7.15am. We took plenty of snacks, slept in our clothes and generally found it rather pleasant and convenient. I had a laugh trying to get up to the top bunk, but in the end slept rather well, rocked by the motion of the train.

19/4 Once we arrived at Leningradsky station we lugged our rucksacks and cases to the Backpacker Ecohostel to dump them there, stopping for a coffee in Kitay-Gorod on the way. We took a walk in the warmth and sunshine to Red Square, which was beautiful and awe-inspiring and as impressive as the first time I saw it back in October. We wandered through the Kremlin but ultimately were a bit disappointed that we couldn't take a seat in the gardens, and that everywhere you go there are armed policemen blowing whistles as you if you put a foot out of place. 
St Basil's is stunning

From the heights of the Kremlin wall we spotted a boat on the river, and decided to ask tourist info where we'd catch such a cruise. Turned out the season had started that day! So we hot-footed it to Gorky Park and rushed through to the jetty. We just missed a boat that went east through town, but got on the next one a minute later. On the boat you can buy cheap drinks and sit either inside or out on the top deck. It took maybe 45 mins to get to Kiev station, which is only 1 metro away from where we started, but it was a very pleasant time and we didn't pay a kopeck for it!
On a boat!
Back at the hostel afterwards we showered and napped, recovering our energy. We went for a Chinese dinner in the evening, and then on the way home we noticed a beauty parlour offering very cheap manicures. It took us all of a minute to decide it was a great idea, and soon we were all seated watching The Hangover in Russian in plush fuchsia chairs, having our nails filed and painted by attentive and almost-silent young ladies. Funnily enough I'd never had a manicure before - I never knew that my cuticles needed pushing and cutting off with tiny sharp scissors, or that the skin around my nails should be trimmed. However, the final effect is very nice: lovely neat black nails with a hint of blue glitter. Me gusta :) After that pudding and cocktails were consumed at Dve Palochki before hitting the hay.

20/4 Saturday morning I lead Lisa and Yael to the Ismailovsky flea market where I bought all my souvenirs last time. They said they really enjoyed it and seemed to have a lot of success shopping so that made me happy. I bought a few trinkets - a fridge magnet and a cute ladybird-bracelet. At the Ismailovsky Kremlin there was some kind of Renaissance fair going on, with men dressed as knights (bogatyrs), having pretend sword fights to power metal music. Kids were playing cute medieval games and making cardboard swords and shields. D'aww.

MGU and me
After all that we napped (phew, this tourist stuff is exhausting!), and then went for dinner at a super place Yael picked out that was round the corner called Zapasnik Art-Garbage. Not as pretentious as it sounds, I found it quite endearing that all the dishes were named after works of art, and the kebabs were wicked. Quite expensive though we spent a long time there having a right laugh. We popped to the nearest shop to buy provisions for breakfast to find it was basically Fortnum & Masons! They even had Fortnum's teas for sale. You could pay a tenner for a loaf of bread there if you weren't careful. Early night ensued I think.

21/4 It felt like our time in Moscow was all too brief when I had to pack up Sunday morning. Our adventure to Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills) started a little late because I got talking to another resident of the hostel: turned out she was also a former Kitezh volunteer who had been there on her 3rd year abroad back in 2007! Small world! On the way to Sparrow Hills we got rather shaken: on the metro, right in front of us, a fight broke out between opposing sides of football supporters. Spartak vs something red & blue. It was very frightening for all of us: I nearly jumped into the lap of the lady to my left! Some guy was bleeding, others were swinging from the handrails while kicking out with their legs. Scary biscuits. We leapt off the train and got the next one, thank God we pulled into a station quickly.

After that our walk was pleasant if chilly and windy - the views from the top are worth the trek, and the Moscow State University building (one of the famous Seven Sisters skyscrapers) has architecture that makes even little me marvel, and I'm not normally interested in that.

French 'Glamour' mag - I want ska cake!
After another metro ride (and a trek to find Universitet station!) we got to Arbat, did the typical walking thing of walking along and trying to pick a place to eat. We settled on Mu-Mu, which is bizarrely cow-themed. We stuffed ourselves silly and then headed for a photo opp at the Bolshoi Theatre. On the way we saw probably over a hundred teenagers holding 'Free Hugs!' signs walking down the Arbat and hugging anyone who came up to them. I thought the was the cutest and happiest and most cheerful thing I've ever seen Russians do, and I wish it happened in SPB, but I think that SPB people are too grumpy and gloomy for that!

From the Bolshoi we travelled back to the hostel and lazed about in common room reading magazines until we decided to pick up our bags and get moving. We stopped for tea at a cute cafe (mmm peppermint tea) before going down the metro. Finding the ticket office at Leningradsky was a nightmare, but once we'd got our tickets we were most relieved. Some noms were acquired at Kroshka Kartoshka and we say about playing cards until it was time to board the train at 21.30. We departed at 22.10 and got back to SPB at 06.00... oof. So I bussed it home and went straight to bed. 

22/4 I had every intention of getting up for school at 08.30 today but my body had other ideas and I came round 2 hours after that! Since then I have mostly been writing this and Skyping my parents, but that's another story and not such a happy one.

I hope to keep you more informed of goings-on in the future,
Bye for now!

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