Baltic tour, Day 2: Arrival in St. Petersburg; trip to Peterhoff

23 May
Click on the photo for today’s gallery, featuring shots of Peterhoff and my accommodation in St. Petersburg.

Woke up to the swaying of the ferry this morning as we edged toward St. Peterburg. It took awhile to disembark and get through customs — Remember I’m playing this little trick to spend a few days here without a visa, and that’s complicated by the fact I’m not staying at an “official” tour hotel. But I got no questions, and stamp, stamp, stamp and I was on my way.

A rinky-dink shuttle offered by the ferry line counts as the “official tour,” even though all it really consisted of was a drive into the city – where I was dropped off at a hotel two blocks from the guesthouse I had arranged online: Academy Guesthouse.

And let me tell ya — this place is the polar opposite of that tiny, stifling cubby hole on the ship last night. I got upgraded to a larger room then I paid for, and this place is a palace. And like everyplace else on this trip (except for the ferry), it was arranged via the Airbnb website. This is the priciest place of the trip, at about 88 bucks a night.

I explored the neighborhood for a bit after dropping off my back. There’s a cool public market right around the corner. I might have to pick up ingredients there for tomorrow night’s dinner.

Having missed the start of the walking tour I wanted to take, I decided instead to find the hydrofoil and spend the afternoon at Peterhoff, the palace of Peter the Great that was built in the 1700’s. Man was this place chock full of tour groups.

After strolling around and taking in the fountains and gardens, I headed for the main palace. This place was amazing. I’d have pictures, but from the signs and fervent stares of the docents, doing so would have pRobably resulted in my being sent to the gulag. Check the link above for interior pix. The palace was given a restoration makeover nine years ago, and the preservation work looked precise.

In the evening I went to dinner and had traditional Russian soup and a meat pastry. Sucked that even afterr sitting in nonsmoking, my shirt smells like smoke. Which leads me to …

5 things to know about St. Petersburg

1. More adults smoke than don’t. The rate is 60% for men.
2. It’s all about the bridges and waterways. The main couse, the Neva, looks like a cold roily monster.
3. This a huge city, with a population of about 5 million. It’s the furthest north of any city that big.
4. Estimates are that about a third of those 5 million people still live in Soviet-era shared housing, with three or four families sharing a communal kitchen.
5. St. Petersburg lies at the same latitude as Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, hence it still being twilight as I write this at 11pm.

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