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St. Petersburg Journal: Daily surprises

Posted in: St. Petersburg

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Guy staring at wall

Note: EuroCheapo editor Tom Meyers is traveling in St. Petersburg, Russia and blogging about his journey.

St. Petersburg, like most big cities, strikes me as a place of small surprises. For every grandiose palace visit, there’s an insightful trip to the grocery store. For every grand view, there’s a real-world view right behind you.

Today I thought I’d post some photos of everyday life in St. Petersburg. Mind you, I don’t have any clue what “everyday life” would be like for a resident, as I’ve only spent four days here. But apologies aside, here are some everyday scenes that struck my fancy.

Some things haven’t changed very much since Soviet times. Above, a man reads today’s newspaper, posted along the street for the public.

St. Petersburg Elevator

This is the control panel of the elevator at my friend Carl’s seven-floor apartment building, where I’m staying. Although there are numbers for floors eight and nine, they aren’t really buttons and you can’t push them. (I still haven’t figured out what the X-button is for. Care to find out?)

When you get off the elevator downstairs, a man sitting in a little room looks at you from behind an open window. The first couple of days I offered smiles, nods, and hellos. I’m a little wiser now and just get out of there.

Russian cafe lunch

This is the meal that I devoured inside the Peter and Paul fortress two days ago at their cafe. Shown here: Beet salad (turns out with pickled herring), a sort of double-wide meatball (beef and pork) topped with soft cheese and baked, rice, a slice of wheat bread, and a glass of strawberry water (a refreshing concoction made up of watered-down strawberry juice with two frozen strawberries dropped inside).

The cafe had a special buffet-style system set up, except you didn’t serve yourself. The lady working behind the bar explained the dishes in basic English, I pointed, and she put it all together and rang it up at the register. This meal cost about 300 rubles, or about $8.50. And yes, it was absolutely delicious. I could eat it again right now.

Russian napkin display

Speaking of lunch, at almost every restaurant or cafe I’ve visited so far, the napkins on the table are presented in this festive manner. They’re folded, fanned out, and displayed upright. It makes quite an impression.

St Petersburg Bathroom

Something about this bathroom, located in the visitor’s center at the Peter and Paul fortress, cracked me up. The stalls (not pictured) are not blessed with their own toilet paper dispensers. You must take your paper before you head in. Choose wisely!

St Petersburg Subway

I’ll bet that you can read that familiar restaurant sign, written above in Cyrillic. I’ve noticed a few American chains, including McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and yes, Subway. However, there are fewer than I expected to see (and certainly than I saw in Paris).  This Subway is located near the Hermitage on Nevskiy Prospekt.

Hermitage Matisse

Finally, because today’s post might paint a rather unglamorous portrait of St. Petersburg, let us focus on one decidedly “non everyday” aspect of the city. In this photo, which I took yesterday in the Hermitage, Matisse’s masterpiece, “La Danse” (1910) is displayed on the wall of a third-floor gallery that overlooks the palace square.

I spent about five hours in the Hermitage, exploring the palace rooms with my audioguide and getting close to priceless artwork. The best part–there’s hardly anyone around. When I took this photo, I had to wait for somebody to walk through the door.

The world comes to St. Petersburg in the summer when the white nights keep the city illuminated nearly around the clock. In January, however, most tourists stay away, intimidated by the bleak weather.

And to think it’s colder right now in New York…  More soon!

About the author

Tom Meyers

About the author: Tom Meyers created and launched EuroCheapo from his Berlin apartment in 2001. He returned to New York in 2002, set up office, and has led the EuroCheapo team from the Big Apple ever since. He travels to Europe several times a year to update EuroCheapo's hotel reviews. Tom is also a co-host of the New York City history podcast, The Bowery Boys. Email Tom. [Find Tom on Google Plus]

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4 thoughts on “St. Petersburg Journal: Daily surprises”

  1. Im from a country which was occupied by the soviet union, so i can tell you about those elevators – we have them here, too – everything in the soviet union was produced in huge amounts and not adjusted to individual needs of a certain building, so the control panel is the same in thousands of soviet elevators and the X button is there just because the standart panels includes 10 floor buttons regardless how many floors the building actually has. :)

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  2. Thank you for your report. I’m studying Russian in college and would like to take a month course in St. Petersburg but the only time I have available to do so is this upcoming January. I’m frightened off by the weather but I want to go so badly! I was born in raised in MA so I can handle winter, but I know St. Petersburg gets colder *sigh* dilemmas, dilemmas!

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  3. What a great St. Petersbourge report! I visited there in 1984 and 1988, Soviet era, and loved this cultural city. I’m re-enjoying it through your report, Tom. More, more! and maybe some pix of Carl’s apartment. Enjoy the ballet, opera, palaces, and common people. Eileen

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