Well Christmas day was a big one.
Santa came and left us a stocking full of gifts! There was fruit, even a banana, and some biscuits. Even here he didn't forget us.
Once again we had a hearty breakfast then rugged up for the day. Our tour today was to the Museum to the Defense of Leningrad. This was such a moving place, our guide Olga was crying as she told us about the diary of Tanya Savicheva. The museum isn't very large, apparently Lenin had the original one destroyed and it wasn't until the 1980s that it could be restored.
We then had the rest of the day to mooch.
There is a restaurant that has been recommend to us called Teplo, we just haven't had time to find it! We were going to have lunch there but the sun came out so we decided to have a look at St Petersburg from the concourse up at the dome of St Isaac's. Well, it is a fair climb and in full spacesuit it was a fair climb. Even in sunlight, it was really cold and slippery and wet (melting ice - cures that global warming). The view was fantastic, there is a hight restriction on buildings in St Petersburg so the view was uninstructed by towers etc. all the same, I was glad to safely achieve terra nearly firma.
The day got really cold, even with the sun out (just above the horizon at 14.00hrs that is) and the wet pavements began to freeze making things very tricky for us foreigners, though I saw a couple of locals slipping as well. The mystery is, how the ladies can zoom around so effortlessly wearing heels on these slippery footpaths, some pushing prams! (they take babies out in this?)
We then headed for a walk down Nevski Prospect, the main street. It goes for 4.5km so we didn't go the full distance.
Of all the things that I could have forgotten to bring, I had to forget a belt. Well after a couple of days, hitching the daks up every couple of minutes becomes a bit of a chore, especially when fully rugged up. So, we went looking for a clothing shop, the thing about Nevski Prospect is that it is definitely high street. After "finding" lots of souveniry, gifty things I spotted a Wrangler shop. It seems a long way around to come to Russia to buy an American belt at a Paris price.
Now it was morning tea time (well afternoon tea time) so we popped into the Coffee Club, as one does, for a nice coffee and cake. Here a long black is called a Black Americano, I'm sure that line could get you in trouble with the PC police at home.
Next stop was the Christmas Markets. This was a lot of stalls all set up in the middle of town. We felt very safe here as there were so many police and other security types every where, this was in preparation for the most important visitor to the city this year. The footpaths were even roped off from the road to stop jay walking. No-one can be allowed to disrupt the progress of Father Frost.
With our shopping mostly done, we headed back to the hotel to off-load and regroup.
We knew that Father Frost was going to make a grand entrance to the Palace Square to light the Christmad tree to signal the official countdown to the Orthodox Christmas (7 Jan) and we wanted to be there. The only problem was, where was there?
Not daunted, and armed with a very (not) detailed map of town, we headed off in the dark. After a nice stroll through snow covered parks, slippery footpaths, via the palace where Rasputin copped it, past a statue to Peter the great (erected by his loving daughter who conveniently made her name on the plaque larger than his) we found Palace Square.
Now, the next obstacle to be overcome was that we were on the wrong side of a main road that was protected by an iron ring of police. Turns out we had to walk another half km to the next official crossing. We made it at last. Now what the hell was going on?
There was a big stage with some Russian version of carrols in the domain going on, crappy pantomimes are crappy no matter what language they are in, but it was fun.
Note: if you are planning a trip to Russia, please be aware that no-one sits down in public events, church etc, so no seats any where.
There were a lot of families out, the little kids looked so funny all rugged up so they could hardly walk, and the babies looking like the Matryoshka dolls.
The show went on and on and just as we were wondering if we should give up, you guessed it! Father Frost turned up at the head of a parade in his sled. He then proceeded to banter with the host of the show and someone in a suit, probably the mayor for ages then with a big hullabaloo the big Christmas tree lights came on. Kat and I bolted to beat the rush out. We had a late dinner at the hotel (still haven't found Teplo) and crashed. We even slept in this morning.
Well the rain is here, the snow gone for now so it is time for more mooching around.