Day 1: Well if anyone has a leather fettish, come to Russia. All the girls are walking around in over the knee PVC or leather stilletto boots, with either big fur or leather jackets and lots and lots of make up! I dont know how they are not cold-maybe the bling makes it hard work to move so they warm up?
I, on the other hand I look as though I'm on an artcic survival course, with hiking boots, a padded waterproof-windproof-super coat and more mud and snow on my face than make up.
So far the Russians have lived up to expectations, very to the point, only smiling when they have to, not interested in tourists, but friendly enough.
Alll the buildings are very grande and beautifull, I can see why it is nicknamed the 'venice of the north'. Canals intersecting the city make it very relaxing to walk around even though you cant read the street signs.
Day 2: Luggage finally arived at about 10.30pm so I can now venture out at night without turning into a block of ice. Spent that day wondering around the canals, saw St Nicholas cathedral, Mariinskiy Theatre and Sennaya Polshchad Markets. I thougt it was going to be hard to live off my tiny budget but there are lots of street stalls selling various random russian delights, I'm keeping to the motto of íf you dont know what it is then it cant harm you'.
Spent the evening talking to a Russian gent in my hostel about the credit crunch, how the Georgia war was all Americas fault (apparently so) and how his son doesnt like girls or god, just MacDonalds?? All this whilst necking a bottle of Hennesy between us.
The russians drink only in shots, no mixer, just a piece of lemon. You sniff the lemon, neck the shot then take a bite out of the lemon including the rind and eat it.
Happy to report I can drink like a Russian, the English eduation system has hardened me to the bone even after not drinking for 5months, I was still standing by the end of the bottle!!
Day3: The Hermitage. Absolutely jaw dropping amazing! I could have cried with joy at how good it was. I spent the whole day pottering around in my own little world admiring the stunning architecture and decor. I think comming here should be one thing everyone should do. (Although I would recomend doing it in summer as its impossible to get good photographs with permanent grey skys).
Inside has every type of art you could dream of, my personal favourites were Picasso 'the visit'- from his blue period which I adore, Monet - a whole room of his art including two huge paintings, Da Vinvi 'the little madonna.'and Henri Matisse 'la danse' not to mention the stunning sculptures and works of art from artists I've never heard of.
(must admit though, I had to have a break in the day for a hot chocolate to stop the killer hangover)
Walking back up visited the Church on Spilt Blood. The church from the outside takes your breath away with its detail and colour. Once inside though you become dizzy. everywhere you look is stunning mozaic. One wall depicts the birth of christ and the other the miracles of christ and both join covering every inch of space including the ceiling, curving and winding into holes and windows.
It also seems that Russians come alive at night, they seem a lot happier, maybe because the buildings are lit up to their best advantage or maybe the light at night is better than the day. Who knows? Eithe way, they seem to even smile at night.
Day 4: Bloody cold, my hands have turned Purple! Must have walked for miles and miles and miles. Saw St Peter and Paul fortress which was not very impressive apart from its gold spires, inside I am sure is a different matter but after seeing the Hermatige and Church on Spilt Blood I was not interested in paying to see the inside of another building. On the banks of the Neva was the Cruiser Aurora battle ship, its grey matching the colour of the sky but a sharp contrast to the bright blue and white of the Neo Baroque Nakhimov Navel Academy opposite. At the Bronze Horseman was a guy with a bear on a rope, yes a real brown russian baby bear. No one seemed to pay any attention to the man or the bear sat on the bench, but it was cetainly distracting for me.