Well, Russian Federation, actually. You can still see Lenin and Stalin in the public square, but they are on T-shirts and tchotkes, including a McDonald's send-up featuring the "McLenin". There was also one of the "Russian Big Mac - two all beluga patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun"...and I'd imagine a listening device included with all Gloomy Meals.
The cult of personality seems to be less pervasive here,though I did see some Putin Russian doll sets. Apparently the old adage is still true - you can't tell the players without a pogrom.
We flew from Helsinki into St. Petersburg, formerly known as Petrograd, and formerly formerly known as...St. Petersburg... on FinnAir. Thankfully we did not vanish into FinnAir, but landed just 40 minutes later into beautiful St. Pete.Monument To A Struggle/Victory
A short bus ride (the ride, not the bus) past endless large gray buildings and large monuments to some struggle or other, and we arrived at the Angleterre hotel. We are directly across from St. Issac's cathedral. This is a popular hotel for tourists, since tour buses are constantly parked outside. They serve vodka shots during check-in and keep your passport for "registration" purposes. Hmmm.The Angleterre is the building that is not gray
Not to be confused with the patron saint of cruise ship bartenders, St. Issac's was constructed in the 1840's and has one hell of a spiral staircase leading to the observation deck. It's only wide enough for one person, and with 200 steps to go - in a circle - it's quite a workout when a line of people are counting on you not to have a coronary. I gasped my way to the top and took some nice photos of the St. Petersburg skyline. I paid $10 dollars for the privilege, and another $5 for a photo permit. Never miss a chance to make a ruble, I guess.St. Petersburg from St. Issac's roofAnother view from Ike's Peak.
We went inside (another $10 + $5) to see the interior. Mosaics abound, gilt and gold everywhere, and naturally my camera battery ran out. I did manage a couple of snaps before the bunny died.St. Peter mosaic, maybe a painting, I can't really tellAngels in the architecture, spinning in infinity
Afterwards, having had our cardio workout for the
week, a boat ride up the river to see the sights sounded like a good idea. It was , in fact, not a good idea, since the narration was in Russian, the boat smelled of diesel and god-awful armpit odor from a fellow tourist I dubbed "Ivan Gagovich", both of which made the river
view of endless large gray buildings and struggle monuments not much of a diversion. I have all of that excitement on video, waiting for a moment of desperate boredom to be edited.
The highlight of the trip was a battleship cruiser from the Russian-Japanese war, which happened I don't know when and was won by I have no idea. Actually, it wasn't all that bad, I do like boat rides, so I enjoyed it for the opportunity to get my heart rate back to triple digits.
We tried to eat at McDonald's on the way home, but I counted 46 people in line ahead of us, and the woman taking remote orders from the queue did not look like she would appreciate me pointing to the items I wanted on the big menu board, some 30 feet away, so we bailed. Wish I had not slept through Cyrillic class in high school.
A different McDonald's that we also did not eat at, but of which I have a blurry photo
Back at the hotel, we took a 20-minute respite, I charged my camera battery to a hefty "8-minutes remaining" and we hooked up with Jim, Blair and Bobby De Luna for a long walk to the Red Army surplus store, to see if we could score some oh-so-chic Cold War relics. We had a map and directions to this surplus "store" which we did not find. We did discover some military items at a few kiosks within a larger flea market selling everything Russian, and preferring American dollars.Tourist Trapski
It was here I saw the Stalin/Lenin swag. I bought a bunch of things as presents, the details of which would spoil their surprise for the folks in Nashville, so I'm left having the dashing Brad Johnson modeling my new hat. Perfect for the next Halloween, if I go as one of the Potemkin Village People.Fueled by hatred, anger and frothy cappuccinos
That was two days off in St. Petersburg. Lots of fun, a few vodkas, lots of sleeping and walking and a few more gift items scratched off my list. Russia has been great so far. Tomorrow is gig day, which may be an entirely other matter indeed. Stay tuned, comrades.