I’m more than 4 weeks now in Saint Petersburg with lots of experiences and impressions collected so far. The first two weeks where a bit shocking for me – the crowd, the hot and humid weather, the size of the city, the way everything is built, the noisy and dirty public transport…. We are staying in the apartment of my wife’s mum, this is a 1 bedroom apartment in one of the outside suburbs – even that it is only 60sqm it looks huge comparing to other apartments that I have visited so far. The water is treated and quiet ugly (like in most cities) – even that we have carbon water filters in the apartment – I’m not used to city water as I use clean stream water in my farm, so the taste and the influence on my stomach pushed us to start buying bottled water. The sidewalks are huge, but still there are so many people in the streets that you bump into people all the time. The spaces between the buildings are also big, with lots of big green areas, sometimes big parks, but most of them are quiet dirty. The cars on the roads are mostly expensive cars – and there are shops everywhere. Many shops are open 24/7, and when I say “shops everywhere” I really mean it – the first two floors of every apartment building are for shops, while there are huge supermarkets, shopping malls, building shops, fashion shops etc from a walking distance of every apartment building. The city center is huge – with miles and miles of canals, bridges, shops, museums, coffee shops, theaters, and – people – mainly women. This is something which I have noticed – more women than men here, especially old men are hard to spot. In summary, it looks like the nicest, the busiest, the most interesting and the most cultural European city I have ever visited, most likely not only in Europe but the whole world – the best one for shopping (not the cheapest though, actually everything is MOST expensive) and for cultural activities, the issue is that I don’t like big cities and I don’t like shopping either.
Speaking about culture, Russia is probably the only place in the world where you could pay $10 for a concert ticket in the first line of the “Capela” – the private concerts hall of the Royal family. The “Capela” is a small hall that was inside the Royal family palace, and the concert was just amazingly professional. After the revolution the soviets has captured the families assets – they run away to Europe and still leave there – while the members of the public are enjoying the Museums that have been replaced the private owners. The British royal family is, by the way, related to the Russian one, this may explain their financial claims against Russia and some other parts of the history which affect the current “warm war” situation. So there are Museums everywhere, and for everything you could dream of: animals, music, food, history, war, peace, art,… not to mention the “Hemitage” which we haven’t visited yet.
Some additional comments:
- Officially there are 4.5 million people in the city, but in fact there are probably 1-2 additional unofficial migrants / residents around. It makes everything very crowded and busy. You could identify some of the migrants that come from other parts of Russia, as I never saw such cultures (a very interesting mix of Asians, like the “Kalmiks” which are types of escymos). I could see and identify Some of those new faces in the “Russian folklore museum”.
- The media looks quiet open and diverse (comparing to New Zealand and the US). They are very busy now with the Ukraine war and the situation of the civilians there with lots of criticism of the war, and the typical un avoidable government propaganda as well.
- I personally saw, and took pictures many gays (mainly women) in the streets, in contrast to what the western media is trying to convince us. I actually see the people here more open with affection in public, which may raise some questions about why the western media is trying to demonize Russians.
- The Russian sense of humor, self-criticism and government criticism is very impressive. One joke I heard in the TV here – “The FSB needs to cut 50% of the employees due to the recession. There will be only 80 million Russians working for them now” (meaning that all Russians are spies). Criticism of Putin and the government is everywhere, even that it won’t be smart for a foreigner to participate.
- Security, by the way, looks quiet loose, definitely comparing to the US and also comparing to NZ
- English: most people don’t speak English here, and don’t like foreigners. They have mentioned, though, New Zealand and Australia in connection to the Ukraine crisis, as ANZAC paid a big price to protect Russians interests during WW1
- MOST Russians grow their own food, this is just IMPRESSIVE. I saw stats that mentioned 40% of the food production is done in “dachas” (the Russian village batches). It may be even more than this – what is impressive is that in the weekends most of the city-people go to the villages and spend most of their time in growing vegetables.
- Most Russian flats are free-hold. This is allowing Russians to pay higher food prices (per salary) and to buy cars on debt.
In the photos:
- The Capela – where the Russian Tzar (=”king”) was listening to private concerts, is allowing every visitor to enjoy concerts as well for….$10 ticket (from the inside and outside)
- A typical Russian suburb from the soviet union times: lots of shops, huge slams, trams lines in the centre, 6 – 8 lanes for cars.
- Parks everywhere and museums. The torture bed is authentic from the Russian inquisition times.
- Tens of bridges on the Neva River are opened every night, to allow ship to cross.
- Lesbians in Nevsy Prospect, this is the most respectful and public area of the city. I walked behind them for quite a while. In general you could see couples touching and presenting affection in public – much more than in any other country I visited.
Until next time…