St Petersburg 18.09.16

Over a breakfast cup of tea I chatted to an American guy who recommended a bakery for breakfast so we descended onto Russian Greggs and bought a load of pastry products for brekkie. 

Today our hostel owner, Tigram had promised a Dostoyevsky walking tour around the area of Saint Petersburg that features so atmosperically in Crime and Punishment (one of my favourite books) so we waited in the hostel for him with eager anticipation, especially Al.

He arrived and we headed off to the haymarket area, which in the 1860’s when the novel was written was full of jobless, kopekless peasants doing whatever they could to survive. Drinking dens and gambling houses and all the other stuff that goes with it that can’t be mentioned on a under 15 rated blog. The area is still run down and after wandering around the beautiful bits of St P over the last few days was quite a contrast. Market sellers demonstrated carpet cleaners or vegetable peelers and cheap bars blared out high tempo pop music. We walked the streets and saw the apartment Dostoyevsky wrote the majority of the novel in.

 We passed the apartments that inspired those of Raskolnikov, The prawnboker and Sonya. We passed the crossing where Raskolnikov is accused and the real police station (still in use) where he is called to. Although a work of fiction, Dostoyevsky was a very precise, methodical author and to see the locations so clearly described in the book was an afternoon I won’t forget, especially as our host had done it for free on a Sunday, his day off and with such passionate enthusiasm.

Time to play on the tube again which is beautiful.

We headed out to the huge Soviet housing area to the south of the city. We saw statues of Lenin and huge apartment blocks and a six lane road where Russians zoomed by. I’m not sure what the speed limit is and neither do the locals. We watched the Russians at play wandering round a huge park. Sunday afternoon couples hand in hand or families taking a stroll, one bloke on an air blade loving his new toy.

Tube back to the central area and another long stroll ended in a Russian theme restaurant where we enjoyed pickled cucumber, saurkraut and smoked fish to start. Our main of 5 different caviars and pancakes came with 250 ml of chilled vodka and two shot glasses. When in Rome. We also squeezed in fish and crab sausages and rice. Delicious.

Full, we headed home and broke the journey with a dark ale. Craft ales are popular in St P too. Approaching the bar and seeing no staff, we were shocked when a lady suddenly stood up and asked what we wanted. We have already experienced the “Pop-up” attendant in the museums we’ve visited where you are asked to dispense with you coats and bags at the cloak room and usually there is no one in attendance but suddenly a 90 year old grandma appears from nowhere to take your stuff. Ninja grannies sitting under the bar.

We ended the night in the Liverpool bar a few hundred yards from the hostel. Live music and more dark beers. The place is a shrine to the Beatles with records, photos and memorabilia everywhere. The barman managed to look away from the ice hockey (Russia vs Sweden) long enough to serve us and we were treated to a very good acoustic guitarist and his bassist mate play covers with the inevitable Beatles number thrown in. Best though was a cover of ordinary world by Duran Duran. Very poignant.

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