Russia has an intriguing feel, and Russians have a strong persona. The people are harsh, battered by failed economics and politics, cold weather, and a grueling history, but the friendly ones stand out like a sore thumb. We quickly realized that rudneness is just a front for strangers, and as soon as a good conversation is kicked off, Russians' attitudes change quickly. The most friendly people we have encountered are the owners and operators of Apple Hostel on Italyanskya in the Historic District. They are incredibly helpful and go above and beyond the call of duty to make their guests feel comfortable. The oldest of the owners, the matriarch perhaps, offered Karen and I some of the most delicious bread and cheese treat called pirog csiram. The only smiling Russians I've encountered work here. I would absolutely recommend this place to anyone stopping by St. Petersburg; it's clean, cozy, and close to nearly every site you'd want to see.
The architecture of this city is truly stunning - especially the churches. Russians pay attention to every detail and it shows. While there, we experienced "White Nights," which is when the sun rises before 6am and sets around 11pm. Perfect for exploring and photography, this unusual sun schedule added to our bodies' confusion over time changes, but it's worth it for sure.
While I'm enjoying Russia and have taken a new interest in European culture, I still very much prefer Asia. I miss it, I feel more at home there than I do here. I'm repeatedly entertained when people come up to us and talk feverishly in Russian - but I get embarrassed when I can't respond in their native tongue. I suppose this isn't a problem in Asia when people just take one look at me and assume there's no way in hell that a white guy would know what they're trying to tell me and we just resort to the universal language of hand symbols and drawings. Luckily we have Karen to communicate through while here!
Just a quick itinerary update: on our second day, we saw the Russian Museum and Hermitage - both spectacular on the inside, the Hermitage with an equally spectacular facade.
Sorry for the rambling, there's a lot on my mind and it's tough to translate them into words. More to come!
Here are some pictures of St. Petersburg:
PS - Adele's Lovesong