Monday, August 13, 2007

Petersburg recalled

Thinking back to my last trip to Russia, in summer of 2005. St. Petersburg was at its most beautiful in late June/ early July, time of the White Nights. Stayed in a private apartment near the intersection of Tschaikovskogo and Liteiny Prospect, just a couple of blocks from the Neva River. I read later that this was the neighborhood where Vladimir Putin grew up, and that as a boy he aspired to work down the street on Liteiny Prospect, at the Bolshoi Dom or big house of the KGB, a dream he realized. Wish I had known then that the former KGB headquarters in Petersburg was just nearby. I remember being on a tour in Potsdam, Germany in 2000 and seeing President Putin's dilapidated house there, in the KGB's Forbidden City (forbidden, that is, to Germans.)

One day I decided to walk from my flat to the Hermitage along the Embankment. Even there the traffic was intimidating. Not far from the Hermitage I came upon a good pizza place run by Italians --unfortunately can't find the name at the moment. It had a bilingual menu in English, a necessity for me, and the prices were reasonable. It was the first good meal I had in the city.

Also discovered a good Turkish restaurant on Nevsky Prospect not far from the Hermitage --I believe the name was Caravan. Ate lunch there several times and always enjoyed a decent meal for about $8. A bookstore nearby offered good deals on greeting cards with texts in Russian, and on reproductions of posters from the Communist era. Another bargain was the bootleg caviar I bought from a guy selling it outside the Hermitage --it turned out to be fine, although I have heard since that it isn't always.

It's hard to beat the romance of this city, truly one of the most beautiful I have ever seen, and I've travelled a lot. Looking forward to further adventures in Moscow, which as I recall is not so beautiful but equally impressive in its own way.


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