So where have I been lately? Well... how about Moscow and St. Petersburg?
My mother took me on a trip that included both of these splendid cities. They are, as I have learned, very different.
While Moscow is very busy, mostly modern, a bustling centre of government and business, St. Petersburg is cultural, a city full of museums, theatres and palaces.
We got to spend a few days in each of them, first Moscow, then St. Petersburg, and traveled from one to the other by train.
It was a fascinating trip. I couldn't even begin to tell you what I liked best. So here are some highlights:
- The metro stations in Moscow. Stalin built underground palaces for the benefit of the workers. Too bad, our guide said, that above ground, he built them barracks.
- The guide herself. Marina is smart, funny and speaks great Dutch.
- Borsjtsj. Beet soup. Good stuff, and I don't even like beets. Wodka is nice too, but I already knew that.
- The Moscow cemetary for prominent Moscovians. Everyone has a statue or an engraved picture; everyone is a hero. Many men (hardly any women) are shown with symbols of their profession. Like pilotes' goggles, a newborn baby or a telephone.
- The churches... painted on the inside from top to bottom. Golden domes. Lots of angels. Splendid Cyrillic lettering.
- Being there for a few days and learning to read some of the signs.
- Hearing five stout, short Russian men, who looked like lorry drivers, open their mouths and sing like angels.
- Releasing six BookCrossing books, in Russian. One of them inside the Kremlin.
- The old Socialist statues and monuments, pompous and stylized at the same time, trying their best to look glorious and intimidating.
- A boat trip through the canals and rivers of St. Petersburg.
- Good weather. Almost all day, almost every day. My coat was much too warm.
- More palaces than you can shake a stick at. And we went for lunch in one of them.
- Seeing the lunch menu mentioning a 'Spring Fantasy' salad as a starter, accompanied by a Nevsky Loaf from the palace bakery as well as [so-and-so] spring water from a 150 metre deep well... and realizing that this meant 'We will welcome you with cabbage, water and a small roll of bread'. Highly amusing (and the lunch wasn't bad after all).
- The Hermitage. It's one of the places you must have been to. But not for too long, as it'll make you dizzy and give you a headache. One can only see so many badly-lit 17th century masterpieces a day. The rooms are competing for attention with the artefacts.
In other words: this trip was a complete trip. If you're interested in the way too many pictures that I took, go here
. Don't say I didn't warn you!