Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Leaving St. Petersburg

Sadly, my time in Russia has come to an end. I'm in the airport now,
heading to Kiev, where I will spend four days with a friend.

My last day was great. After sleeping in for the first time in weeks,
I headed to Peterhof with Masha. We took the hydro-foil up the Neva
River and across the Gulf of Finland. Peterhof was pretty amazing,
and the fountains (pictured above) were spectacular... easily the most
impressive fountains I have ever seen - I took a few (hundred)
photos. Inside the palace, I saw a number of pieces created by the
Fabergé workshop, including one of the infamous Fabergé eggs...
exquisite (Aunt Jan, I thought of you!). Masha had to leave Peterhof
early to catch her train back to Moscow, so I spent a couple relaxing
hours walking around the beautiful gardens.

St. Petersburg definitely met my expectations as one of the most
beautiful cities in the world. The architecture and interiors of the
various palaces were inspired by the best of Western Europe (marble
columns, gilded everything, enormous frescoes, sprawling gardens,
etc), .... but retained their own luxurious Tsarist flare. The
Hermitage museum is second only to the Louvre (there were rooms of
Matisse, Picaso, Rodin, Monet, etc). The city life itself is vibrant,
as exhibited by the spontaneous, jubilant street celebrations after
Russia won the Eurocup semi-finals. The metro was fantastic -
extremely efficient, clean, easy to get around (if you can read a
little Cyrillic), and deep (supposedly the deepest in the world... on
some escalators, you couldn't see one end from one end to the other).
Despite the lifeless (yet customary) stares on the metro, most people
I met were nice and helpful.

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