Something Special, Saint Petersburg
Russia has a wide range of local beers. I tried a few different brands and found them all tasty. Among them were Baltika, Tinkoff, Botchkarev and Nevsky.
One of the most popular Russian beers is Baltika which has also a brewery in St. Petersburg. Their different brands are identifiable by a number on the label. My favourite is Baltika 3, which is a classic lager with about 4,8 % alcohol.
Many people doubt if trips to St-Pete are expensive. Well, they might be. But I live in St-Pete and you can always save money here if you're interested in it.
Some money-saving tips:
1) Don't use taxi - use public transport, you'll see real life and won't spend much money (in 2010 the underground will cost 22 RUR, marshrutkas (commercial buses) - from 24 to 28 RUR). If you use taxi, don't catch it near Nevsky prospekt or Dvortsovaya square. If you walk a couple of streets away, it may be 200 RUR cheaper :)
2) Don't go to expensive restaurants, there're lots of places where you can get a typical Soviet\St-Pete lunch for 3-5 euro (and it's not bad), or you can cook for yourself - but don't shop at Globus Gurmet - go to Lenta, Okey, Karusel, Pyaterochka, they're in every district of the city. Don't buy expensive meat - it may not be very, erm, fresh, get yourself a chicken. they're cheap and people buy them quickly.
3) Collect info before you set off to St-Pete and make use of it. For example, instead of paying 75 or much more euro for an all-included one-day tour to Petrodvoretc you can spend 15 minutes in the internet and go there for 15 euro.
4) Accomodation eats up a lot of money, especially in summer. But if you book in advance and don't choose a posh hotel or rent a private appartment, it can save a lot of money too. There're many online resourses you can use... however, most of them are in Russian (oops).
5) Learn about various attractions in advance, and you'll save a good amount of money on guided excursions. If you still want a guide, there's a lot of so-called informal guides in St-Pete... but the problem is that not many of them speak good English. However, they don't ask much money and can show you places not mentioned in Lonely Planet or other traveller 's books.
I know it all seems somewhat like frugal living, but it works!
To be continued.
Generally everyone stays clear of police unless they have a problem, because it is possible for them to ask for money if they find anything amiss.
But they are just people too, paid way too little and respected even less at times. Here a couple in uniform steal a kiss as the tour boat goes under the bridge.
The spring air brings love to all.
There has been a big increase in cars in the past 5 years. Foreign cars are outselling Russian cars, there is rush hour traffic now and parking is getting tighter in the center.
You may see many creative parking techniques to fidn a place.
This 4-wheel-drive Niva found a place backing up onto a mound of ice and snow.
It may not be strictly legal and the local authorites seem in 2007 to start towing vehicles parked in pedestrian crossings and on sidewalks.
It is perceiveable a movement to curtail cars in the center of St. Petersburg could take root, but for now it is hard to tell Russian drivers what to do.
In our wanders around St Petersburg, we didn't come across many public toilets. As is the case in most cities we have visited, I always make the most of toilet stops in cafes or shopping centres.
One ingenious method we came across in St Petersburg was this Toilet Bus. Seen parked near the Hermitage, I guess it is great as it can be used in the busier tourist times and moved to where it is needed most.
I didn't actually make use of the buses facilities, but have read that they are pretty squashy cubicles....but worth the R10 fee, cause when you gotta go.....
I saw this communist-era decoration on a building off Bolshoy Prospect. Just a hint of the communist idealism once felt by the people. I can at least appreciate the art work and decorative quality, if not the philosophy!
... but they are very friendly, too! This is Christina and Mosha. On my second day in St. Petersburg, the friend I was staying with had to go to some appointments. These friends of hers offered to take me around so I wouldn't be all by myself for the day. I thought that was really nice, seeing as they didn't even know me! They both spoke very good English, too. I know I can't speak for all Russians, but the ones I encountered on my trip were all very kind and welcoming to me.
This is the grandmother of the friend I stayed with. Her name is Dina. She is quite a woman! Although she has a lot of ailments, she is still very self-sufficient. She made us large, delicious meals every day - better than you could ever hope to get in a restaurant! I barely knew any Russian and she barely knew any English, so if my friend wasn't around to interpret for us, Babushka would pull out her Russian-to-English dictionary and write me little notes. Otherwise, we would try to communicate through pantomiming to each other. She was a wonderful lady with a great sense of humor. It was a treat to be able to meet her and spend time with her!
Remember to leave your saxophone at home.
As you enter the Peter and Paul Fortress you can see a sign listing all forbidden activities.
Saxophone players be warned!
Tasty russian beer is sold on draft or in cans. The name looks like BAJITNKA sounds like BALTICKA. A pint is around 175 RUR and a can from a supermarket is 33 RUR.
Baltika beer is maybe the most famous Russian beer. They have many kinds of beers from light blond to dark porter, they are defined by number and my favourite is number 8.
This is Tinkoff beer, it is a local brewery, they make the blond and darks beers here which are very good ones.
What is hot is a matter of perspective.
A sign that says Hot Tours taht is covered with ice might be warm for some :)
Since there is a naval base in St. Petersburg, you will see a lot of sailors walking around. Don't you just love a man in a uniform!
Apparently, Russians (maybe after wedding parties?) like to leave champagne bottles on public fences. Lovely.