St. Pete Day 5

Thursday morning started with a trip (via the Metro) to the Fortress of Peter & Paul, where the city was founded in 1703. Our hosts had arranged a special tour of the mint that is housed there, which was pretty interesting. A young Russian woman named Tanya accompanied us, and she translated for the director of the mint museum as he showed us around the place. One of the artists who designs the coins and medallions was on hand too, and we admired his handiwork, and were presented with proof sets as gifts as we left. We then went to the cathedral of Peter & Paul, which is the final resting place of most of the Russian Czars and Czarinas. Peter The Great, Catherine The Great, and all the less-great monarchs are entombed there beneath the floor. They recently added the bodies of the last Czar, Nicholas II, and his family, who were murdered in the early 20th Century.

We caught the Metro back to Herzen, and bid farewell to Vladimir and Pitr, who had to return to MISiS in Moscow. We then met Marina, our guide for the latter portion of the day, and convinced her to let us swing by McDonald's for some lunch, as we hadn't had time to eat yet.

McDonald's here is about the same as anywhere else, though they charge you for ketchup, and the fries seem slightly slimmer. It's also cheaper than it is in the U.S., though not by a large amount. The restaurant was packed, as it's apparently a popular place amongst young Russians, as it's an affordable place to eat on their budgets. We bought Marina a strawberry milkshake to drink as Chuck and I wolfed down our Big Macs, which tasted just like any other Big Mac.

We then set off for the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. The Spilled Blood is in reference to the church being on the location of the assassination of Alexander I. The actual cobblestones where he was blown up are still left undisturbed inside the building, through a hole in the cathedral floor. The church was a bit different from all the other ones we've seen, because it was never really a "working" church, it served more like a monument, though during the Soviet Era, it was used to store potatoes. Fortunately, much of the mosaic work survived, though the marble floor did not. The church has been fully restored now though.

After the tour, we were returning to Herzen when we spotted Anna, our guide from the Russian Museum. We caught up to her, and had some time to give both her and Marina a few of the small UNI-branded gifts we brought with us, plus I unloaded a package of Twizzlers on each of them, which they seemed to enjoy.

Anna then asked us to join her for coffee, but Chuck begged off. Dr. Vajpeyi was around though, and he joined Anna and I at Lenin's Mating Call (which is porno-free during the day) for a couple of drinks and conversation. It turns out that Anna has traveled quite extensively, as she also works as a fashion model (which came as no suprise, given her height and good looks).

After about an hour, we said goodbye to Anna, and picked Chuck up to go out for dinner. We walked in a new direction of the city and located a Rock and Roll club that looked promising. Unfortunately, they wanted 100 roubles each for us to enter, and wouldn't show me the menu at the door. I told them I wasn't going to pay money when I just wanted to look at the menu so that I could decide whether or not I wanted to eat there. This is probably the best example of how many Russian restaurants and businesses haven't really mastered good customer service yet.

We decided to skip that place on principle, and walked another few blocks before finding a fairly upscale restaurant decorated in pink and silver. They had menus in English posted, so we went in and ordered. I had spaghetti, Chuck had salmon, and Dr. Vajpeyi had some veal, I think. The food was good, though the waitress was constantly coming over to rearrange our knives and forks, taking some away, bringing others, when many of them had never even been used. It was sort of amusing, since we could discern no pattern to when certain knives and forks were taken away, and others were brought. The meal was pretty good, though expensive, I think it was around 2000 roubles for the three of us, which is over $60, and we didn't even have any alcohol.

We then wandered our way back to Herzen, where I turned in for a night's rest, having been out late enough the night before.