Thursday morning I was headed to Catherine’s Palace, a suburban summer palace 30km away. My journey got off to a rocky start when I got off at the wrong metro station and I realized that I forgot my hockey ticket so even if I am running late coming home I can just got straight to the game.
I finally got to the right metro station and found a minibus (36r, 62r=$1) that is going to my destination. When I asked the driver if it went to where I was going I got the look in the states that is the “are you speaking Russian” look but in this case was the “are you speaking American” look. He let me off and pointed a direction. I ended up at a train station. I was a tad frustrated and to to it off since I was so far from my last wifi my phone’s GPS was saying I was 6 miles away, oops. I found a man at a bus stop and asked him by showing him the words of where I was going he did a set of definitive hand gestures and it got me started. I then showed it to a kid after 8 minutes walking and the eleven year old said follow me and then said go straight until the road ends and turn right, win. It only took me 2.5 hours instead of an hour to get there. I would associate it with user error.
Catherine’s Palace is huge and is in a town, Pushkin, that was occupied by the Germans. The palace was basically destroyed and then the interior rebuilt after the war. The main reason people come here is to see a room completely covered in amber, called the amber room. Normally in the summer individual tourists only have 2 short time slots they can visit and group tours have all the other tickets and during those times you get a guided tour. Since I am here on the off season, I can visit anytime during their opening hours and without a tour. It also means they don’t have maps, just an audio guide. It was a pretty sweet place, but it was nice having half the rooms to myself.
I then contemplated lunch, but continuing with my theme or failing at lunch walked through a park to another palace. This one is not heavily touristed (read I was the only one in the entire palace and had about 14 women making sure I didn’t break any rules) and had unrestored rooms which were interesting to see.
I know had to try to find my way back to St Petersburg. Using my map app that still showed me miles away I saw what I thought was a church I saw on the way in and went there. I did stop and spend 20r on two fresh donuts, more like beignets, with powdered sugar. I then hopped on the same number van/minibus I used to get there. I navigated successfully and it was a short trip. At the hostel I talked to someone who attempted the same trip and he was “very tired” because he got lost and it took him two hours to get back from the palace.
Instead of going straight back there was one more museum I really wanted to see and that was the Siege of Leningrad museum. When I got there a women who spoke 43 words of English took me under her wing, showing me the three windows to go to, took me to the cost room, told me to fix my hair because it was all jacked, and made sure to show me where the toilet was. I was only able to spend 1:45 there and could spent longer. When I grabbed my coat from the same lady she studied my number, even though my coat was the only one in the room.
I then regrouped in the hostel and went to a trendy place, Zoom, for dinner. I was hoping for a quick dinner, but alas I was a few minutes late getting to the playoff, potential series winning game between SKA and Torpedo (please note I translated that from Cyrillic myself). I have a front row seat where I have a sweet view of 1/2 the rink and a crappy view of the other side. The seats don’t come up to the glass in this arena. On your seat are two boom sticks and the atmosphere is pretty crazy. One end of the stadium is the fan club with flags and drums which leads the cheering. Fueling the crowd are $3 beers. I grabbed one along with a hat (700r, my first souvenir) during the second intermission. I did make it on the jumbotron as the most crazy fan (or the person sitting next to two women who were crazy fans, you pick). Almost all they songs they played to pump up the crowd were American songs. At the end of the game a bunch of boys came in front of me (read literally climbing in my lap) trying to high five the players and get sticks. It was an awesome 2 hours.