Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sleepless in St. Petersburg

Loving it here but my already-tenuous ability to sleep has been all but completely annihilated. Thus, I'm in internet cafes at 5 a.m. local time. My travel partner, MD, is also a pretty severe insomniac -- between the two of us, we may be getting five-six hours of sleep per night.

So, I wander the streets, pre-dawn ... and 5 a.m. in St. Petersburg is pretty active. That's not seedy or salacious; normal people are going about their business very early in the morning. There's a lot of 24-hour businesses, not just your normal things like convenience stores and fast-food joints, but bars, full-service restaurants, bookstores, CD stores. More of this sort of thing than I've ever seen. I'm wondering if it's a product of the northern latitude; constant light in summer and constant darkness in winter probably leads to a lot of people who don't care what time it is.

Other notes (I don't have the ability to upload photos at the moment, but rest assured, there are plenty):

* Despite being avowedly secular, the churches (as is often the case) are having the biggest impact on me. I'm hoping the pictures of the Church on the Spilled Blood (it earned that cheery sobriquet because it was built on a tsar's assassination site) do it justice; it's an astounding building, like nothing (church or otherwise) I've ever seen.

* There's a fairy-tale quality to much of the city. You'll be walking through the Stalinist blocks (happily few in the city center) and the Habsburg-style stately but dull architecture, and come across a palace or church that looks like it should be a Disneyland ride.

* it's been constantly gray and often rainy here, which I don't really mind -- it seems to fit the city.

* My hotel lists "Miller Genuine Draft" as a Russian beer.

More soon -- I'm struggling a bit this morning. Great trip, great sights. Have yet to have any vodka though -- that'll have to be redressed.

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