One of the best things about traveling is seeing how the place you’re visiting is different from your home. I’ve traveled widely in Europe and Russia was probably the most different place I’ve been yet. To sum it up in one sentence: Russia is not for wimps.
There didn’t seem to be many rules there at all, and much of the public safety infrastructure we now take for granted in the US—safe and stable stairways, pedestrian crossings, lanes on the interstates, no holes in sidewalks smoking bans—do not exist. Not even medicines cater to the weak—check out the non-coated ibuprofen tablets.
You all probably know by now that I really enjoy taking pictures of oddball things. Here are a few more images from weird and wonderful Russia:
Even after a week, I never did figure out the rules of parking, other than that there weren’t any. Seeing a car parked like this was the rule, not the exception.
Jetskis are permitted on the Neva and the canals, apparently.
Speaking of the canals, they seemed to be a popular drinking spot for many Russians. Can’t blame them since a beer costs about a dollar in the store and $3-$4 out at a bar or restaurant. This was a common sight.
We got served orange juice every morning for breakfast. It seems to be a very popular beverage for Russians. I have never seen a machine like this anywhere else…have you?
This isn’t too weird, but it is wonderful. Dottie and I had no problem following these footsteps, though we didn’t quite become caviar lovers.
Another wonderful thing we did was visit the Udelnaya flea market. A few subway stops north of the city, it felt like the real Russia — no tourists around for miles. I got some great bargains, but we had to walk through a lot of crap stalls selling made in China tracksuits, scarves and the like along the train tracks before we got to the real flea market portion.
The only weird thing about it is that Russians don’t heckle you at markets (well, at the non-tourist ones, anyway). I actually had one guy say, when I commented that a certain article cost too much, “think about it and come back later.” Had I not known how good Dottie’s Russian was, I might have thought she’d mistranslated. I did later return, prepared to pay full price, only to be offered an “Amerikanka” discount!
We saw a lot of limos in Russia. Most were Hummer limos, but I found this one especially eye-catching and snapped a pic while Dottie was standing in front of it . We never did find out how much it cost to rent a pimpmobile.
Back to public safety: while our hotel was a great value, and the people were friendly, the FOUR FLIGHTS of decrepit stairs leading to it left something to be desired. They were full of atmosphere, though, and we took full advantage.
The mounds of sauerkraut and pickled veg at the market were definitely wonderful.
One day we were walking to the Hermitage and came across a military procession. It seemed to be made up entirely of 16-year-olds, but the scale of it was impressive.
And, last but not least, the weirdest thing we came across the entire trip: Upright sunbathing outside the Peter & Paul fortress. Imagine walking along a quiet beach, past parents and kids feeding seagulls, and turning a corner to see this:
Possibly the best picture I’ve taken my entire life. Dottie, when are we going back?