Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Rushing Through Russia

Okay, where we were again? Oh, that's right. I was in RUSSIA! 

Did you miss the first part? Click here on The Peterhof to read about our time at the palace and gardens.

We had just finished up our visit to the Peterhof palace and gardens in St. Petersburg, Russia. As we were walking out of the garden, we saw a young bride and groom in their wedding dress walking through the garden with a photographer. Our tour guide, Natasha, turned to me and said in her little Russian accent "We have a bea-u-tiful tradition here in Russia. When young peoples get mah-rried, they take their families and a photographer, and they go to a bea-u-tiful place to take pictures of the day they got mah-rried and it's a bea-u-tiful tradition here in Russia."

It was at this point that I realized our tour guide had a couple of screws loose. I started thinking, I don't know what's wrong with Russians, geez! When we get married in the States we never even think to take pictures with our families in bea-u-tiful places. Wow. What a novel concept that it would seem Russia has invented. We should all thank Russia right now for letting us in on this fabulous Russian tradition they have. So the next time you look at your photo album, say "I wouldn't have done that if it wasn't for Russia."

We decided to head over to the underground metro stops in St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg Metro, Russia

St. Petersburg's metro is said to have some of the most beautiful, highly decorated, and opulent metro stations in the world.

St. Petersburg Metro, Russia

The metro was started before WWII in St. Petersburg, but construction stalled during the war due to lack of money. In 1955 the metro stations finally opened. 

Avtovo metro station, St. Petersburg

The metro stations were completed under the direction of Joseph Stalin. These metro stops were for "The People." He directed to have them built and decorated to show the great power and wealth of Russia. Kind of strange since 20 years before building these, Russia couldn't even feed its people. For more info, click  Soviet famine 1932-1933.

Avtovo metro station, St. Petersburg

As we walked through the metro station, our disillusioned tour guide Natasha told us what a "good guy" Stalin was. How he had the people's best interests at heart and how he defeated the Nazi's from over taking the innocent country of Russia. (I'm not kidding. She said things like that.)

Avtovo metro station, St. Petersburg

These are some the support columns in the station that are inlaid with gold and crystals. The station was more beautiful than some palaces and castles I've seen. I'm sure that the Russian people were very grateful to have such beautiful metro stops. But maybe, I don't know, instead of beautiful metro stations they would have rather, say, not lived in fear of being dragged out of their house in the middle of the night and killed in front of their family? For more info click Stalin's Great Purge.

Avtovo metro station, St. Petersburg Russia

So our tour guide thinks that Stalin was pretty okay. He did give them nice metro stations after all. And Nazi Germany attacked Russia when all Russia was doing was minding their own business. Hmm... okay. And then she went on to tell us what a good guy Vladimir Putin was. In my little, blonde, brain I heard the sound of breaks screeching and I just wanted to ask her if she really believed that or was she giving us a Russia-has-to-look-so-great-to-the-Americans-white-washed version of history? I know there are things in my own country's history that I am not proud of, but at what point do you say "Yeah, my country did some uncool things, or leaders in my country did some uncool things," instead of saying "Yeah, my country can do no wrong and we are better than everybody else."

Avtovo metro station, St. Petersburg Russia

But I really didn't want to cause an international incident so I just kept my mouth shut and nodded my head. She also told us about how Napoleon attacked their fair country and he wasn't able to overtake it. The way she spun it was Russia has just sat there for hundreds of years, minding its own business, and it keeps getting attacked by all the bullies and poor Russia, they just want to get along with people. Okay then.

Russia may not be communist anymore (much to the dismay of our tour guide because you know that guy Stalin? He was the BOMB) but signs of its Soviet past were everywhere.

Avtovo metro station, St. Petersburg Russia

The Soviet emblem of the hammer and sickle were on many walls and buildings through out St. Petersburg.

These walls are made with real, Italian marble that they had shipped in to build the metro stations.

The St. Petersburg metro is one of the deepest in the world due to the water table so we had to take long escalators up and down to reach the stations. At the stations, our tour guide actually told us how to use turn styles and escalators. Now this is just getting weird. Does she think we don't have turn styles and escalators in America? Or does she just think Americans are slightly less intelligent than the rest of the world?

Here is our friend, Mr. Point riding the very long and apparently, very complicated escalator to the surface. Mr. Point is a bit of a history buff and he would ask Natasha questions about the Russian Revolution and if we could please go and see some of these places. Natasha shut him down, and all us actually, whenever we asked anything about the Russian Revolution. And she told us these places were too far away. We drove by one of them not once, but twice without her saying a word.

After the metro stations, the troops (our combined eight kids) needed reinforcement so we found a cute little Russian cafe that sold Russian pastries.

They didn't like the sight of meat and onion filled pastry. Even though it was really good.

Russian pastry

They also had apricot, apple, and strawberry filled pastries. Our kids liked those a little better.

Barack Obama nesting doll

Next we went and did a little souvenir shopping. I ask you, what says "I've Been To Russia" more than a Barack Obama Russian nesting doll? 

For the next few hours we drove around St. Petersburg taking in the sights. I apologize in advance for the quality of the pictures, but they were taken out of the window of the van. 

Russian Submarine

Here is a submarine in the Neva River that flows right through the main part of St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg Russia

As we drove around we would catch little glimpses of places like this. Palaces that would rise up right out of the former communist sprawl of the city.

St. Petersburg street car, Russia

Their metro stations may look like palaces, but their street cars were easily over 60 years old. They continued to use the same battered trams because they were unable to buy new ones, due to the cost of replacing all the tracks in the streets.

St. Petersburg Russia

This gem of a home just popped up as we were riding along. I have no idea the historical significance of this place. I was just fascinated by the intricacies of the building.

Soviet St. Petersburg Russia

And just after we would see beautiful palaces, we would see blocks and blocks of Soviet era apartments and sprawl.

St. Petersburg has a long Soviet history. When the city was founded it was called St. Petersburg. In 1914, the German name of St. Petersburg was changed to Petrogradthe Russian-ized version of St. Petersburg. Then in 1924, it was changed again to Leningrad, or Lenin's City. After the fall of communism, it was changed back to St. Petersburg in 1991. Even though the city changed its name back, it seems that shaking its communist past will be harder than just a name change.

St. Petersburg Russia

In addition to Soviet era apartments, there were Soviet era tanks and cannons scattered all over the city.

Soviet Tank, St. Petersburg

Okay. I think that is good for today.

Coming up next, our time at the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood.


  1. I loved your take on your guide. The wedding photos, the turn styles, the escalators, hilarious! I love seeing RUSSIA through your eyes! Thoroughly entertaining!

  2. I honestly find this really obnoxious and annoying with a "know it all tone" yet somehow suiting of your appearance in your pictures. I guess some people found charm in that. Bleh.


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