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Heat Wave

by Tyler

St. Petersburg is currently setting all-time records for heat. We're not enthusiastic about going out this morning, but we need to get our visas registered. Though we have three business days to complete this required task, we've decided we're not messing around with Russian bureaucracy. We'll get it taken care of this afternoon.

We're soaked in sweat by the time we complete the five minute walk from our apartment to the nearest metro station. At the ticket window, we say our magic incantation of "chetttdy dejonay" and receive four subway tokens in return. Then, we take a two minute long escalator ride, breathing a sigh of relief as the temperature drops and we descend ninety meters underground. We decide our sightseeing today will consist mostly of riding the metro.

St. Petersburg Metro Escalator

We have eight stops before we change lines, and another few after that to reach the center of the city. Feeling exhausted already, I close my eyes and mentally check out, absorbing the aural experience.

After a few minutes, I'm really enjoying myself, awash in a cavalcade of interesting sounds. The clacking of the wheels, the rise and fall of roaring as our train hurtles through the tunnel from station to station. My favorite part is the authoritative hiss and clunk with which the pneumatic doors slam open and shut. When an unintelligible Russian voice comes on to announce the stop, it finally sinks in.

We're in Russia!

St. Petersburg Metro Mosaic

Though I want nothing more than to sit and ride the train all day, we must continue. Back up the escalator we go, back into the stifling heat of the cloudless, sunny day. Tara spots this poster as we trudge through the hot city streets, commenting on how she wishes it were snowing.

Russian Theater Poster

We see signs for ballets and theater and opera everywhere, and we decide we must go to a show while we're in Russia. But now is not the time for a ballet. We need get our visa registration taken care of. Walking through the heat in search of a registration office is making us wish we had stayed at a hotel where they would take care of this for us. We are cranky and hot, and take numerous breaks in the shade to rest.

Tyler in St. Petersburg

Even the statues seem uncomfortable, stuck up there in the blazing sun:

St. Petersburg Statue on Building

Eventually, we pass a tourist information booth, where we stop to inquire about the registration office, hoping they'll be able to help. Though Tara found an address online, we aren't sure what will be required of us when we get there. Inside, a British couple tells us they've just completed this task, and give us the location of the company they used. Relieved to know we'll have this sorted in an hour or two, we set out once more.

On the way, our flagging spirits are boosted when we see this Russian girl feeding a kitten by dipping her finger in a bottle of milk so it can suckle. When I ask to take her picture, she quietly agrees. I'd like to inquire as to where she found it, but since we can't really communicate, I just assume the little critter came from one of the many cages full of them which we've seen on the roads outside of town (for sale).

Russian Woman Feeding Kitten Russian Woman Feeding Kitten

It takes nearly an hour to drag ourselves the meager three kilometers to the small travel agency called "Russian Holiday". It is on the main drag of St. Petersburg: Nevsky Prospect. There, on the fifth floor of an old building, a young woman takes our information and tells us to return tomorrow for our paperwork. Pretty simple, really.

Sadly, it will cost almost as much as a hotel room to register our visas for two months. Though we could attempt the process ourselves, hopefully at a much lesser cost, it just isn't worth the trouble. With a sigh, we hand over 2600 rubles, and trudge back down five flights of stairs into the heat once more. Done with our task for the day, we retreat to the relief of the subway.

We take our time getting home, stopping to take pictures of the train, and the stations:

St. Petersburg Metro Station St. Petersburg Metro Car St. Petersburg Metro Driver Call Button

Back out of the subway, we walk home, stopping at a hole-in-the-wall fruit stands (literally!) to buy some fresh peaches. There are also hole-in-the-wall meat shops, vegetable shops, and convenience stores!

Russian Fruit Shop

Back at the apartment, sticky as hell, we get to work, trying to take our minds off the heat.

St. Petersburg Construction
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I was thinking of you and the heat, as I caught the tail-end of a news story the other day, about forest fires in Russia, where the peat moss burns underground. Living in bushfire-prone Australia, I have never thought of Russia having such problems!
Posted by YvetteDownunder on July 31st, 2010 at 8:56 AM
Tara and Tyler, if to look at the photo of your "Russian girl feeding a kitten" it is obvious,that this girl is 100% not Russian at all by nationality, even if she (may be) can speak Russian. The same as I'm not English. She must be probably from one of the former southern republics of the former USSR (all in all there were 15 republics in it).
It's really very difficult to travel in the country and judge about it not knowing their language and not being able to communicate with the people on many occasions. You have missed a lot of very interesting! Your notes are specific and, unfortunately, not very exact but very superficial. It's the same as your photo with the feet of one of the ten mable Atlantices who have been guarding the entrance to the New Hermitage for more than 150 years! It's very difficult to judge about their huge remarkable figures for those who have never been to St.Petersburg...
Posted by Marina on August 1st, 2010 at 5:58 PM
I'm getting all homesick reading these entries :0) Its funny how many of the things you guys mention strike me as familiar...like if we were in russia and were your hosts, it is inevitable that my mother would drag you on a tour of the city (and of the hermitage, where she would describe each work of art in detail and you'd likely be there for hours) and would show you all the sights. In my experience, us St. Petersburgians are very proud of our cultural and artistic history, and tend to assume everyone else in the world feels the same. On an unrelated note, I'm amazed you managed to get so many pictures in the metros - last time I tried that I got yelled at by a cop (since the whole bombing-in-the-metro thing they don't like seeing cameras out).

hope you're enjoying russia! it's a shame about the heat though.

Posted by liza on August 2nd, 2010 at 7:47 PM