Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Определенно да! (Definitely Da!)

A few weeks ago, we spent a few "White Nights" in St. Petersburg, Russia.  In the peak of summer, it never gets dark in St. Petersburg, hence the "White Nights".   Sure, this phenomenon occurs across the globe around and above this northern latitude, but it was my first time to experience it.   

When I say "experience", I mean I woke up in the middle of the night to walk Claudia to the bathroom, took a brief peek through the blackout curtains to figure out what time it was and then returned to bed, confused.   
I've been hopelessly curious about Russia since I was a little nerdy nerd, sitting on the front row of my high school World History class.  There is just something so haunting about the reign and eventual demise of the Romanov dynasty.   Plus, that whole Cold War was, at the very least, intriguing.   On a long weekend we hopped a short and sweet direct flight to the former city of Leningrad to see this pocket of Russia for ourselves.  
Torrential wind and rain aside, it was a lovely trip!
Palace Square... a huge open space connecting Nevsky Prospekt with the Winter Palace.  This place has been the scene of bloody revolutions, as well as a concert venue for acts like the Rolling Stones, Elton John and Madonna.  The massive square features the towering Alexander Column, a French designed monument to celebrate Russia's victory over, well, France, during the Napoleonic period.   It was pretty amazing to have it almost to ourselves, given the torrential rain.  
We dried off our soaking wet selves in the Winter Palace, now known as the Hermitage, one of the most revered museums in Europe.   I was most impressed with the rooms  preserved from the time of Romanovs.

Thoroughly impressed with the glittery gold adornments and finery, Claudia commented "oooh, this place is niiiiiice."   

We were thankful for a brief reprieve from the rain, which allowed us to walk around the city and truly admire it.  Everything is built on a very grand scale ... the streets, the buildings, the monuments... it's all very imposing and impressive.  

Window shopping for Russian delicacies.  Patrick and Claudia had a taste of caviar... Claudia was repulsed, Patrick gobbled the stuff up.   He has the weirdest taste.  He also likes the taste of beer and has a weakness for any food that has been sitting on the floor for extended periods of time.   

But for the intricate network of canals running through the city, you'd never know that St. Petersburg was built on a swamp.  Forged upon the delta of the Neva River, it was originally built as a fortified city, intended to give Russia access to the Baltic.  Tsar Peter I also wanted to give Russia a cosmopolitan city to rival those of Western Europe.  He culled out several thousand conscripted peasants from families across the then-feudal Russia to delve deep into the swamp and erect this grand city out of the mud.  Tens of thousands of such peasants died in this ambitious, yet pernicious endeavor.  

Claudia danced and sang in the rain.  I'm thankful that the weather didn't dampen her spirits.  She is a perfect little travel companion.  Patrick was also a good sport and sat peacefully in his bubbled stroller.

Bop.  Happy to walk through the dry and well appointed Hermitage.

So I just realized my one "good" picture of the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood, the colorful onion domed cathedral modeled after St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, is zig zagged with no less than 100 wires.  Oops.  From Russia with love and phone lines.  =)


  1. Oh! This looks wonderful! You guys have seen some pretty amazing sights this summer. The architecture here is so beautiful, I'd love to visit Russia although I can't even begin to imagine what the white nights would be like! (thank goodness for blackout curtains huh)

  2. Love, love, love the top 2 pics and a few others sprinkled in there. Oh my goodness. How pretty!

    Have you read Catherine the Great? Good read!

  3. What a lovely "holiday"! Fabulous pictures as usual, you certainly have a talent there!!

  4. It looks like you guys got to see a lot, despite the rain!! Claudias happy spirit is so visible through your pictures! I can't get over the buildings, so colorful and intricate!!

  5. Yet another fabulous trip, Meryl! I have never heard of white nights, sounds fascinating! I really love the photo of Claudia with her umbrella inside out. I can see the hint of red in Patrick's hair on your photos now, too cute! I have a few friends who have visited Russia and they always tell me good things. I had to laugh at your comment about the telephone lines in the last picture, but I kinda like them! :))

  6. What a gorgeous picture that first photo is of you and your daughter!

    Also, in response to your question about where we lived in Houston (couldn't respond to your comment directly since you're a no-reply blogger on Blogger): yes! We DID live in the Heights! Not the historic part exactly, but the outer areas... around 19th and Durham-ish. We LOVED that area, and I miss it SO much. We made the right decision in selling our house before moving to Australia, but sometimes I wish we hadn't. I hope when we return, we can consider living in the area again. Did you live in the Heights as well?

  7. I know right where your old Heights area is! Have you guys been back yet? The area changed so much just while we were there, that I'm almost afraid to see how much it will have changed when we go back to visit in a few months. Any idea if y'all will return to Houston in the future?

  8. How wonderful that you can pop over to such great places for a weekend away, looks like alot of fun despite the rain! Belinda x


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