The terminal from which trains departed from Moscow to Russia’s second largest city used to be called Nikolaevsky, then communists changed it to two names – Leningradsky and Oktjabrsky, which means “Leningrad station” and “October station”; it was quite confusing and most people just said Leningradsky. Now the city of Leningrad is no more; it’s called Saint-Petersburg. But it is still the center of Leningrad oblast (region); for some reason they didn’t change that. And the terminal still has two names. And a huge bust of Lenin in the entrance hall.
It also has Japanese-style restrooms, which Hadar didn’t like at all and she decided to do her thing in the train. In the train the restrooms weren’t much better, so she decided to wait until Saint-Petersburg. I told her that the terminals on Moscow-Petersburg railroad are designed to look exactly the same, so there’s a chance that the restrooms will look the same too, but she just wouldn’t agree to go into that atrocious place.
The train ride was rather tolerable, not much to say about that. We slept well.
The terminal in Petersburg is simply called Moskovsky – “Moscow Station”. The restrooms there looked just like in Moscow. But instead of Lenin, they had a huge bust of Peter.
In Petersburg we just went on the world-famous Nevsky prospect towards the world-famous Palace square. There were of course the beautiful bridges over the Neva river, especially the world-famous Anichkov. It’s the one with the statues of horses and naked horsemen. Apparently it’s an age-old meeting place for the city’s gays – at least according to the travel guide i had. I’ve never thought of it that way, but it makes sense, i guess.
It is said that Peter modeled Petersburg after Venice and Amsterdam. Maybe it’s true, i havent’ been there. The weather reminded me mostly of London. Cold and wet, but it doesn’t depress me. And the streets are beautiful. We even found something that was close enough to a bakery and ate some dough; again, most of it was cookies and not bread, but it was a good start for the morning. Then Hadar wanted to finally go to a good restroom, so we went to a fast-food place called Teremok. It is a junk-food joint, but with a warm Russian vibe. So we ate tasty bliny with kvas. More dough; still not bread.
The Petersburg Kazan Cathedral is big, probably bigger than Moscow’s Christ the Savior’s, but somehow doesn’t make the same impression. Maybe because the color is darker.
The Palace square is big and nice. But who needs all those paintings in the Hermitage?
We took a boat to Peterhof. Nice place. This time we fucked the box office at the entrance and took the cheapest ticket for Russians. The place has a very Versaille feel. The fountains are certainly impressive. We didn’t go into the palaces, but a walk in the park was very relaxing and even intoxicating. Somehow we found ourselves reciting a Hebrew nursery rhyme: “Eyfo, eyfo, eyfo, eyfo, eyfo ha-uga?” (“Where, where, where, where, where is the cake?”). No idea why. Maybe it has something to do with dough.
When we came back to the city, i decided to take a look at the “Leningrard Rock-Club” – the mythical place where the great Russian rock-bands such as Aquarium and Kino paved the way to Glasnost with their guitars. It’s on Rubinstein street, number 13, which is also close to the world-famous “Five Corners” piazza. I finally understood Chizh’s famous lines:
“The wind sweeps away the money from my hands …
With a guitar behind my back and beer and bread in my pocket …
I’m standing on Five Corners,
There are just two hundred steps to number 13 …”
But – unfortunately the Rock-Club is no more. All that’s left is a just a little wall full of Russian Rock related graffiti.
Instead there’s an asian restaurant called Lapsha. Lapsha means “noodles” in Russian, which is very nice of them. They could have just called the place “Noodles”, but they gave it a Russian name. Really nice. So we ate more dough. Actually it was veg sushi, salads and noodles soup. I ordered rice noodles and not egg noodles; i thought it would be more natural and tasty and Hadar would like it. Was i wrong. The second the waiter brought the plate she went kaboom: “No! That’s not the kind of noodles that i like! That’s exactly the kind i hate! Etc. etc.” She expressed her dissatisfaction in Hebrew, but it was so clear, that the waiter understood everything and after a few minutes she brought a plate of dessert – “On the house, for the lady.” They are nice. The noodles, by the way, were great. Hadar just prefers the egg kind. So she wasn’t pleased.
Then we went further towards the Five Corners, passing on the way Rubinstein st. number 23 – the house where Sergei Dovlatov lived for a few years. Dovlatov is one of my father’s favorite writers and i hoped that there would be at least some memorial plate. But there was nothing, except a pizza place which has nothing to do with Dovlatov. And as far as Hadar is concerned, it has nothing to with pizza either – Hadar likes the thicker kind (sometimes called Napolitana, but that’s a matter of bitter dispute) and hates the thin dough pizza and we didn’t eat any dough there. Keeping Hadar dissatisfied is a bad idea, so we went to Mollie’s – an Irish pub nearby. I entered and asked the barman quite simply: “Do you have dough?” He was a little confused at first, but then he said that they have croutons with cheese and garlic. That was enough dough for Hadar. I got a Guiness too. And so, even though it still wasn’t exactly bread, we were finally satisfied.
Dough-hunting took a long time. When we finally reached Five Corners – remember, just two hundred steps! – it was already dark. I wanted to be photographed like Chizh in the aforementioned song. So i went into a grocery store and bought beer and bread. It was simple and cheap bread in cellophane and we already ate enough dough, so i just put it in my pocket. And the beer too. I didn’t have a guitar; a guy with a guitar passed by, and i asked him to give it to me for a second, but he wasn’t enthuastic and it was starting to rain. Whatever. At least i’ll have one more reason to return.
It was raining, so it was a bad idea to walk the streets anymore, and it was a great opportunity to go down to the underground and take a ride to see the Stalin-era stations. The thing that i wanted to do so much in Moscow, but didn’t want to drag Hadar around, has finally happened! What can i say – Socialist Realism had its moments.