samedi, octobre 29, 2005

Санкт Пэтэрбург

Welcome, multinational corporation employees!

There is something to be said about business travel. At least the kind I have been fortunate enough to do. Sure, you have to work a little, but that consists of making sure the seating arrangements at dinner are politically correct, or double checking that the transportation company has taken note that so-and-so's wife's flight got delayed. It's not like I had to make a presentation, or defend my department's going over budget.

Instead, I got to drink company sponsored Водка. And encourage middle aged financial managers to do the same, under the disapproving eye of said middle aged financial manager's wife. "Pierre, it's only noon!"

Free Водка aside, I fell in love with Санкт Пэтэрбург. And the Armenian brandy at the luxury hotel bar.

The city outside the hotel was at times beautiful, mysterious, but mostly unknowable. Walking on the Nyevsky Prospekt, the city's main drag, I managed to decipher words like "hotel" "restaurant" and "cafe" with the rudimentary Cyrillic I had learned before coming, and it was thrilling. But while I might have been able to identify "Радиссон" as being the "Radisson" hotel, I couldn't explain why there were an abundance of young blonde girls on horseback at three o'clock in the morning, their un-mounted friends walking beside them, obviously coming back from a night out at the clubs together. I found out later from one of the tour bus drivers that the girls work during the day in the parks giving tourists carriage rides, and at night, sans carriage, the horses become their mode of transport.

An alternative, apparently very common, is to hitch a ride. Those who have cars stop to pick up random people. They negotiate on a price, and take you where you want to go. The night I ventured out to a club, lines of cars were parked along the Nyevsky Prospekt, waiting to take club goers to their destinations.

Adventurous as I might be, I did not partake of this particular local custom. My Russian does not go beyond "hello" and "thank you", and besides, I was walking distance to my hotel.
I leave you with two tantalizing images, and a bit of a teaser for the next episode.

Canal on Neva River

Aptly named "Church of Spilt Blood"

Tune in later to find out how a chance encounter in the hotel elevator led to me taking a financial director to country's finest private clinic!