I just got back from Russia. Wow, when they say 4 star hotel in Russia, they don't mean the same as in America...or Poland, for that matter. But perhaps I deduct too many stars for the persistent smell of tobacco smoke. I did manage to take three interesting excursions in between conference talks, and I'll post pictures of them one at a time.
The first such trip saw me exchange cigarette fumes for gasoline fumes as we took to the waters of St. Petersburg.
On the bus ride to the boat, our guide talked a lot about real estate. The apartment building on the left is one of the crappy 1990s style buildings -- but not, the guide, assured us, as crappy as the ones built under Krushchev. She returned to the point of how bad those are. In fact, there was a lot of complaining in her narrative. On one hand, that seemed like an odd note on which to start the tour. On the other hand, it seems like Russians have a history to justify a lot of complaining. The apartment building on the right is being built now and is much nicer (but too expensive, of course).
Here is a typical view of the waterways of St. Petersburg. They may look like canals because of the man-made embankments, but they are actually rivers -- the embankments were public works projects of the tsars. I have a lot of pictures of backs of buildings where Pushkin lived or some tsar set up a home for orphaned girls or something, but they all sort of run together.
This is the Peter and Paul Fortress. It was the first set of buildings built in St. Petersburg, and Dostoevsky was once imprisoned there.
This is my big head in front of the Peter and Paul Fortress. Since I didn't feel like asking anyone to take my picture, this will be the first in a series of "big head" pictures.
This is a bridge allegedly built by the same people who built the Eiffel Tower.