Monday, June 12, 2006


More pictures from Russia!

The conference excursion was to Peterhof, the summer palace of the Russian czars. Although hanging around the hotel most of the week got old, the excursions were really memorable.
On the way there, we passed the palace where next month's G8 summit will be held.
We got to Peterhof a little bit early, so we visited this nearby church. According to our guide, the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul was built as part of a contest to build a memorial to the assassinated Czar Alexander II. It came in second to the Church of Spilled Blood.

The palace was incredibly opulent. The style is "Russian Baroque" which apparently differs from other baroque styles due to the white background.
Even though the palace is supposedly "closed" one day a month for cleaning, you can get in that day as part of a tour group.
You can see the picture of Catherine the Great above her throne.
One room was filled with pictures of court ladies, all by the same artist. It was an effect I had never seen before.

The front of the palace looked out onto the Gulf of Bothnia. Peter planned it so that people would usually arrive by sea. (Usually by issuing the command "F Bothnia->St. Pete.") (That's joke goes out to all you Diplomacy fans.)
We finish with the second of the "big head" pictures.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

That's Me in the Corner

Well, I've finally been reunited with my luggage. In there was a CD of photos that the organizer provided at the end of the conference. I thought that was a really cool gesture. I also thought I'd show that Russia wasn't all fun in games by highlighting pictures of me attending the conference. Little did I know I was this conference's Zelig.

I was sitting in the upper right of the conference Monday morning, as you can see from the closeup.

The rest of the pictures show me at the rump session studiously taking notes. (Please ignore the empty beer glasses.)

Saturday, June 03, 2006

St. Petersburg Boat Trip

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.