Daily Archives: July 7, 2012

Lost in translation

Today (Thursday) I got up and got to the bus stop in time for the trip to Pushkin to see the Catherine Palace (designed by Rastrelli). What I had not realized was that I had been booked on a Russian speaking tour, for Russian tourists! Luckily I was sitting next to a very nice lady – Irene, and her grandson. Irene is a English teacher so she was able to translate the main features of the tour for me.

When we got inside the Palace we had to put slipper covers over our feet and put on an audio system, I did try to explain I was English but realized that until I had an ear bud fixed in my ear I was not going any further. It was interesting for a while having Russian in one ear and Irene’s explanations in the other. Then the bleeding obvious occurred – turn off the sound you idiot.

Once again an amazing castle – beautiful rooms, statues, floors. There was a Roman bath house, and a band rotunda where we got to hear the most amazing Russian male singers.

Catherine Palace (from TopTravelLists)


This is also the place of the Amber Room, the 8th wonder of the world. It was looted by Nazis during the way, and the contents have never been recovered. A replica has been recreated, at the small cost of 12 million dollars, and reopened in 2004. The room is made up of thousands of pieces of amber, plus the room has pure gold fittings, the rest of the castle is covered in gold leaf.

The Amber Room (from MNSBC)


Without Irene this tour would have been a challenge, especially as the last 30 minutes was free time that we could do what we like – suddenly people went in all directions and without Irene I would have had no idea what was happening, or that we had to met the bus at 2 – or even where the bus was, as it was not where we had left it! This does explain why  the trip only cost $1,000 rubles (approx $40 NZD) in total for the bus and entry to the palace and garden. Irene is here for a week, and is was showing her 13 year old  Grandson around St Petersburg. I have traded email addresses with her so now I have made two Russian friends.

After returning from this trip I had coffee, and then as I have blisters from the days of serious walking, I decided to come back to the hotel to eat, it will be interesting to see what the menu is like.

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Things that have interested me today:

1. In Russia nobody wears hats and hardly anybody wears sun glasses.

2. Dogs roam around like they used to in New Zealand, in groups of two or three quite happily. No one seems to take any notice of them and they seem very placid.

3. Everywhere you go there are brides. Everyone wants to fit their wedding into the three months of summer, this means there are weddings every day at the castles. Today we saw five wedding groups. The males wear cream suits and the brides wear white traditional meringue looking dresses (not sure of the spelling, I mean the small Pavlova things).

4. Most Russians – unless they are wealthy – live out in what they call the districts, they go on for miles. Igor catches the metro and then the bus to get home. Today on the way to Catherine Palace we drove for an hour and still had not gone past them all. They look like block after block of council flats, but in brick. There are clusters of 5 to 6 of them but are surrounded by nice park areas.

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I have managed to get through the whole day on my own and not get lost!

Two more days until the bike ride starts, one more day of being a tourist. Saturday is rider briefing and putting the bike together.

Categories: Russia | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments