Hi from St Petersburg! I should be out doing touristy stuff but I needed a coffee and to check email. Not that I can actually get into my email from this place, it’s an EasyInternet style place and I can’t open the putty exe.
I’ve spent two days in the Hermitage and still haven’t seen it all. Today the museums are closed so I’m going to do some walking tours. The others are going to the ballet tonight but at 100 quid a ticket, I’m giving it a miss. I leave for Novgorod tomorrow, stay overnight, then head to Moscow later that day.
I’m not as worried about arriving at 5am now I’ve seen that it’s easy to find 24 hours cafes, and I figure it’ll probably be light by then anyway. It barely gets dark here, it’s still light at 1am and the sky is getting light again by 3am. So my plan is to head to a cafe, drink lots of coffee and avoid getting robbed until the museums open, then dump my bag in a museum cloakroom until I can check into my hotel. My hotel is right near the Kremlin so I might be able to dump it at the hotel early in the morning. I should be meeting up with Sergey later that night.
S and I went to Russia’s only lesbian bar on Saturday night. It was quite fun – a really mixed crowd, like every sub-culture of the lesbian world was thrown together, which I guess is exactly the case. There were some fairly amazing outfits, and some strippers/performers. There are some gorgeous Russian women around, even before the vodkas kicked in.
I’m slowly learning to read Cyrillic, a few letters a day. I’ve eaten a lot of blini, and eaten at a Georgian restaurant (better range of vegie food) as well as at Russian places.
It was the City Day on Saturday – the anniversary of the founding of St Petersburg. There was a big street parade, and lots of entertainment stages set up along the way. Mostly playing dodgy Russian pop – a lot of it seems to be covers of dodgy Western European songs, so doubly dodgy. We saw the Russian Ali G, unfortunately the real thing, in his mind, not a satire.
Happy birthday Karen, if you’re reading this!

I have two packs of tofu to eat before I leave tomorrow, which is just as well cos the vegie options are looking a bit dire. From the Rough Guide, “Vegetarians often have to get by on zakuski, since main courses are overwhelmingly based on meat (myaso), which makes its way into pelmeny, a Russian version of ravioli. Georgian restaurants always have interesting veggie dishes, such as bean stew or stuffed aubergines.”
They define zakuski as “‘tasters’ or small dishes consumed before a meal with vodka, as a snack or as a light meal” so maybe I’ll just be drunk all the time.

The things we do when we’re avoiding work.
I was doing an online survey, and one of the questions asked what your dream holiday would be like. I discovered that I’d prefer somewhere warm, with low humidity, good food, lots of museums, galleries, historic sites and interesting culture, friendly local nightlife, ideally somewhere cheap and less than eight hours flight from home.
Elsewhere, I saw “what kind of funeral do you want?”. I hadn’t really thought about it, but in the interests of procrastination, I did today.
I want a full choir singing Mozart’s Requiem. I want a memorial service in a national park on a sunny day. I want people to wear what they like, and to bring their toddlers and their dogs, who’ll run around making noise at the most solemn moments.
I want to be cremated, and I want my ashes to be scattered from the top of the cliff on the point at Merricks Beach, where some of them will blow into the sea, some onto the beach, and some into the bushland.
I want a cardboard coffin, and I’d rather people gave flowers to each other, or gave money to charity.
I want a big party afterwards, food and drinks bill on me.
Now I have the Ramones ‘I wanna be cre^H^H^Hsedated’ running through my head.

I leave for Russia tomorrow. I’m a bit nervous about travelling by myself but I’m sure I’d get into as much trouble travelling with people as I would by myself, and I’ll be with Sarah or Sergey for bits of the trip anyway. The only bit I really mind is arriving at Moscow train station at 5am, groggy after the overnight trip from Novgorod.
In other news, for some reason I have a really strong desire to hear the entire album of cover versions of Stairway to Heaven from The Money or the Gun.

More on Google and privacy concerns:
“The erosion of privacy and the intrusion of commercial spam in our lives is subtle. Like boiling a frog alive, we rarely notice how much we’ve lost until its too late. Unless we draw a line now, reminding companies like Google – which exhibit a kind of corporate Asperger’s Syndrome when it comes to privacy – of exactly what we value, then in ten years time it will be too late.”
“It’s ironic,” writes one reader, “for a company that says Do No Evil – they don’t know the definition.”
Reading this in the same week as hype about identity theft concerns bigs up ID cards. God only knows how they think ID cards will help with shopping, and for God’s sake, isn’t your private identity one of the last things you want linked with your shopping habits?
From the article:
“In a survey commissioned by software firm Intervoice, 17% of people said they had stopped banking online while 13% had abandoned web shopping.
More than half thought that the government’s proposed ID card was the best way to combat identity theft.”
And yet:
“An identity card doesn’t really help the problem of identity theft other than at the point of purchase,” he said. ”

Yet another big fat reason never to eat at one of Gordon Ramsay‘s restaurants. It’s hard to know what’s opinion and what’s fact in an opinion column, but after the chicken soup ‘joke’ where he told vegetarians he’d used chicken stock in the soup, why take a chance? It’s a shame he doesn’t have the imagination to see vegetarian cuisine as a chance to be really interesting.