After the necessary buffer period to get back into the Russian rhythm (10 years away is a long time, no matter how you look at it), I happily filled the shoes of the guide we did not hire to show my fiancée the sights. And by “sights”, I mostly mean mine, as in the places I used to go to, I used to have dinner at, I used to dance at… you get the drift.
In short, we spent a couple of days with me saying “This used to be different” and showing my fiancée a random old building in the street. If only she had been around in 2007, she would have known that this place was in actuality the best retro-soviet restaurant-club in town, complete with 70’s era artwork – and music. Instead, she chose to study engineering in France (she’s younger). What a letdown.
Anyway, after a week of that, my fiancée was quite visibly fed up with me pointing excitedly to a building with a Burger King in it, so it was time to go to St Petersburg. There, the story was different: I’d been several times, even studied there as a high schooler for several weeks at a time in the summer (that would be back in the 90’s, when things “used to be very different”), but I’d never lived there. Consequently, there was less of me showing an old rusty door with misplaced enthusiasm and more Hermitage, Peterhof and church visits involved. Which may or may not have had more cultural value.
On our last day, as were trying to decide on the best time to go for a canal cruise, as every tourist has to do in St Petersburg (it’s a law), I commented:
- There’s another thing we haven’t done yet.
- Actually have a tour guide?
- OK, 2 things. But one is more achievable than the other.
- And what is it?
- Go to the North-Eastern part of the city.
- What’s there? A church, a museum or a canal?
- Neither. That’s where the school I used to go in the summer is located.
- Great. Does it have an interesting architecture?
- Not really.
- Does the neighborhood have noteworthy monuments?
- Not unless you count traffic lights. [They weren’t there the first time I came in 1996, I call that noteworthy]
- I may work in mobility, but I’m not 100% convinced that a Russian traffic light in a residential area in the North-Eastern part of St Petersburg constitutes a good enough reason to spend our last afternoon in town there.
They didn’t have traffic lights on the canal. Just saying.