Saturday, 8 September 2012

Pervaya Nedel'ya - First Week

Spongebob graffiti
So far we've settled in enough to start thinking in rubles and remember to bring an umbrella, coat and sunglasses out with you at all times because the weather here is essentially the same as London, ie bloody annoying. I'm currently watching a programme in which I have seen someone being towed on a surfboard behind a car down a flooded road, someone planking on a bridge pushed by his friend into the river a good 100ft below and someone else somersault backwards off a bridge onto grass. TV is still awesome here.

We visited the beautiful park across the street from our hostel. We noticed that everyone talks in hushed tones so it's really peaceful, which is surprising because it's right next to a busy road. It has several islands that locals sit on to admire the water, with separate little ramps for the ducks. 

Then there's this chick. She's dressed as some kind of animé warrior, with thigh-high boots. Frustratingly, I wasn't able to get a closer picture without being a complete creep.
Russian take on cheeky monkey - not as cute
We have discovered that we can eat for ochen’ cheapsies by eating at a ‘Stolovaya’ or taking advantage of the bizniz lanch deals around the city, and then eating some combination of instant food and cheap baguette back at the hostel in the evening. Though I was given a 5000r (£100) note by an ATM the other day and because Russian cashiers are very begrudging with their change, I'm clearly going to have to break that in McDonald's. Shaaaame.

Good news, we have a fridge-freezer in our room. Bad news, we have a fridge-freezer in our room which intermittently makes creepy noises at night. Our first night here, I was shocked out of sleep to hear what I thought was several men imitating a train (don’t ask why), which turned out to just be the stupid fridge cooling down, but I've stopped noticing it now.

Speaking of sleep, we assumed that it was safe to try the local hooch last night as today is Saturday and we would get a lie-in. We drank some cheap wine out of a box, aiming for mid-price, 109r (about £2.50) for a litre, to see whether we needed to slide up or down the price-taste scale. It tasted like grapefruit juice until halfway down, until it tasted like cheap wine. I had to sit in the fridge to sober up, which was pretty effective. 

We then woke up just after 9am to this - the patriotic sounds of badly played tuba, drum, and various brass instruments. Looked out the window to see three men with a flag and many spectators gathered around the statue for the Octobrists, which is right across the street. A coach pulled up and amplified speeches were given. Then more songs were played, a bit of marimba, an electric guitar was too surreal for me to be really annoyed but if this happens every weekend, I will have to start heckling.

Also, the Russian women on our floor have complained about the crappy water pressure and the maximum lukewarm temperature in our shower. We all assumed it was normal in Russia for the shower to spew water half-heartedly, but luckily the Russkie saved us. I say saved us, management just turned off the hot water entirely for two days ‘while they fixed it’, so while the rest of us were left negotiating much stronger but absolutely freezing showers, the Russkie are filling up what looks like vegetable drawers from the fridge with hot water from the dispensers, presumably to throw over themselves in their rooms. Now the water smells slightly sulphurous and seemed to have a pale yellow tint, but I was so happy to wash my hair that I'm past caring. 

Above is Sennaya ploshad', with one of those melon cages I find fascinating. It's pretty nice during the daytime, although our rep, Seb, told us that at night it turns back into 'the ass of the world', as per its former reputation. Most notable for umbrella dispensers and a serious amount of pigeons. 

We thought it would be a good idea to let boiled water cool in our bottles because it would be clean. We did not consider the possibility of a melted, contracted bottle...
Really happy to see a kindred spirit seeing images in holes. There's also a puddle outside my hostel that looked like a face.

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