April 6, 2004
The "Venice of the North" is built on no less than thirty three rivers and canals. It boasts a vibrant academic life with multiple universities and the most prestigious Academy of Arts in all of Eastern Europe. I know the latter is true as I am the only American to ever earn a high diploma there from 1758 until the present. I can attest to the standards of academic excellence still maintained at this marvelous University.
I feel safer in St. Petersburg than in my home city of Savannah, GA. Americans are no longer a matter of curiosity to the locals and most will attempt to speak to you in English if you appear to be lost or in some kind of difficulty. English is far more common than you might think. A major downer is the presence of Gypsy beggars who have become more aggressive and who will pick your pocket at the earliest opportunity unless you are careful around them and avoid them whenever possible.
Hotels range from modest to 5 star quality and the prices are no longer as cheap as they once were. If you eat like a native in a café, food prices are still extremely inexpensive. If you eat in the five star restaurants I recommend, you will experience excellent service, great ambiance, well stocked wine cellars, and very versatile menus. The prices are not so high as New York and the enjoyment factor so high that I recommend you not stint on food prices. After all it is primarily in the finer restaurants that you experience the flavor of life under the Russia of the Tsars and not the Russia ruled by the former Communist regime.
In the following pages I will comment on the better known tourist attractions and try to convince as many of you as possible to make a trip to St. Petersburg as soon as you can. It will not be a trip you will ever regret or forget. I will update some of the entries from a previous journal written several years ago and try to add a few more watering holes and superb dining spots.
From journal St. Petersburg revisited 2003