great to be peter

ballroom-at-the-grand-palace-in-peterhof When Peter the Great visited Versailles he thought, “I want one”. I’ve always thought the same thing.   An upside of being Tsar is that you actually can have one. When Peter returned from his 1717 stay in France, he began expanding on the small, for a tsar, island complex he called Peterhof, determined to have his own magnificent showpiece. Continue reading

in the footsteps of tsars

IMG_2102Hunter couldn’t wait to get to St Petersburg. He has been studying Russian history and had long dreamt of walking in footsteps of the Tsars. I’m worried I may have ruined him. He fell madly in love. Not surprisingly. The city is beyond stunning; much changed since I was last there.

IMG_2038In 1995 there was only one hotel, the renowned Astoria. Now there are hundreds and any brand you can think of is represented. What I remember as crumbling facades with ruins behind them are now posh apartments, museums and high-end shops. Continue reading

st. peter’s overnight ferry

21 years ago, John and I decided to take a last minute detour to St. Petersburg. The only way to get into Russia without a visa was to take a boat trip. Still is. We were booking so late there was only one cabin left.
mojito timeI use the word loosely. It felt like a prison cell. No window, well below the water line, steel slats, a yoga-mat-thin pad thrown on top. We had to navigate kilometres of twisting hallways to find our tiny room: minus 34379, or some such number… It was terrifying,uncomfortable and claustrophobic. The loo was at the end of the passage.
The ship had been built in the Gdansk shipyards in 1982. Right in the middle of the protests by the Solidarity movement which eventually brought down the communist government. This did not make me feel better.
John can be a very wise man. He realized the only way to calm his quasi-hysterical wife was to get her a drink. The only alcoholic option was pink, Russian sparkling wine. You had to buy it by the bottle. I drank every drop. By some miracle I did not get sick. I did get pregnant. Ten months later (every woman knows 9 months is fairytale) Hunter was born. Continue reading