Next installment of random impressions

Vast. Really, the public spaces dwarf actual human beings. As if they were built when giants still walked the earth, and now that we've devolved into our current antlike state, we're left to hike around the outsize structures and contemplate lost majesty. I think I covered a quarter mile just trying to find a crosswalk to reach this square.


It struck me this afternoon that -- unlike New York or Istanbul or Paris--  the outdoor spaces of St Petersburg aren't actually built for human beings to use. Instead, people have figured out how to live inside a monument to Peter the Great's Greatness. Not to mention the effects of the long Soviet era, which I don't feel qualified to talk about, but which may be partly responsible for the fact that the streets and squares feel -- what's the word? -- oddly impersonal.

Still, though, quirky human touches shine through the grandeur. Below, two stuffed animals watch the ballet Giselle in the gilded wedding cake that is Mariinski (formerly Kirov) Theatre.


In the grand entryway of the theatre, this tiny dollhouse miniature (photo below) is built into the wall. Each teensy wooden chair has its number on it, so if you have questions about seat location before buying your tickets you can decide by studying the little model. Which is also helpful after buying tickets, since the seats are not numbered in real life and ushers don't seem to exist. Except for one that pursued me and urgently indicated that I needed to give my jacket to the coat check people before sitting down.

While walking to the performance, I spotted a mode of urban transportation I hadn't ever seen before:

I didn't get my camera out soon enough to capture two of the kayakers, toward the front of the group. Each in their single boat, one was a bride with her white dress billowing up around her arms, with the groom in a tuxedo paddling close behind her.

A few more random notes:

Nylon stockings are still a thing here. When women get dressed up, bare legs don't seem to be acceptable. Everyone is in nylons. Are those still even sold in U.S. stores?

Also hair color for women. As in, not grey. I don't know if I've seen a single woman with grey hair since I arrived. Beauty salons are absolutely everywhere, on each residential block along with a small grocery shop, a drugstore, and a flower shop.

Tiny dogs carried on the subway in handbags are as common here as in New York. I guess it makes sense -- what else would you do with them?