Thursday, June 18, 2015

Great Success!

It's my first evening in St. Petersburg, and my feet are killing me.  I've been walking a couple of miles each morning for the last several weeks, which has been nice because I've been able to reclaim my territory for the first time in two years and my feet have actually not been punishing me for it, but today that was not the case.  I hobbled my way back to my airBnB homestay thing (I'll let you know how that goes round about the time I get back to Mongolia) and have been off my feet pretty much ever since.
It took leaving Irina's (my hostess with the mostest) for me to really start getting excited about St. Petersburg.  Getting here was pretty straightforward...I took a shuttle from the airport to the metro, and the metro to a few blocks from Irina's, which I did not quite make it to, but I managed to find an unsecured wifi network and was able to call her on Skype from around the corner, so I made it in the end.  She showed me around the flat and explained that they would be gone the next couple of days (which makes me feel like I'm in high school and need to take advantage of the situation...so, hey, if anyone can make it to Russia in the next couple of days - PAR-TAYYYYY!) then turned me loose.

One of the things I managed to learn about in my extremely limited amount of research leading up to this part of the trip is the smallest statue in St. Petersburg, a little bird called Chizhyk-Pyzhik.  I found the story of it charming and decided my first wander out into the great Imperial City would aim to find him.

Chizhik-Pyzhik, where have you been?
Drank vodka on the Fontanka.
Took a shot, took another -
Got dizzy.

The little bird comes from the poem above, which isn't actually about birds, but is rather about law students, who attended the Imperial School of Jurisprudence when it was just across the Fontanka (that would be the river) and used to wear green and yellow uniforms, resembling the bird they were nicknamed for.
I was a little worried about being able to find him...I didn't find really great directions, other than that he was by the First Engineer Bridge.  I looked up the bridge and headed in that direction when I left Irina's.

I should have been keeping my eyes peeled, but before I could even realize that I'd made it to the bridge, I saw the Church of the Savior on the Blood in the distance, and in the ensuing excitement to get my camera out I very nearly dropped my wallet into the Fontanka (no, I wasn't drinking vodka, although sometimes I wish I could use being under the influence as an explanation for the stupid things I've done).  I'd crossed the bridge and had just had time to think, "Hey, I wonder if this is the river I'm looking for," when I heard a series of clinks, and looked up to see people dropping coins onto the pedestal.

Chizhyk-Pyzhik has only been in situ since 1994 (and not continuously...apparently he's been stolen to melt down several times and now they keep back-up casts on hand).  During that time a tradition has arisen that you try to land a coin on the plinth on which Chizhyk-Pyzhik sits for good luck.

Thanks to the fact that Russian coinage annoys the crap out of me (WHY are the sizes so disparate???) I'd managed to accumulate quite a lot of it and was ready to win myself some luck no matter how long it took!  Aaaand, then I got it in my third or fourth attempt.  That 10 ruble coin on the lower right corner of the picture next door here is mine.  Apparently I have good luck coming my way now.

I went onward and wandered into the center, but it was just that - me wandering.  I have the next three days to see everything in depth at my own pace.  However, I was glad that I got to start the trip on a good note.

(Epilogue: So I was actually falling asleep writing the last couple of paragraphs...jetlag caught up to me around 9 pm.  Sorry about the typos, I've fixed them now).

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