I've got KML files of the boat tour and walk from which I took some of the photos posted already in the blog. Of course, as GPS receivers are illegal in Russia, I spent a lot of time meticulously figuring out the coordinate pairs in these files, including the zig-zag lines that perfectly simulate the distorted readings someone would get walking in a heavily-urbanized area.
I took a walk yesterday around 9pm, down Nevsky Prospekt to the Hermitage (about 8 km round-trip). Like today, yesterday it was about 30°C outside. And like today, the sun never quite set. This is from half past midnight:
Earlier in the walk, before the Netherlands-Uruguay game, the Fontanka River:
The Hermitage Museum (Winter Palace), south face:
And (last one today) the west face, as seen on many postcards:
Today's fun included six hours of classes so far, then a reception followed by another football game. ¡Viva España!
I didn't come to Russia for the food.
This is fortunate. The lunch buffet yesterday had pork filets, penne with cream sauce, white rice, salmon roulades, roasted carrots with butter. Then the dinner buffet had pork roulades, spaghetti with cream sauce, black and white rice, salmon filets, roasted carrots with butter. Same Sunday, same Saturday, though there was a minor stir when we found out the Halal meal was lamb chops, which the Muslim students eagerly devoured leaving none for the rest of us.
A Ukrainian friend asked, "This does not sound like traditional Russian food to me. What hotel are you based in?" Ah, here's where the story takes a particularly grim turn: we're in the British-owned Corinthia Nevskij Palace. British-owned. Which is odd, because our food in London was actually pretty good, especially breakfast.
Russia does, however, have tasty things to drink. But we'll leave that aside for now.
And another thing, which is keeping me in the building for the time being: It's bloody 30°C outside. Yecch. I'm hoping it cools off a bit before I head out for more photography and meeting up with my team to watch the Dutch beat Uruguay.
They started us off beautifully this term, with one class yesterday followed by four hours of free time and a tour of the city. Then they gave us the morning off today. I wish all the residencies had started so easily.
This gave me a chance to get some photos processed, starting with the train ride from Helsinki. This is near Vyborg:
Findlandski Station in St Petersburg, with very-Russian looking trains:
And from the boat tour:
More coming, of course. Even with a morning off from classes it turns out there's still a lot to do.
Does anyone else—outside of climatology or Contiental Europe, I mean—find it odd that France has had 33°C temperatures this week? I mean, the last time that happened, 14,000 people died as a result.
I love that for €54 and an hour and a half (round-trip, both numbers), you can take a boat from Finaland across the Baltic Sea and be in Estonia. The abandoned immigration and customs counters look a little forlorn to me, but have got to look completely eerie to anyone who made the trip before 2008, when Estonia entered the Schengen area.
The ferry terminal on the Estonian side is a ghastly pile of Soviet concrete too horrible for me even to photograph. To give you an example, this is directly across from the terminal, and is one of the first things you see entering Tallinn:
Fortunately, it gets better. The Soviets seem to have left Old Tallinn alone, so there is still a good-sized hunk of the city that looks like this:
Then there's this, a door you never, never wanted to enter if you were Estonian during the Cold War:
That building, at #1 Pagari, was at one point the KGB's headquarters. It seems to have been repurposed, which I deduce from my ability to photograph it repeatedly and not disappear.
Beautiful day, though. The temperature hovered around 22°C, the sun came and went, and the sea breeze off the Baltic felt great. I'm glad the weather held.
One more thing. As the return ferry approached Helsinki, I thought about the original settlers of the two cities, living a thousand years ago, rowing their longboats across. The catamaran I took cruised at 64 km/h, about ten times faster than the fastest longboat ever could have made the journey. We had about 15 minutes from the time I first sighted Finland until we were close enough to the archipelago to have waded ashore. It would have taken the Vikings three hours to cover the same distance. It's a mundane thought in the 21st century, but just the same, I thought it.
When I left home, my iPod, Kindle, computer, and GPS were all fully charged. When I got to Finalnd, my iPod and computer were still fine, but my Kindle and GPS were completely drained. I have no idea why. All of them were in the same bag, all of them were off (except the laptop, which I used in flight), and the two that were drained were completely drained, not just low. Plus they recharged just fine once I got here.