Although I am not awake at dawn, as I once was in Moscow due to jetlag, I can still hear the sounds of this magnificent city coming to life. It sounds much more like New York City to me than Moscow did, the beeps, the general buzz of cars and the occasional growl of a moped or a small angry car trying to get through the traffic.
Last night a few of us went to this rather large department store that I cannot remember the name of now, but I imagine that it is a palace turned into a department store of epic proportions - from the fur hats (which I am still wondering whether I should buy one for mum), to the neatest little lamps that they sell in the home goods that I really liked but I could hear a voice in my head telling me that only the elderly ladies here like them on their dark wood round tables, cvoered by a square of lace and daintily put into a corner to lit the tea table...so I resisted. But it was hard! But it is was a great store, if not a bit expensive.
We've been to many a palace here, and today we are going to one of the best I believe - Catherine's Palace. I have seen the amber room, but I am quite sure that some of us on the trip are not quite prepared for that room. There is nothing in the world like it. But we are also going to the Siege memorial, which will be very sad and will hold the feeling as the war memorials in Washington D.C.
Also - it's been fabulous because we haven't taken the metro here - I mean the underground subway, I think that really detracts from immersing oneself into a city. I feel like I lost a lot in Moscow because we would be metro-ing and suddenly pop up in a place that felt like it was on the other end of the world instead of just ten minutes away by metro. The tour bus was a really good choice I believe, because of the mobility but much more because of how we can see where we are going. For instance, on our trip to Novgorod yesterday, when we passed the hinterlands of the city and saw the fur factory, or the meat factory with two imposing bulls as the statues on either side of the gate. Or just seeing the signs and the people and the cars around us - when we were returning we saw a taxi whose radio consisted of what you would think the inside wiring of a large toaster would look like was sitting on it's trunk to find the best signal. Or seeing the occasional funny cognate, for hot dog, or something like that.
The apartments are also a good choice, granted I believe that a bit more lighting could be of use in the stairwell, but the kitchens are great as well as the view outside the window. But the beds are super comfortable and that is all that matters at the end of the day when my feet are tired from being subjected to icy conditions and traversing through the Russian urban life. Regardless, I would not exchange this experience for anything.