My seventh day in Russia was one in which I almost got killed... seriously. I'll cover that in a moment. Slightly more uplifting was my visit to two sites located just outside of the city = Tsarskoe Selo, aka "home of Catherine's Palace," and the nearby Pavlovsk.
The single closest time I've ever come to death was in the shadow of this building. I had to cross the street to catch the bus to Tsarskoe Selo, and because both sides of the street had parked cars facing the same direction, I hastily decided that it was a one-way street.
I looked the opposite direction of the way the cars were parked to see a bus coming about fifty yards off, and decided to hot foot it. However, the bus driver had a peculiar look on his face, which made me hesitate for a second. I nevertheless proceeded to step out on the street, only to have a forty mph vehicle come less than three inches from my nose. By instinct, my body struck a pose that I don't think I've ever done before, which was enough to keep me from getting plowed.
I have no doubt in my mind that had the bus driver not made a face (which I later realized was one of alarm for my well-being), I would not be here today. So, thank you anonymous Petersburg bus driver, from sparing me from death in front of a horrible Soviet-era-monstrosity of a building.
Even more potentially ignominious would have been dying near a statue of Lenin, whom I despise above most other men.
Anyways, I made it to Tsarskoe Selo to see Catherine's Palace, along with many other tourists.
The distinctive blue facade.
I think the contrast of cars and a low-roofed 18th-century palace is amusing.
The grounds at Tsarskoe Selo are spectacular.
I really wanted to enter the palace... but alas, the tours were full until about two hours later. I was impatient, and a little bit saturated from the previous day at Peterhof.
I am officially an idiot, of course. This is one of my biggest regrets of the entire summer.
But at least the exterior was enough to keep me entertained.
It was a bit complicated communicating to people that I was trying to get from there to Pavlovsk (more accurately = it was difficult trying to understand their answers), but I finally got there.
I would have laughed out loud as I took this photo, but I had already cheated death once that day.
Like Tsarskoe Selo, the grounds were quite green.
Time to make it to the palace.
Pavlovsk Palace, home of Catherine the Great's son and heir.
When I went to buy my ticket to enter, I put up my finger indicating one, and was given a Russian citizen ticket. I didn't realize this immediately, but then noticed that 1. it was cheaper than the tourist ticket, and 2. it allowed me to take photos uninhibited (this was either forbidden or an extra charge to tourists). Only catch of the Russian ticket = I had to keep my mouth shut!
The blue booties were annoying and amusing in equal measure.
Quite the bed.
Not a PETA friendly room.
See what I mean?
The rest of the grounds of Pavlovsk were atmospheric as well (like something out of an 18th century painting).
After seeing two extensive sites (and not even all of the first one!), I was whooped. Back to St. Pete's I went.
It was upon my return that I realized that Lenin had a ton of bird poo on his head. Nice aim, fellas.
Coming up next = Valaam Island and monastery. Stay tuned.