I wasn’t really surprised by the security surrounding everything the Russians do, but it was annoying. Everywhere else in the EU we breeze through security. In Russia there are extra paperwork requirements like xerox’d copies of passport and other ‘special’ paperwork required which result in long waits in lines to go on the tours. The guard, in our case a wizened old lady, peers at you frowning and then stares at your passport photo.
Gates are everywhere, windows are barred, and traffic lights have a second countdown for green so that you know how much time you have till it starts blinking and then changing to green. As drab, beat up, and dilapidated as much of the city is, the public areas, museums, cathedrals, and community centers are posh, gaudy, and with a lot of Baroque (in every sense of the word). Most of these places were palaces for the Czars and now are public facilities.
Collections of art rival those of the Louvre with Rembrants, Van Goghs, and Monets. So much art and in just one city.
We were constantly reminded to guard our wallets and there were stories of one wallet being stolen yesterday and a credit being used after a purchase from one of the street merchants. And then there were the brides, everywhere brides dressed in white with their young men, what is it with the month of June and the young Russian ladies.
Beautiful place, polite people, many young people, and then there were the guards, the police, the pickpockets and the military. St. Petersburg is definitely a study in contrasts.