St.Petersburg May 2009

by DW

We landed in baking sun. Some on British Airways, some hot on their heels with Rossiya. A very early start but Jo was wasting no time and got down to studying the cyrillic alphabet during the flight.

We sped down the wide, wide roads into the centre of St Petersburg, past a large Lenin gesturing towards the sky. Past yellow iced banks and an institute of something and a shop; a road sign saying STOP, another bank, marble institute of something else and a cafe; all translated en route by Jo who was by now constructing sentences in Russian. Many more road signs and yellow buildings later we found the BA group already comfortably installed in a cellar, ordering things they didn't understand from the menu and washing it down with vodka. That continued well into the night and pretty much set the tone for the trip.

Far too early the next morning we shuffled out of our mansion and just up the road to the Spartak fencing academy. Tim introduced us to the fearsomely glamorous, no-nonsense Rosa, who gave us chocolates and allocated us our teachers for epee, foil and sabre. Jane, the only sabreur on the trip, looked very pleased with herself on meeting Yuri the sabre coach and a number of other female members of the group considered taking up sabre on the spot. After the lessons some people went to the apartment to collapse back into bed; some of us went to register with the authorities, who were delighted to hear we had arrived in Russia and promised to come and see us all soon; and others, led by Etienne, strode into the distance maps in hand.

Tour Fencing trip to St.Petersburg Russia 2009
Touristy anglizkie
St Petersburg. Guarded by griffins, clamped together by bridges, held up by spires spearing the sun and spilling it onto the streets. We admired the Finlandia station (don't know why - ask Victoria), the heavily photographed Church on Spilt Blood, the many different species of pillar and Peter the Great's pickled babies. We wandered parks punctuated with sleeping, marble gods and ice cream; and got lost in history and the labyrinthine corridors at the Hermitage, under the fierce gaze of eagle eyed attendants. We listened to the canals at night and sat under blankets on boats growling along the waterways that reach through the city like capillaries, under the bridges and out onto the rippling, vast, light scattered Neva River. Victoria and Jo (by now fluent) haggled at the souvenir markets and we became regulars at the 24 hour chemist - how do you mime mosquito repellent again?

Fencing trip to St.Petersburg Russia 2009 Adam Steiner Jane Yadi Doreen
Adam, Doreen and Jane
The food: the caviar with vodka, the herring, salted cucumber, cabbage, sour cream, the honey, walnuts and strawberries and the restaurants; Ukranian to Georgian to Uzbek to pizza to the chocolate banana pancake kiosk conveniently situated right outside the apartment. Oh yes and the fencing lessons. Every day. Then Svetlana's warm up in the evening; Dumi would have approved. Then, if you could still stand up, the free fencing with the Spartak regulars.
We also took on the Russians at the St Petersburg epee championships. Chrissy came second! Beaten only by a formidable leonine champion spotted earlier leaping metres into the air and devouring her opponents at Spartak.

Now we are back at our respective workplaces with our souvenirs: our photos, our well toned muscles, our surprise new moves, our Russia fencing socks; Chrissy with her medal, Amie and Rachel considering their invitation to join the Spartak team; and all of us wishing we were still there.

Fencing trip to St.Petersburg Russia 2009 graffiti

Chrissy Steiner Fencing trip to St.Petersburg Russia 2009 Chrissy: Bronze medallist of St.Petersburg Championships!

Adam Steiner and Etienne DeBurgh Fencing trip to St.Petersburg Russia 2009Etienne and Adam: Love from the first sight

Adam and Chrissy Fencing trip to St.Petersburg Russia 2009

Jo Fencing trip to St.Petersburg Russia 2009

Liz Fencing trip to St.Petersburg Russia 2009
Liz and a blin

Jane Yadi Fencing trip to St.Petersburg Russia 2009

Svetlana Stepanova Fencing trip to St.Petersburg Russia 2009

Tractor Fencing trip to St.Petersburg Russia 2009

Photos: Victoria, Doreen

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