Thursday, June 12, 2008

Observations: Installment 2

Russian Red
When Jennifer picked us up at the airport, we told her about my Communist Red highlights.

She said, "You'll fit in great, here! Lots of women have that color hair!" Turns out, I have Russian Red highlights -- only these women in russia? They have redded the whole head:

For your reference -- communist red.

Examples of the form:
Russian Red

Russian Red

Preferred Mode of Transportation

We took a bus into the city center -- through row after row of sprawling, square high-rises in various states of disrepair. The broken windows, patched-up balconies, and soot-stained cinder block construction reminded me of the projects on the southside of Chicago -- where people are crowded in abject poverty.

Jennifer told us that this is actually where much of the population lives -- not just the poor, but everyone -- in these soviet-era housing blocs, cramped into small apartments.

Apparently, also -- the government is in the midst of planning to tear them down and rebuild. Not just in St. Petersburg, but across the country. This is a project of mind-boggling proportions. I didn't take pictures of them, because, somehow, I was bashful of doing this, obviously documenting the scarred landscape.

We pass police standing by the side of the road in blue fatigues toting machine guns, for no apparent reason.

As we enter the city center, the architecture turns to massive, imposing rows of imperial-looking stone facades. We disembark at a square with a statue of Lenin -- Jen insists we have our picture taken by a surly passerby, as this is one of the few statues left of Lenin in St. Petersburg.


At this point, Jen announces that we'll get a cab.

Here she is hailing said "cab."

hailing the gypsy cab

You'll note that she's not doing that thing that most of us do, which is to scan the horizon for a yellow car with a lit sign atop.

That's because, in St. Petersburg, when you get a cab, you get a gypsy cab. That is, some dude driving his car around and ferrying people about for money without any sort of official sanction. Or meter, or really indication on the outside of his car that yes, he's a Taxi and yo, he's free!

Eventually, someone pulls over and Jennifer negotiates a rate for us and our luggage.


In our time there, we take several gypsy cabs, sober, drunk, day, night -- it's a blind practice but never futile -- someone always picks us up.

Every once and awhile you see an official-looking car with a proper light atop speeding through the streets in typical manic Russian fashion, but apparently these vehicles are wildly overpriced and relegated to tourists and business travelers.

Next Up: Toasts! Signage! White nights! Rock and Roll!

1 comment:

arlopop said...

I like the cab/casual carpool method. They get that one right.