Merry Orthodox Christmas!
Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7th; based on the Gregorian calendar, not the Julian calendar which aligns with December 25th.
Orthodoxy and Russia have been intertwined since 988, when the Grand Prince Vladimir adopted the religion.
Nicholas market (shown above) was constructed in the late 1700s, and one hundred years later was the location of the unofficial labor exchange.
It is currently closed for remodeling. I didn't fit under the barrier but my camera did.
The day started and ended in Sennaya Ploshchad, the neighborhood where the famous Mariinskiy theatre is located. I had tickets to see Swan Lake and I wanted to make sure I knew how to get there.
St Nicholas' cathedral came to be known as Sailor's church because of the sailors and sea type officials that it was built for in the mid 18th century.
I went inside and found that much of the church was roped off with signs posted that read, "no tourist area", etc. Russians were lifting the rope and going under. I actually did this too before I read the sign and realized that I was on the wrong side of the rope. Luckily I can blend in a little, unlike the Asian family who, guidebooks in hand, lifted the rope to enter.
I didn't know what to expect on Orthodox Christmas. Government offices and more were closed for days because of New Years, I imagined that it would be similar for Christmas, but I ended up being totally wrong. Everything was open.
I found a lovely little cafe which allowed me to cross out an item on my list of pescetarian Russian cuisine I wanted to try before leaving Russia. I went with a lox and cream cheese blini. Lox and cream cheese blinis were not specifically on my list, I really just wanted to try blinis outside of hotel blinis. It was so good (not just in comparison to floor blinis).
The Mariinskiy theatre was built in 1860 by the same architect that designed the Bolshoi.
Russian ballet goes back to the 1700s, when Jean-Baptiste Lande, a famous French dancer, founded a ballet school for children of palace employees. Over the years it accumulated many famous dancers to teach, and produced many famous dancers as well, such as Matilda Kshesinskaya (who's house I almost got ran over in front of the day before).
As I continued on after accomplishing my first mission of finding the theatre, I saw, and was drawn to, the dome of St Isaac's cathedral glowing in the sunlight.
Just two days ago I was walking around the dome, and 816 square meters of religious ceiling paintings.
Back on track, I crossed over from Sennaya Ploschad to Vasilevskiy island and I saw another glowing church in the distance, and had to get a closer look. (I never realized that there was a purpose to gilded domes besides ostentation but I can see the moth/light analogy applying to gold churches.)
I was the only non Russian tourist here, for sure. I paced around nervously, wondering if anyone would be offended if I snapped a shot, but I was getting suspicious looks from others so I decided I should just leave. So I left, and then I came back moments later deciding to go ahead and take the picture.
But I lost my nerve. I paced around a bit more, trying to blend in. Left-right-up-down-bow twice-kiss my thumb (dang it, I think that last move is a Latin American thing)-picture.
These 32 m high lighthouses used to guide ships through the popular port of St Petersburg but are now a bit of an eyesore. They are only lit a few times a year.
I found a place that had Kulebiaka! It was one of the few Russian dishes that I could eat, and it just so happened to be very difficult to find. Thank God for the Vodka Room.
Not surprisingly my meal came with a hors d'oeurvre and a shot of vodka.
I cannot think of another country where alcohol is included in the price of the meal.
Kulebiaka is a pastry puff filled with fish and cream. It was really good.
For some reason people dressed in animal costumes are recruited to pass out fliers to passersby.
If you have an animal costume, you've got the job.
I realized that I was running rather late and unfortunately I had planned on heading to the hotel before the ballet so I had to rush home and then rush back out. I would have made it on time but I tried a different route and got a little lost. Luckily with a few 'gdyet Mariinskiys?' and the help of nice Russians I was back on track.
When I got to the box where my seat was located there was no handle on the door, an employee had to come over with a portable handle to open the box.
I was in the back row, level with the seats in front of me. It was not the best view.
After a few plies, releves, and sautes, and after numerous phone messages, the guy next to me got up to leave. Before he left he said to me "please, take my seat. I insist". Okay, not exactly. Really he said something in Russian and gestured to his seat and I assumed that I was to sit there,especially since the box was so crowded I needed to get up anyway to allow him past.
As it turned out the guy never came back and I spend the rest of the Swan Lake production in a better seat (trying to ignore, whom I assumed to be, the seat owners super irritated girlfriend).
Swan Lake at Mariinskiy theatre in St Petersburg was my first ballet experience.
I thought ballets were just choreographed dances. I had no idea there was a story involved.
Swan Lake, composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, is about a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer.
“Dancing is creating a sculpture that is visible only for a moment.” -Ozan