Finding anything in St. Petersburg is a bit of a challenge. The Monday after we arrived we had to register my mom’s visa (work was taking care of mine) because she was staying in Russia longer than a week. As if paying $170 for the visa wasn’t enough (plus more because we hired a travel agency to take care of the paperwork), we needed to pay an additional 1000 rubles (~$31) to register her. It’s almost cheaper to fly to Russia than to get a visa to visit Russia. We had the address of the St. Petersburg office of the travel agency. It was a small street so it was difficult to find on a map. Google map had a hard time finding it. Eventually I figured out where it was and how to get there. After work, my mom and I headed downtown.
The street was easy enough to find. As we walked along, we looked at the buildings for the address numbers. A delivery guy noticed us walking and stopping to look at the addresses numbers and our piece of paper. He asked us in Russian where we wanted to go. I pointed to the printed address. He mimed where we needed to walk and indicated that we had to turn about around. He conveyed that we were going in the wrong direction. We got the sentence that the office would be difficult to find because out of his miming, gestures, and Russian, I understood “alley,” “turns” and “business center.”
My mom and I went about an hour roaming around trying to find the office. Several people off the street tried to help us. Finally we gave up and called the office. They sent someone down to fetch us, which was a good thing because there was no way that we were going to find this on our own. The delivery guy was right. The office was located in a business center off an alley. It was NOT on the street itself. In St. Petersburg apparently just because a business states that their address is on a certain street that does not mean it is ON that street. Nope. It might off an alley or courtyard off that street. The door to the business center looked like a back door to some old warehouse. You could only find this place if you knew where it was exactly. There’s no way the uninitiated can find it.
This was not our only “adventure” in trying to find a place in St. Petersburg. My mother and I wanted to see Yusupov Palace (or Moika Palace), the primary residence of the House of Yusupov (a noble family who was one of the richest families in the 19th and early 20th century). It’s also famous for being the site of Rasputin‘s (a Russian mystic and prophet who was very influential with the Romanov family) murder. I looked on a map and found a palace called Yusupov Palace that came with Yusupovsky Garden. We sent off to go there after work one day.
We got there easily enough by bus. We walked through a nice looking garden/park. I saw a large yellow palace that looked like the photo I had seen online at the far end of the park. That must be it. Trying to get in was problematic. First by going through the park, we were at the backside of the palace. Fine. We’ll walk around to the front. It’s a long walk around, but it’s a nice day. We’re at the front. The gates are locked. Really? The gates are locked shut. We rattle the gates. I wonder if it’s a cleaning day for the palace (museums and palaces in St. Petersburg are closed once a week for sanitation). My mom spots a couple walking inside. They’re clearly regular people. Somehow they got in. We walk around again and this time go through a little side gate. Success! We’re in. I think it’s strange how empty the courtyard is and how difficult it is to get in. Doesn’t seem tourist friendly. We walk up the stairs and go through the door.
A security guard speaks to us. In Russian. I smile and ask, “English?” He shakes his head and yells, “Museen?” I nod my head. He shakes his head and begins to volubly say something. All in Russian and we have no idea what’s going on except that somehow we’re not where we’re supposed to be. He goes on and on and we helplessly listen to the torrent of Russian falling on our deaf ears. We have no idea what he’s trying to say. A couple walks past us and the guard asks if they speak English. They shake their head.
A solid communication barrier.
I hand over my map hoping that something will happen. After a long while, the guard points to our current location. Then he points to another spot on the map and says, “Museen.”
Ah ha! We were not at the correct Yusupov Palace. There are TWO palaces that go by that name. The trouble was that on the map, the Yusupov Palace we wanted is labeled Yusupovsky Palace. The guard apparently deals with this problem all the time where unsuspecting tourists incorrectly show up to his Yusupov Palace, when they really want the other one.
Lesson learned in St. Petersburg. Just because on the map, a palace says it’s a particular palace, it doesn’t mean that it is that palace. No, instead it might be the other palace with another name.
We did find correct Yusupov Palace, but on another day.