THE FERRY from Tallin to Helsinki takes 90 minutes, and costs only the same as a peak time Edinburgh-Glasgow train ticket. It's a nice length of journey to snooze off last night's imbibing, so inevitably that's what I was doing. Until a stranger woke me up.
"We're going to be 15mins late"
"The Captain just told us. Is someone meeting you?"
"My boyfriend is meeting me."
"How old do I look?"
"Ha, 51! I'm a grandmother several times over. Want a beer?"
"No thanks, it's a bit early for me"
"Do you take drugs?"
"Eh, no, but thanks for asking"
"All my friends do. My boyfriend could get you some"
"All the same, no, but thanks."
"Vodka?" she asks, producing and taking a big drink from a half bottle
"Eh, no, it's still a bit early for me. But thanks"
"OK, see you later then"
This wee exchange is my favourite interaction with a local so far. Drug-dealing grannies are relatively rare in my usual daily life!
I've also discovered I'm a bit of a Philistine (Actually, the Philistines were quite cultured - Ed.) St Petersburg is a fantastic city - every second building appears to be a palace and a museum of some description.
You can see it all, from Da Vinci's Madonna and Child in The Hermitage to historic prisons were Lenin et al were banged up at various points to Rasputin's pickled penis in the Erotic Museum (honest!)
I had a look round The Hermitage - only The Louvre rivals it as far as art collections go - there are more than 2,000,000 exhibits in more than 1000 rooms - it's in the old Winter Palace that the communists "stormed" to arrest the Government. You can see were they had their last cabinet meeting, and the adjoining dining room were they were arrested. This I found interesting, the rest of the art? Well, it's OK, but I dinnae really know my Titian from my Monet (must have skipped school that day) and everything was in Russian, so I was guessing as to what I was looking at.
Anyhow, across the river was a much more interesting show. The Museum of Artillery!! Katyusha rockets? Russian tanks of all eras? A whole room dedicated to Kalashnikov and it's inventor Michael Kalashnikov? Yes please. Now that's a museum, and an exhibition.
I'm sure Da Vinci and Faberge are very good and all, but how can they compete with all those tanks and rockets? As I said, I'm a Philistine...
Seen lots of other strange things that people are proud of - the longest corridor in Europe? Tick. (In St Petersburg University) or the tallest building in the world? Tick (Well at least it was when it was built in 1500 in Tallin's Old Town)
St Petersburg runs 24/7 - shops, pubs, clubs, restaurants, whatever you like - it seems to be on offer round the clock. I like that a lot - would it hurt us at home to have pubs, clubs, shops and restaurants going round the clock if they wanted to?
Best bit of dodgy English? A cash machine gave me my card back with the encouragement to PLEACE TAKE YOUR CARD...
Best bit of false advertising? The bar with the board outside saying "watch live Premiership football here" - when the foolhardy tourist (guess who) stumbles in looking for Newcastle Vs Tottenham and asks the barman to put the football on he's met with a laugh "No football here. But we do have girls. Lots of girls. Real Russian girls!"
I'm not that much a Philistine to know this was no ballet corps, made my excuses and left...
It's Moscow next - let's see what it holds in store?