As the minibus pulled up alongside, Anna the Guide confided that the two beautiful boats ready to take us through the canals of St Petersburg were named after a piece by Prokofiev (and possibly Shakespeare). Romeo and Juliet awaited. We scampered aboard and took comfortable seats at the rear of the first boat. “Now,” said Anna. “You must cross over to the next boat.” Our eyes turned to the boat alongside.
It would be polite to say that Juliet was no longer in the first blush of her youth. Her ample girth was highlighted by a mass of ranked spindly dining chairs, the kind being vigorously freecycled across the UK. Her seaworthiness would have been questionable, had we not been destined for the canals. We made a sprint for the rear, both to avoid the spindly dining chairs, and to stand a better chance of swimming for it, if needed. With a dieselly, voluptuous belch, Juliet was on her way, scampering from the amorous attentions of the younger, sleeker Romeo.
A morning Spent Ducking
“Now,” said Anna. “You must be very careful of your heads. If you do not duck the bridges will…” and she made a graphic show of decapitation. Rolleyes ensued as we hit a particularly vigorous junction with the Neva River and Juliet wallowed. We started measuring the distance to the river bank in line with our various swimming proficiency certificates. Juliet shuddered even more alarmingly as we entered the first canal to hear the cry of “duck”. Seated, I could have touched the bridge above without straightening my arm. Standing clearance…well, I wasn’t planning to chance it.
Chancing The Head
“Now” said Anna. “There are no toilets at Peterhof, and the ones on the hydrofoil will have very big queues. So you should use the ones on the boat here.” As the cries of “duck” became more frequent, the chances of making it forward to the head became ever more rendolent of a retro “It’s a Knockout” contest, where obstacles race towards the hapless contestant.
With the risk of decapitation ever on my mind, I climbed spindly dining chairs and ducked where necessary until I reached the splendour that was Juliet’s dank waterless dungeon of a toilet. It measured precisely five feet eight inches from floor to ceiling. I know, as my hair gave that ceiling its first cleaning in many a year. “How was it?” asked the elegantly attired woman in front of me, as I returned to my seat to yet more calls of “duck!”. Our eyes met in commiseration. “Grim” I replied.
There were no queues for the hydrofoil. And the toilets at the Summer Palace, where we lunched in great splendour, were of such fabulous gilded and mirrored Faberge-esque beauty that there was a queue taking pictures in the ladies.
Welcome to Russia.
62 thoughts on “Travelogue: Neva Again – Messing About On The River in St Petersburg”
Haha this is so funny! I love finding nice bathrooms that you want to take photos of them. Not so much the ones on boats. I am yet to visit Russia, I didn’t realise they even had canals! Definitely remembering this for when I make it there. Wonderful writing style Bernadette.
Ah, thanks so much! It really was one of those days when you couldn’t make it up. 😀 Just wish I’d managed to grab a picture of the stunning loos at lunchtime.
Sounds like a real adventure even though that’s not what you would have expected from a calm day at the canals. Maybe both lifejackets and helmets would have been a good idea😂
It was a bit more perilous than we imagined a canal to be (other than getting stuck on a lock ledge). 🙂 But it was interesting to see a load of common sense, as everyone was keeping an eye out for each other, taking over from health and safety. Fairly choppy at times too when we crossed the river.
Love how you told this like a story!
The whole of St Petersburg was really an experience rather than a journey. 😀
Such an amusing write up of your boat journey. I can’t stop smiling. It was an adventure in its own way.
Aw, thanks! 😀 It was a really funny experience. Someone would stand up like a meerkat for a picture, to be met with calls of “Duck!”. I’m sure there were lots of unfocused pics of people’s feet on the way down.
Very funny, I love this idea of making a post from dialogue! Going to check more of these here!
It was a brilliant – if rather full-on – morning. 😉 In fact, the whole of St Petersburg was an experience, as our guide was very informative, and also rather strict when it came to keeping us safe and in one place. Hope you enjoy looking around here. 🙂
This really made me giggle, even more so as I’m 5FT 11!
😀 You could have created the new, open roofed, version. 😉
This is hilarious, I know what’s it like to find very grim toilets on touring boats! Well written too 🙂
Ah thanks. 🙂 We did spend a lot of the morning laughing, and I’m glad you enjoyed it.
Too bad you made such a bad experience. I am in general not a big fan of boats actually. We also lately had a boat trip where we had to duck all the time. Really annoying. I fell you. Thanks for sharing!
Ah, it was way more funny than bad. 🙂 I do love boats of all sizes and shapes, and this was a great addition to our long list of boat trips. Sorry you had the ducking experience too; I guess it must be a tidal thing from the river.
You made my day with the ending! :)) Curious of how the fabulous bathroom was looking like if the people were queueing just to snap a picture of it! 😆
😀 I wish I’d stopped to get a picture. It was almost Venetian with mirrors, but also lots of gilding like the Faberge eggs. Every cubicle door and sink area had its own mirrors. As opposed to the dark pit I’d earlier visited. 😉
That sounds like a grim experience indeed haha. Glad you made it out of Juliet alive! 😉
She did make me wonder if Romeo might have reconsidered. 😉
Totally loved your writing. Didn’t know there were canals in St. Petersburg. I love to find fabulous bathrooms on my travels!
Thank you. 🙂 I’m not sure I knew about the canals until the boat trip either.
What a trip! Sounds…exciting 🙂 I do love a trip on the water though. If you make it to the Netherlands, I dare you to take a canal cruise in Alkmaar. You’ll hear “duck!” a lot there too!
I love the Netherlands and the canals, so most definitely. 🙂 Not made it to Alkmaar yet though, and that needs to go on my list.
Lol, gotta love a grim bathroom accompanied by a TV show obstacle course to reach it. Enjoyed the read!
I have a feeling it was pretty aerobic! And thank you. 🙂
Hi Bernie! Omg you’re hilarious! So funny to think you spent all morning by ducking and that exactly remind me of Knockout as well. LOL I will keep this in my when I visit there 😀
We aim to please! 😉 But it was a really funny morning, especially as our guide had such a deadpan delivery. Had I worn my Fitbit, I think it would have been mightily confused.
What an experience! I’ve wanted to visit St Petersburg for a while. What kind of tour did you go with? As a side note, they also tell you to duck on the Paddan boat tours in Gothenburg since some of the bridges are quite low. They use the decapitation “joke” there too.
We did a two day tour – called “Classic”, I think – which was really intense, with at least five things on each day. The day of the boat trip, for example, we went on the Metro, on the boat, to Peterhof Gardens, the Summer Palace for lunch, Catherine’s Palace, and then somewhere else I can’t remember without my travel journal to hand. When we finished in the evening, we were both silenced by the extent and magnificence of the experience. I’ll have to remember that for Gothenburg too, as I am committed to going there – it sounds wonderful.
Too funny! We loved our time in St. Petersburg. I don’t recall there being lines for the bathrooms on the hydrofoil either! We saw some amazing toilets in a restaurant we ate in though! Did you have to be led from one place to another like we did? They (our tour guide) didn’t let us out of their sight for a second!
It was very much like that. We could meander to a certain extent, for example in Catherine’s Palace, but we wore wires and earpieces, and our guide was keen on making us put up our hands so we could be counted. A bit like school. 😀 But my, she knew her stuff!
I love your narrative-style take on your adventure — it was definitely both wanderlust-inducing and entertaining. Love it!
Ah, thank you. 🙂
Hahaha! I so can imagine the decapitation part by your guide! And how your hair cleared the ceiling of the boat toilet, lol!
I never think of myself as particularly tall, so touching the ceiling was a bit of a shock. 😀 And proper touching too, not just a slight brush. Ew!
Haha this made me giggle! 🙂 Yes, I’ve yet to find a toilet on a boat that can be described as much better than “grim.” Would love to see the photo that you queued up to take at the Summer Palace though!
For a not at all “grim” toilet on a boat, I have to recommend the Celebrity Eclipse. The sinks are beautiful scrolled perspex and absolutely gorgeous. 🙂
That sounds like quite an adventure 😛 Knowing my luck, I would’ve gotten hit on the head about a zillion times!
I’m not entirely sure how I escaped! 😉 But with help from my fellow travellers, we achieved quite a good warning chorus when needed.
This is a hilarious post, especially describing the boat. I never got onto the water when I was in St. Petersburg, and this makes me kind of glad!
Ah, thanks! It was a really funny experience, and I’m glad that came across. St P from the water is beautiful, so don’t let me put you off. Just remember not to stand up. 😉
This is a hilarious story – I love a little craziness and a minor mishap here and there on my travels…and you seem to sort of appreciate it, too 😉
Minor mishaps are brilliant, I absolutely agree. 🙂 And they definitely stay with you for the longest time.
what a cute article 🙂 – had lots of fun reading this
Thanks. 🙂 It was an amusing journey, and I’m glad that came across.
This sounds like quite the adventure! I would probably forget to duck and hit my head:) And I would definitely need one of those rare bathrooms…
That whole trip was very good fun, but the boat sticks in my memory. We’d made friends with a very tall guy who was a keen photographer, and his ducking and diving was particularly memorable.
Thanks for a dose of hilarity, Bernie! You weren’t just a traveler, but you volunteered to clean the toilet’s ceiling, too. Haha. Enjoy your stay in St. Petersburg! 🙂
I do my best to be helpful! 🙂 It was a great trip, and this was a brilliant experience.
Sounds like quite an experience and the hair cleaning the ceiling made me cringe. I so want to go to St. Petersburg, but I think I’ll avoid this boat ride as I’d hate to end up without a head. 😉
Ah, don’t let me put you off. 😉 St Petersburg is a totally full-on experience, and everyone on the boat trip left with heads intact. Hearts, however, were left behind in the city. 🙂
Haha, this was such a funny post. Cheers to traveling misadventures turned into adventures which make great stories!
Misadventures are great, and even more so when they are fun at the time, like this was. 🙂
I went to Russia over 10years ago and I definitely didn’t do any boat rides down canals. Sounds like you had a bit of an adventure there and one that you can now go back and laugh about when you tell your friends at the pub 🙂
Yes, definitely great memories from that trip. 🙂
Ah sounds like a wonderful trip – and haha about the bridges, we have that hear in Cambridge, with the punts, lots of ducking!
I bet! I hadn’t thought of Cambridge, but yes, I guess that would need quick reactions too. 🙂
I laughed the whole time! Sounds like a great time.. lol. I can’t exactly say I am a fan of boat bathrooms! I love the way you wrote this!
Ah, thanks! 🙂 It was a brilliant trip, but full of such absurdities that I had try and to capture them.
Funny story) Bridges in St. Petersburg are really very low, and boats are not always new. To what extent this will all bother you, depends on your guide)
It was an absolutely brilliant experience, and I think made more special by the boat herself and her idiosyncrasies. The height of the bridges was a surprise, but turned the trip into more of an adventure. Of all the river trips we’ve ever taken, this was certainly our most memorable, and I loved it. 🙂