You don’t know how lucky you are, boy, back in the U.S.S.R.

Phoenix and its 116 degree heat and Manhattan with its hazy, hot and humid spell of six million
St-petersburg-russia straight, 90 degree days have nothing on St. Petersburg, Russia.

Having had the pleasure of touring the historic Czarist city the past few days, I can report on the following:

The Russians don't do air conditioning. Period. And, that's not a good thing. I thought London struggled with excessively high heat, but the Brits could learn a trick or two from the plucky Russians. Most merely shrug their shoulders, sigh and deal with it. As Pauline, our tour guide put it: “Your Mr. Albert Gore was sure right about his world warming theory, da?”

To begin with, there's St. Petersburg's overall miasma: daytime temperatures soar well in excess of 100 degrees (F). But, unlike Phoenix and it’s much heralded and over-hyped 'dry heat,' the humidity here is Vietnamese jungle-like in its intensity (courtesy of its proximity to the Baltic Sea).

Stir in absolutely no carbon dioxide emission standards whatsoever, never-ending road construction work which sears the air with a heady aroma of burning tar and a sun that, due to our extreme Northern exposure, doesn't set until 11pm and one gets hot, hot, hot to paraphrase another pop song.

But St. Petersburg's special charm is its cigarette-addicted populace. When it came to conquering the Russian population, Napoleon and Hitler should have studied Phillip Morris instead of Carl von Clausewitz. Nearly every uber attractive, scantily-clad Russian lass can be seen strolling the Neskiye Prospekt with a cigarette dangling from her lips. And, the men puff away just as enthusiastically. So, if you're an investor, hang onto your tobacco stocks- Phillip Morris is making a killing here, literally.

On the plus side, St. Petersburg has beautifully restored 17th and 18th century Russian Orthodox churches on virtually every street corner. They also have a subway system that is clean and cool. (Yes, I said, cool. I was actually thinking of bedding down in one for the night.) There are also lots of historic sites for the hyperactive tourist. (But, one morning of inhaling noxious fumes and sweating through my clothes many times over was enough to put a damper on any extended tours for this blogger.)
Another plus is the World War II memorabilia. The Russians proudly display many of the weapons used to fight back the Nazi siege of Leningrad (St. Petersburg's name during the Communist regime). And, there's even a brief tour of the Astoria Hotel (not to be confused with NYC's Waldorf-Astoria) where Hitler had already made plans to host a gala celebration of the fall of Leningrad. (As our guide, Pauline, beamed, “So, he did not have the chance for that, no? So, instead, Stalin came here and he give big, big celebration.”)

I found it curious that there were no statues or murals of Stalin to be found, but Lenin is everywhere. I guess those 30 million mass murders tended to dampen the Russians' pride in Uncle Joe.

Anyway, my climbing team leaves St. Petersburg this morning for a day-long flight South to Mineral Vody in the Caucasus Mountains, where we begin our assault on 18,840 foot Mt Elbrus. With cell service being as scarce as tobacco and nicotine are plentiful, this blogger doubts he'll be able to file an update until we reach Moscow midweek of next week. Here's hoping in advance that Moscow copes with the heat a little bit better than its neighbor to the North.

St. Petersburg was nice to visit, but here's one comrade who wouldn't want to live there. Dasvedanya, Amerikanskis.

9 thoughts on “You don’t know how lucky you are, boy, back in the U.S.S.R.

  1. She’s visiting the Maharishi, but expects to be back in the U.S.S.R. in time for Saturday’s assault on the summit.

  2. We have a Georgian girl as one of our guides, Julie. Her name is Dascha and, yes, she knocks me out. And, by the way, Joe Joe’s always on my mind.

  3. Show me round those great big mountains way down South. Syd: with record-breaking heat, this comrade is quite warm, thanks.

  4. Let us hear those balalaikas ringing out! Someone keep that comrade warm!

  5. Steve – Do the Ukraine girls really knock you out and leave the West behind? 🙂

  6. According to Sky News: “The month of July has been Russia’s hottest since records started to be kept 130 years ago, with temperatures in the range of 102 F… the heat has led to estimated 20,000 blazes… the earth literally smolders and the heat of the sun combined with the fires is almost unbearable.” So Rep is going from one extreme to the other… Elbrus temps hover around ZERO (F.)

  7. Something tells me the average July temperature in Peter the Great’s time was a tad cooler, Lunch. The little fellow (and, apparently, he suffered from some sort of malady that restricted both his height and head size) clearly didn’t anticipate global warming. Probably weren’t too many plastic bottles back then either.

  8. Jeez, Emperor Peter the Great really wanted his “European” city so badly by the water that he picked up the capital and basically built another in the mold of what he saw in other countries…I guess he should have done some duct work when building. He did get his waterway…at the cost of humidity. Oh well.