Dateline: St. Petersburg, Day 4 – A.S.Popov Central Museum of Communications and McDonald’s

St. Petersburg, Russian Federation
13 June 2009

I had two goals for today: visit the communications museum and get out of Russia alive.

After packing up my stuff, I made my way, again, to the communications museum. It was right were it should have been, and this time it was open.

The exhibits were very modern and well done, a stark contrast to the exhibits in the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography museum.

The museum covered various forms of communication from the post office through radio communcations to cellular and satellite. Although I was mostly interested in the latter, my favorite part was the working telephone switch board, including a pulse-dial and DTMF interchange. There was also a working manual switchboard, but being unable to read Russian, I wasn’t able to figure out what steps I needed to take to make it work.

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I headed back to the hostel and made sure I had everything packed before I went out for one lase bite to eat. I wanted to get some Russian cuisine, however I ended settling for McDonald’s again1. I’m going to blame my McDonalds fixation on two things. First, I was really tired. Of navigating the Russian culture and just in general. I didn’t really want to put the effort in to attempting to communicate my needs/desires in a foreign language. Second, Russians, especially teens, are absolutely enamored with McDonald’s. You always have to wait in line. In any event, ordering in Russian is easy: биг мак2, кока-кола3, and Fries. I’m actually not sure what the Russian word for fries is, but they get the idea usually. Add in the appropriate hand gestures to indicate size and you got yourself a meal.

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Afterward, I headed for the bus station. Finding the station went without a hitch, solidifying my place as “Badass Map Reader”4.

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St. Petersburg, Saint Petersburg Federal City, Russia


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St. Petersburg, Saint Petersburg Federal City, Russia


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St. Petersburg, Saint Petersburg Federal City, Russia

I placed my backpack underneath and climbed on board with my day back, hoping that I would get some sleep this time.

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St. Petersburg, Saint Petersburg Federal City, Russia


  1. Yes, again. I swear this only the second time I had McD’s this trip. 

  2. Which is literally pronounced: Big Mac 

  3. Again: Coca-Cola 

  4. seriously though, I’m amazing when it comes to reading maps in foreign places 

Dateline: St. Petersburg, Day 3 – The 16 Kilometer Adventure

St. Petersburg, Russian Federation
12 June 2009

I’ve been traveling for just about 10 days now; and it sort of feels like it. I’ve been nursing a couple of blisters, and I can’t seem to get enough sleep. I’ve also been fighting off some sort of cold for the last few days. Although I think yesterday was the turning to point to winning the war on terror my cold.

Last night, I did some investigating and plotted out what I wanted to do for these last couple of days. I made a list of the top three museums I wanted to visit:

  1. Popov Communications Museum
  2. Museum of Zoology
  3. Museum of Railway Technology

After having missed the Cosmonauts Museum, I made it my first priority to find the Communications Museum. I headed north and to the location where I thought the museum should be.

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St. Petersburg, Saint Petersburg Federal City, Russia


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St. Petersburg, Saint Petersburg Federal City, Russia


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However, I couldn’t find it. I circled the block, thinking maybe the location on the map wasn’t right, but still couldn’t find it. I pulled on the door for what I though was museum, but it was locked.

While still searching for the museum, I came across the post office. Figuring this would be as good a time as any, I decided to post my cards. This was an adventure in and of itself. I surveyed the scene (I wish I could show you a picture, but they don’t allow photography and there was a security guard on duty who most likely would have hassled me). Standing before me were 30-some windows, most of them closed, a few of them open. There was different writing above many of them, corresponding, I presume, to different postal functions.

I do the sensible thing and walk up to the window with the shortest line. I show the lady behind the counter my three postcards and try my best to indicate that I need some stamps. She points across the room, and I (like a well trained monkey at this point) mimic her gesture, making sure I understand where she’s pointing.

So I walk across the rather large room to the other side and repeat the aforementioned conversation, the gentleman looks at my cards and then points me back across the room. It’s takes a moment to process this before I realize I’m stuck in what appears to be an infinite loop.

I then had a flashback to about nine years ago when I used to spend quite a few Sunday mornings hanging out in the YMM1 office at University Presbyterian Church:
One morning, we decided to play a little prank on our small group leader, Brandon Lewis, who also happened to be an intern. The layout of the room was such that the office space ran along the outside perimeter with a table and a bank of computers in the middle.

Brandon happened to have a cordless phone at his desk (the only person in the entire YMM office with one, I believe), which I took and hid above the lowered ceiling tiles in the middle of the room.

My thinking went that Brandon would hear his phone ringing and think it was on the other side of the room. He would walk over there and listen for it again, only to hear it coming from the other side of the room. He eventually figured out the phone was in the middle of the room.

Perhaps God was attempting to humor me. In the middle of the large room is an open topped shop. I walk in, show the lady my cards, and get my stamps.

I walked out of the post office and decided to give finding this museum one last shot. There’s an upscale hotel near by and I ask the security guard if he speaks English, he doesn’t but another guy does. I show him the address I have for museum, and he confirmed what the map already told me. So I go back around and scrutinized the doors one last time.

This time, I see the note:

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St. Petersburg, Saint Petersburg Federal City, Russia

The note appears to convey information about the museum being closed for Russia Day on 11 June and 12 June.

At least I know where the museum is.

I decide that I should still go to at least one museum, so I head north again, across the Bol’shaya Neva river, to what I think is the Museum of Zoology, but is actually the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography.

The line to get in is pretty long, stretching to the end of the block, and is made up of an unusually younger crowd. I figure that I’m here and might as well go in, so I jump in line.

Most of the museum was pretty bland with exhibits that I thought were pretty outdated. I was struggling to find why so many people wanted to get in. Then I found it, the First Natural Science Collections of the Kunstkamera. This room isn’t even on the same playing field as Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

After the museum, I strolled by the water front before making a dash to the Peter and Paul Fortress.

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St. Petersburg, Saint Petersburg Federal City, Russia


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Once I got to the fortress, I noticed a helicopter had landed. Rather curious as to what this bird was doing next to the fortress, I naturally went to investigate.

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St. Petersburg, Saint Petersburg Federal City, Russia

As it turned out, Baltic Airlines was offering 15 minutes aerial tours of St. Petersburg by helicopter, a twin turbine Mil Mi-8 to be exact. For a mere 2000 rubles2, I too could enjoy the sights that millions of others had enjoyed before me, but in the air! How could resist? Honestly, it was a really tempting offer. For a helicopter ride, $65 wasn’t a lot of money (all things considered). However, in the end I decided not to do it. I didn’t really think seeing St. Petersburg by air would be that cool and it looked like all the window seats were taken. Besides, if I’m going to pay money, I at least want to be able to fly the thing.

I did decided to wait around for the helicopter to take off; and let me tell you something, I was nearly knocked off my feet! That thing creates one heck of a downwash.

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St. Petersburg, Saint Petersburg Federal City, Russia

I wandered about fortress before exiting on the north side. I passed by the Museum of Artillery, Engineers and Signal Corps as it was closing before doing a loop around the Zoo (on the outside, not the inside).

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St. Petersburg, Saint Petersburg Federal City, Russia


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I had been walking for about eight hours at this point and my feet were about ready to kill me. My plan was to catch the metro at Gorkovskaya, however it turns out (after later research) that the station was closed.

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I ended up walking another 2 kilometers to the Sportivnaya metro station, and my feet did up killing me. I did manage to get home though, having romped over 16 kilometers through St. Petersburg today.

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  1. Youth Mission and Ministry 

  2. $65 dollars