The City. Upon arriving in St. Petersburg, proud locals may inform you that the city itself is an open-air museum. Best navigated by foot, the Hermitage Museum, Peter and Paul Fortress, Church on Spilt Blood, Winter Palace, Saint Isaac's Cathedral and other key sites are easily within walking distance from the city center.
Restaurants. Fine dining is redefined in St. Pete. Looking for a nice steak dinner? Go no further than the renown Stroganoff Steyk Khaus where you can choose the country your cow was raised and whether it was grass or corn fed. You will then be informed of precisely the waiting time for your perfectly cooked steak - 27 minutes for a medium-rare cooked filet mignon. For more casual dining, pop into one of the many restaurants or cafes on Nevsky Prospect, the main through street in St. Pete, where you may find a secret button under the table to buzz the wait staff for quicker service.
Putin. You won't manage many steps in St. Pete without gazing upon the stern face of President Valdimir Putin. Whether his stare is beaming down from a billboard or painted on the side of a building, his presence is undeniably felt in the city. You'll find classic Putin-themed goods in stores and street vendor carts including Putin's mug on coffee cups, a life-sized Putin head wearing sunglasses plastered on a t-shirt, posters depicting the president riding horses and motorcycles, and of course, various pocket-size trinkets to complete your Putin propaganda collection.
Airports. Leave your camera and alcohol at home. To my surprise, photographs are forbidden at the airport and consumption of alcohol is strictly prohibited on several flights from St.
Petersburg. Seems counter-intuitive to me, but many of the rules and procedures appear to change in Russia depending on which way the wind blows.
Women. If you are under age 50, and even if you aren't, there appears to be an unwritten rule that you must don stiletto heels and a mini-skirt at all times. It doesn't matter the weather or if you are at breakfast, commuting to work or climbing a tower. The steeper and more painful-looking the heels the better. Make sure to complement your look with dark, heavy eye make-up and pouty lips. Never. Ever. Smile.
Hotels. The more stars associated with your accommodation, likely the more intrigue. It's not uncommon with the popular hotels to have fresh fruit in the rooms tended to hourly, monogrammed slippers by the bed and staff to attend to your every whim. One hotel we frequent employs facial recognition software so
that every staff member can greet guests by name. In line with the incessant chatter of hotel rooms being bugged, a trustworthy local advised that for a price videos from your
hotel room stay are available for purchase at reception.
Religion. Orthodox Christianity is the dominant religion in this part of the world with more than three quarters of Russians identifying with the denomination. While it isn't often spoken, it's been explained that Russian Orthodox Christians believe that the more you suffer the
better place earned in heaven. This philosophy may shed light on the prevailing Russian demeanor, behavior and outlook.