Though I am back.
A short one this time:
Went on holiday. Part of it was on a boat. Dad got sick- had to be taken off the boat to nearest large city. We (my Aunt, Uncle and I) met up with him there, eventually.
More detail: the country was Russia, the boat was on the longest river in Europe, the nearest largest city was 6 hours away by ambulance, it was St.Petersburg.
A short review of Moscow/St. Petersburg from a Disabled point of view:
Moscow. It’s fucking huge, the buildings are enormous, so high. The pavements are high. There are lots of steps, few lifts, no ramps. Nearly the whole city was dug up: Summer is when they fix things. Winter is snow. However – what they lack in lifts and ramps they make up for in people. Russia throws people at a problem. All the sites, the tourist places employ lots and lots of people. No ramp: they carry wheelchairs with people in them up the stairs. If you are a bit wonky, not in a chair or not obviously mentally impaired, you’re on your own. Don’t even bother with the Metro. I was over joyed to see large groups of Disabled people out with carers. They were every where – all the sites. And lots of carers. Russians, from my limited experience, do not treat their disabled people as idiots. However – few old people, even fewer non-white people.
St.Petersburg: Fucking huge again. Different kinda huge. Both places piss on London. Since a great many of the sites were damaged in the war, many were reconstructed… but without lifts. Stairs everywhere. Not so helpful people because most of the sites are super duper busy. I mean the Hermitage is the busiest museum in the world: 20,000 people visit it every day. However the Russians are fucking proud of their heritage and want to share it. On the first Thursday of the month the Hermitage is free to Russians. Usually you pay to get in everywhere – Moscow and Petersburg. But the tickets last 2-3 days and cover several sites. They work out at less than £10 for 4 museums over 3 days. Perfect for wonkies who get tired.
Both cities are damn expensive – really really expensive. Public transport and taxis are cheap, eating out is not. You have to tip everyone because the wages are low*.
The Russians respect learning and are on the whole educated to degree level. Our tour guide on an island was a Professor of Philosophy – his summer job (they all have them) was showing ignorant foreigners around his town. His town had 4 universities. Not many people speak English. I am not surprised. They love art – the custodians of the museums are an army of learned old ladies who tell you off for everything and I fucking loved it. And once they understood that I wanted to learn about the culture, they were kind to me. Also once they saw I had a bottle of water to take pills, they were forgiving (no drinking in the galleries…. but no cafes etc.)
They put booze in their tea. But I did not see any sign of the fabled alcoholism.
They really, really believe in massage and if I had not been so stressed about my Dad being ill, I would have had one.
*A Professor who gave us lectures on the boat (working for 7 days and nights – she had to have lunch with us etc. etc.) earned less than £500. Now, that may sound a great deal, but for over 7 hours of lecturing, with notes…. that is nothing. Not compared to what the guests were paying for the holiday, and what you’d pay in London to have such lectures – £20 per person per lecture at least. We were her summer job. She was amazing, and in a later post I shall recommend her to you all.