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Tuesday, April 15th, 2003

St. Petersburg Prepares
Getting ready for the guests

This summer, the city of St. Petersburg commemorates its 300th anniversary. It is a fascinating city: this is where the first Russian University was founded, where Dostoyevsky and Pushkin created their literary masterpieces, where Tchaikovsky wrote his enchanting music.

The whole city is bustling with activity: workers are busily renovating buildings, repairing roads, cleaning statues, and generally sprucing up the whole city in preparation for the influx of the hundreds of thousands of visitors, dignitaries, and tourists expected for the festivities.

At the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math on the shore of the frozen Baltic Sea, devotees are also busily preparing for Srila Govinda Maharaj's arrival in the middle of the summer. It's like the whole city is preparing for Srila Gurudeva's visit...

In the afternoon, Amrita Krishna Prabhu and Ragalekha Devi Dasi take me downtown to take some new photographs for my visa extension. We just found out that my Russian visa is only valid for two weeks: I have to leave in two days, on the 17th, if I cannot get it extended. What's up with this visa thing anyway? Why am I so jinxed?

While we are downtown, they take me to see some of the tourist attractions. First we go to the enormous and elaborate Winter Palace and Palace Square. To give you some idea of the size: the General Staff and the Foreign Ministry buildings are each 1600 feet long, and are joined by a huge ninety foot granite arch, through which can be seen the Alexandrine pillar, which was cut, shaped, and polished from an elephantine 650 ton, eighty foot high granite block.

Then, we visit the magnificent 350 foot high St. Isaac Cathedral, with its 10,000 square feet of floor space. Over 900 pounds of gold was used just on the decorations!

There are so many beautiful sights to see. St. Petersburg is known as the "window on Europe." It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
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