St. P #2 – The Moskva Hotel:

The Moskva Hotel, on the banks of the Neva, matches somewhat the image we have of a Russian hotel, though I doubt I am being spied upon as I sleep.  The water is hot, and we have the BBC – even its reports on the anti-Putin marches in which Gary Kaparov, the chess-master, has been arrested.  The lobby is huge and ornate, the breakfast is lavish but nearly inedible – lardy pastries, dry cereals, strange-tasting coffee, and truly grotesque breakfast meats, but I have missed breakfast two out of the three days anyway due to jet-lagged oversleeping.

The elevators are slow, so one morning I make the mistake of taking the stairs.  Completely trashed, full of construction material – everything is thrown into in these cement corridors, so the front rooms look good. And there’s no way out, so I return to wait for the elevators.  God forbid there should be a fire.

Each night as Michael (my able assistant from Oslo) and I return, there is a group of congenial prostitutes lounging in chairs across from the elevators.  One sloe-eyed beauty accosts us in a friendly way in English, and in another life (a pre-Aids, pre-Quan one), I might have taken a chance with her, but the rest have the hard off-putting edge of belles-de-nuit everywhere.

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