St. Petersburg (Lonely Planet City Guides)

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9781741041699: St. Petersburg (Lonely Planet City Guides)

World-class entertainment at the Mariinsky Theatre, sultry White Nights in midsummer, ice-skating on the Neva and the sublime architecture of the Church on the Spilled Blood – Russia’s ‘northern capital’ amazes all who visit. This smart, streetwise and stylish guide uncovers the cultural riches, captivating history and carefree nightlife of this magnificent city.

Immerse Yourself In Art – compare Picasso and Poussin, Gainsborough and Gauguin with a whole chapter dedicated to the vast Hermitage Museum

Catch The Scene – dance on tables or watch world-class ballet; our St Petersburg expert reveals the complete range of entertainment options

Explore the city with tailor-made walking tours, full color, cross-referenced maps and metro plan

Talk The Talk with our detailed language chapter complete with Cyrillic script

Escape to opulent Tsarist palaces and charming historic towns with our comprehensive Excursions chapter

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Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

The following is a sidebar box beginning on page 152 in the Getting Around chapter of this practical information guide to the Russian city of St. Petersburg.

A Day With One Of Russia's Most Hated Public Servants

In the States, it's the I.R.S. In the Soviet Union, it was the KGB. In England it's Manchester United fans, but in the new Russia, motorists and passengers alike loathe, fear and despise the ubiquitous members of the Gosavtoinspektsiya: GAI.

GAI (`gah-yee') are traffic officers who stand at intersections throughout the country looking for signs of vehicular misbehavior. Actually, they can pull you over for anything they want. And they do. But what makes them really annoying is that they're entitled to impose on-the-spot fines. Oh, yeah, one more thing: if you don't stop when they wave you over, they can shoot at your vehicle.

I got pulled over twice on my last trip, while riding in two separate vehicles. The first driver was fined, the second let go. What makes these guys tick? How do they decide whom to pull over? And is it exciting to be an armed traffic cop? I mean, their New York City counterparts would give a limb for the opportunity. In the interest of fair play, I spent a rainy morning with some of the guys at St. Petersburg GAI Central.

7 am. Roll Call. No big surprise, kinda like Hill Street Blues with shabbier uniforms. Hot sheet covered, accidents discussed, criminal element lamented. I learn that GAI Guys work two days on, two days off, and they have regular beats.

9 am. Upstairs Office. Meeting with Sergei, a captain. Yes, we can shoot at your car. No, I can't tell you how many officers we have, but there are enough to keep control of the situation. I ask him what a foreigner does if he disagrees with an officer's charges against him. "Well, his documents will be confiscated and then he can go to the address on the ticket the officer gives him and get them back."

Oh.

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