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White Nights 2015


Birdsall

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What a terrible experience, Birdsall. I hope you recover quickly! So sorry you had to go through this! I went to St Petersburg by myself back in May (I'm a 25-year old woman), and I walked from the theatre back to my hotel every night, which was at least 20 minutes walking. I never felt unsafe. However if I go back some time, I will now probably choose a hotel much closer to the theatre, just so I won't have to walk alone by night.

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Birdall, I am so very sorry this happened to you. i hope that you recover and heal quickly. I felt truly awful upon hearing of your ordeal. Please feel better soon, we are all thinking of you and wishing you a fast healing time.

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This is truly horrible experience. Birdsall, if I were you, I would be scared to death!
I was lucky, I visited St Petersburg and Mariinsky Theater in late June. However, when I walked back to hotel after ballet shows, I took another direction, along Moika River and I could still see tourist boats running in the river for White Nights, so I didn't feel unsecured. If I go back to S.P. for Mariinsky ballet next time, I would definitely put your experience in mind, when I book hotels.
I am a very cautious and timid person. When I walk on street alone, I would try to make sure either I walk among good groups, or no other people within 10 meters in front and back of me. If someone walked close to and approached me, I would evade them.
I wish you getting well quickly. BTW, in general, you might not come through a bad attack like this again in your life, comforting yourself with positive hopes.
flowers.gif

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Let's put this into context, I've been attacked and robbed just yards from my front door, it isn't just Russia where you can experience these things.

I'm deeply shocked by the level of violence in the attack on Birdsall though and sincerely hope that he quickly makes a full recovery from his injuries.

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Thank you, Everyone!, for your concern and kind words!! One thing I hope is that you guys will avoid the covered walkways at night no matter how short they are (in any city) and no matter if it is raining. I think that was my big mistake. The other thing is that I may have used my iphone to look at the time on the street and so someone may have been tracking me and when I went into the covered walkway it gave him the hidden area to beat me and take what he wanted with less chance of being seen. I think now that the iphone was the thing he wanted and my iphone was in a wallet style case that held money and credit cards. I had little cash and the credit cards were not used (although I cancelled them anyway and will get new ones).

The good news is that I have replaced everything stolen material-wise, and most of my injuries will heal by themselves. I just need root canals on the teeth, I believe. Many people think that it is great that the attacker did not have a knife because his method of attack was not to ask for anything but to beat you and take what he wanted.

I, too, was shocked by the level of violence. I am 6 feet tall and not scrawny so I was also under the believe most robbers would choose an easier target, but this guy (if it was just one) was very strong. I blocked as many punches as I could after being thrown to the ground but I was immediately in a defensive (down on the ground) position and unable to fight. The punches kept coming and I blocked them like I said. It was over within seconds, so I think he knew exactly how to stun someone and get what he wanted as quickly as possible.

I was mugged once years ago when I was in my 20s before by 3 men in Amsterdam who pushed me against a wall and surrounded me but they simply raided my pockets without hurting me and let me go. Not this time.

I think the other thing is that walking back along the Moika Canal is probably safer. Moika has nicer shops and buildings, although that doesn't mean anything. I just think that there is always a shadier element late at night along the Griboedova Canal. It is where the nightlife people seem to hang out more, and therefore I thought I was safe and I had walked it many nights on previous trips and this one. But as Yudi says I think the Moika is actually safer, but you never know. As Mashinka said this could happen anywhere.

But my advice: do not show your iphone on the street at night and do not go into the covered walkways set up on buildings with construction even if it is raining.

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By the way, I think right after ballets it is still light during the summer, so walking back to your hotel after a ballet should be no problem. What happened is I had a hotel right near the Mariinsky and did not go home. I met a friend for dinner closer to the touristy hub and then went with him to a bar for a drink, but he had an Italian friend visiting from Moscow and I told them to catch up with each other and chat, and I was tired and wanted to walk home alone to my hotel. But this was 2am in the morning and by then it was dark and so that is another part of the puzzle. I don't think you have to worry about a 20 minute walk right after a ballet performance usually. I mean, anything can happen. I just don't want to make anyone on BA scared to walk back to their hotel. It should be fine if it is light, you stay out of walkways, and you take precautions. I think I became too confident feeling like I knew St. Petersburg, and I should have hailed a taxi or walked further up to the Moika. Basically, I probably shouldn't have been walking around at 2am by myself.

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By the way, I think right after ballets it is still light during the summer, so walking back to your hotel after a ballet should be no problem. What happened is I had a hotel right near the Mariinsky and did not go home. I met a friend for dinner closer to the touristy hub and then went with him to a bar for a drink, but he had an Italian friend visiting from Moscow and I told them to catch up with each other and chat, and I was tired and wanted to walk home alone to my hotel. But this was 2am in the morning and by then it was dark and so that is another part of the puzzle. I don't think you have to worry about a 20 minute walk right after a ballet performance usually. I mean, anything can happen. I just don't want to make anyone on BA scared to walk back to their hotel. It should be fine if it is light, you stay out of walkways, and you take precautions. I think I became too confident feeling like I knew St. Petersburg, and I should have hailed a taxi or walked further up to the Moika. Basically, I probably shouldn't have been walking around at 2am by myself.

All of this is very sensible, but I hope you are not blaming yourself in any way. One can make perfectly good calculations as you did (based on your size, knowledge of the city, numbers of people around etc.) -- or outright paranoid ones as I often do! =- and bad things can still happen. Anywhere--though it's sad to have it happen as part of an otherwise joyful visit to St. Petersburg.

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My thanks to birdsall for this report, and I'm glad he is recovering. I've never been to Russia, and probably will never go, much as I would love to see St. Petersburg and Moscow. Too many friends returning from group tours have come back with horrific warnings of street crime, unsafe water, unsafe food, etc. It's ironic, perhaps, because there is quite a bit of street crime in the US, but we're confident we know how to stay safe (rightly or wrongly).

I have visited numerous cities throughout northern and eastern Europe and try to follow the advice in the tourist books. Pickpockets are the worst in Prague, but are a problem everywhere. News reports in recent years have reported gangs of gypsy ("roma") children stripping valuables from tourists in Paris, even inside the Louvre! And some advice is misguided. E.g., US travel writers like Rick Steeves sometimes advise taking overnight sleeper trains to save a night in a hotel, but friends I've talked to in eastern Europe think that's a horrible idea, as even the better overnight trains are very vulnerable to thieves.

I suppose the message for all of us is to take reasonable, common sense precautions, no matter where we travel, but don't just stay home and miss out on life! As Mashinka points out, this kind of thing can happen anywhere.

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As a consequence of my own experience, I tend to feel safer abroad than at home.

Crime against the person is fairly rife though wherever you are. Is there somewhere you could go to where personal safety is guaranteed? Try Dubai or Oman. I would have added the Greek islands, but because of the recent rapid changes in demographics that may no longer be the case.

I would also like to add a big thank you to Birdsall for his wonderful reporting of the festival. it was first rate. I only went to St Pete's once when it was Leningrad - and contracted dysentery, consequently I've never been back though I've been to Moscow many times, a place where you can clean your teeth without coming to harm!

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I think most reasonable people would agree that bad things can happen anywhere. However, I mentioned complacency in foreign cities because, if you don't know the language, the customs, the neighborhoods, the local scams, and so on, I think you're more at risk than somebody who does. I also think that criminals often perceive tourists as easier marks. Additionally, if you're the type of traveler who crams a lot of activities into one day, you may be quite tired when you finally call it a night. Being very tired puts you at risk because you are less likely to notice warning signs. If you're having a very good time, that can also put you in a mindset where you're not as likely to notice red flags. No one wants to ruin their vacation by being paranoid about crime. For me personally, I travel a lot, and I live abroad, and I'm very comfortable with both. But after reading Birdsall's story, it makes me wonder if I've gotten too complacent, especially in the bigger cities that I enjoy visiting.

Regarding St. Petersburg specifically, I wanted to mention that you can save money on taxis by having your hotel arrange the taxi. When I visited, I stayed close to the Mikhailovsky theater, so the Mariinsky was a bit far. Several times I had my hotel arrange a taxi back to the hotel directly after a performance. It was bit of a madhouse with all of the people exiting the theater and trying to find their rides, but those taxis cost me only 350 rubles. By contrast, when I hailed a taxi after the theater one night, it cost 1000 rubles. Of course, as someone else in this thread noted, it's better to pay for an overpriced taxi than to get mugged. But if you don't mind arranging it in advance, you can save money that way.

One night I didn't arrange it an advance, and I walked to a cafe after the theater. Afterward, I didn't want to walk back to my hotel, so I had the restaurant call me a taxi. That taxi was in the 250-300 range. So doing it that way may also an option.

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All of this is very sensible, but I hope you are not blaming yourself in any way. One can make perfectly good calculations as you did (based on your size, knowledge of the city, numbers of people around etc.) -- or outright paranoid ones as I often do! =- and bad things can still happen. Anywhere--though it's sad to have it happen as part of an otherwise joyful visit to St. Petersburg.

Thanks! Yes, in the end, no one should really attack someone physically and steal the person's stuff, so I agree. But I guess it is also human nature to wonder, "What could I have done to avoid this, so it doesn't happen again?"

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My thanks to birdsall for this report, and I'm glad he is recovering. I've never been to Russia, and probably will never go, much as I would love to see St. Petersburg and Moscow. Too many friends returning from group tours have come back with horrific warnings of street crime, unsafe water, unsafe food, etc. It's ironic, perhaps, because there is quite a bit of street crime in the US, but we're confident we know how to stay safe (rightly or wrongly).

I have visited numerous cities throughout northern and eastern Europe and try to follow the advice in the tourist books. Pickpockets are the worst in Prague, but are a problem everywhere. News reports in recent years have reported gangs of gypsy ("roma") children stripping valuables from tourists in Paris, even inside the Louvre! And some advice is misguided. E.g., US travel writers like Rick Steeves sometimes advise taking overnight sleeper trains to save a night in a hotel, but friends I've talked to in eastern Europe think that's a horrible idea, as even the better overnight trains are very vulnerable to thieves.

I suppose the message for all of us is to take reasonable, common sense precautions, no matter where we travel, but don't just stay home and miss out on life! As Mashinka points out, this kind of thing can happen anywhere.

I have not had any other problem in St. Petersburg. I think the food and water are safe nowadays. At least I have not had trouble. But I buy bottled water to drink. However, I used the hotel's water from the faucet for brushing my teeth.

As for the night trains, I spent extra to have the more expensive night trains to and from Moscow so that I was alone and could lock the compartment door on the inside and keep safe from intruders and did not have to sleep with strangers. There was also a key card that was the only way to open the compartment. When I was in my 20s and more adventurous I did the "couchettes" where you might be with up to 5 other strangers in a sleeping compartment, but I am too old for that type of thing. I like my privacy. So I think the night sleeping trains are safe if you do the first class one. I am in my late 40s and not willing to sleep in a compartment with 5 other strangers. Luckily, the rouble was weak and a Russian friend helped me book my sleeping car to and from Moscow.

Way back in the 1980s when my parents and I were in Paris the gypsies would converge on you in front of the Louvre, so that is nothing new, but you just keep money and valuables in purse if you are a woman and keep tight hold of the part that can open on the purse and scream loudly if necessary, and as a male I put hands into pockets covering valuables. In Rome, Italy once I made nonsense signals with my hands as if I am putting a curse on the gypsies, and you should have seen how fast the "mother" gypsy screamed and got her children away from me. I just made up the curse signals, but it scared them enough to leave me alone. I didn't know this would be so effective, but it was, so steal that idea!!!!! LOL

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I think most reasonable people would agree that bad things can happen anywhere. However, I mentioned complacency in foreign cities because, if you don't know the language, the customs, the neighborhoods, the local scams, and so on, I think you're more at risk than somebody who does. I also think that criminals often perceive tourists as easier marks. Additionally, if you're the type of traveler who crams a lot of activities into one day, you may be quite tired when you finally call it a night. Being very tired puts you at risk because you are less likely to notice warning signs. If you're having a very good time, that can also put you in a mindset where you're not as likely to notice red flags. No one wants to ruin their vacation by being paranoid about crime. For me personally, I travel a lot, and I live abroad, and I'm very comfortable with both. But after reading Birdsall's story, it makes me wonder if I've gotten too complacent, especially in the bigger cities that I enjoy visiting.

Regarding St. Petersburg specifically, I wanted to mention that you can save money on taxis by having your hotel arrange the taxi. When I visited, I stayed close to the Mikhailovsky theater, so the Mariinsky was a bit far. Several times I had my hotel arrange a taxi back to the hotel directly after a performance. It was bit of a madhouse with all of the people exiting the theater and trying to find their rides, but those taxis cost me only 350 rubles. By contrast, when I hailed a taxi after the theater one night, it cost 1000 rubles. Of course, as someone else in this thread noted, it's better to pay for an overpriced taxi than to get mugged. But if you don't mind arranging it in advance, you can save money that way.

One night I didn't arrange it an advance, and I walked to a cafe after the theater. Afterward, I didn't want to walk back to my hotel, so I had the restaurant call me a taxi. That taxi was in the 250-300 range. So doing it that way may also an option.

Yes, having the hotel or restaurant call the taxi and getting a set price beforehand is usually a good way to do it, and you will get a decent price. It is when you are desperate and in a very touristy area or the airport they will hike up the prices. But you are right about the ways you did it. It is the smart way to do it.

I have traveled throughout my life throughout Europe and only had two problems (muggings in Amsterdam and St. Petersburg). The mugging in Amsterdam was not violent, however.

I really hate to dissaude anyone from traveling to St. Petersburg, because it is a beautiful city and wonderful place for a ballet lover. You (speaking to everyone reading this) will never regret going to St. Petersburg. I would just maybe take precautions not to be out late at night alone or if you are, take a taxi as you (ssark) mention by asking the restaurant to call one and setting a price beforehand. I think during the daytime and early evening it is fairly safe to walk around, and I was unsure whether to document my mugging on this thread b/c I do not want people to think St. Petersburg is more dangerous than it is. I still love the city, and I will return one day, but I do have a partner who wants me to start going other places so that he can travel too (he won't go to Russia with me). So no White Nights 2016 report from me. Hope someone else will go next summer and post reports!!!! LOL

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By the way, the two Nutcrackers I saw fulfilled my Mariinsky Ballet bucket list. I have now seen all the "classical" repetoire that the Mariinsky does at the historic theatre (I wanted to do that in case the historic theatre....now scheduled for renovation in 2018, I believe.....burned down or some other misfortune happened to the theatre).

And I wanted to say that the Vainonen Nutcracker is a lot more charming in person than on video. The pink color scheme that I have heard complaints about seems less pink in person at least to me. There is a lot of pink, but it is not annoying in person. And it has a grandness and beauty to it in person, in my opinion. Very exciting to see, especially the snowflake scene. You look around at the theatre and turn back to the stage and you can not believe you are in this beautiful theatre seeing the Nutcracker.

And Nutcracker is probably my least favorite ballet......both Osmolkina and Martynyuk were delightful as Masha. Even in pain I enjoyed Martynyuk on the last night......I almost didn't go to the final show b/c of the mugging but I decided it might take my mind off my pain and sadness and it did.

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OMG, I am so sorry and terrified of what happened. I wish you a speedy and full recovery. Thanks for all the wonderful reviews and advices. Another option to consider is Uber, I just checked its website and it serves St. Pete and Moscow.

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So very sorry this happened! I agree, it could have been anywhere in the world, but it makes it all the more painful when it happens in a city you have come to love. It is a good reminder, though, for all of us who travel. I find that I, too, find myself sometimes too comfortable and relaxed in places that I've spent time before, even as a woman who is often with a small child, or small group of ballet students. My husband, who is not American, is very protective, and I, as an Amaerican, sometimes resent that. He won't permit me to go alone at night unless he absolutely has no choice, and I usually just roll my eyes and tell him he worries too much. But yes, now that I think about it, I probably do let my guard down too much. I'm so very glad that your injuries were not more severe, as in I'm glad there was no knife involved! I do hope you won't let the actions of one, possible two, stupid humans stop you from enjoying the city, and especially the company! I've always wanted to go during the festival, but thus far it's never worked out, so I have been living vicariously through your commentary. Best wishes and hoping for a very speedy recovery!!!!

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Yes, Mussel, Uber is supposedly good. I have never used it, but I know it is all the rage and cheaper than a taxi, and a friend does some driving for Uber and says he makes a lot of money in one night on a Friday or Saturday or during game days here in Gainesville (The Gators football team). I actually like to walk in St. Petersburg if possible b/c it is nice to walk along the streets with canals normally. But I think I will not stay out as late ever again if I go back.

Fraildove, it is always better to be on the safe side, I have learned. I think I was comfortable and I have always been under the mistaken belief that a thief would more likely choose a smaller target, but I was wrong about that. I think late at night I will either not go out in SP, or I will have the restaurant or bar call a taxi for me or maybe, as mussel suggests, I will set up an Uber app on my phone.

I hope nobody will avoid SP due to my situation. It is a beautiful city and full of great things. It actually has a quiet beauty to it compared to other European cities. It grows on you slowly. It is not flashy like Florence or Rome or Paris or even Prague. But it gets under your skin and reveals its beauty little by little.

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Yes, Mussel, Uber is supposedly good. I have never used it, but I know it is all the rage and cheaper than a taxi, and a friend does some driving for Uber and says he makes a lot of money in one night on a Friday or Saturday or during game days here in Gainesville (The Gators football team). I actually like to walk in St. Petersburg if possible b/c it is nice to walk along the streets with canals normally. But I think I will not stay out as late ever again if I go back.

Fraildove, it is always better to be on the safe side, I have learned. I think I was comfortable and I have always been under the mistaken belief that a thief would more likely choose a smaller target, but I was wrong about that. I think late at night I will either not go out in SP, or I will have the restaurant or bar call a taxi for me or maybe, as mussel suggests, I will set up an Uber app on my phone.

I hope nobody will avoid SP due to my situation. It is a beautiful city and full of great things. It actually has a quiet beauty to it compared to other European cities. It grows on you slowly. It is not flashy like Florence or Rome or Paris or even Prague. But it gets under your skin and reveals its beauty little by little.

Mariinsky is my favourite company and St Petersburg is my favourite city in the world. I have so many happy memories.

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It has been over 2 months since the mugging and I had root canals done on the front two teeth but I did not need crowns. On Monday I am getting my first set of Invisalign things to start the year long process of fixing my bite which was really off despite saving my teeth.

Fracture in my nose is healed. Funny thing is that I have been told I no longer snore!

And my bite was actually messed up due to a dentist filing down a tooth years ago which he shouldn't have. But after saving my teeth after the mugging I had even more problems with my bite. Now with Invisalign I will finally correct my bite.

So ironically the mugging is causing problems to get fixed!!!

I know this posting may not interest most, but suddenly thought an update might be in order. My possessions were restored within days of my return (so if given a chance just hand them over). I looked great after a week or two after the mugging, and the wires came off my teeth after a month and the oral surgeon and my dentist think the teeth are very stable. The root canals were painless (of course I think I had like 4 shots to numb the entire mouth). Then I had something crazy like 8 shots days later to numb my mouth to get the wires removed. I enjoyed the laughing gas though!

While the teeth were healing I drank a lot of kefir and ate soft food. As a result I lost some weight. Yet another benefit of the entire ordeal! So finding positives in the whole negative situation!!!

I am planning to go to DC for the Mariinsky tour in February, so maybe I will see some of you. Since I am not going to St. Petersburg this coming summer I might just splurge and attend all the Raymondas.

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Dear Birdsall, I am so sorry to read of your attack in beautiful St. Petersburg. I was working in Asia at the time and not very connected to the Internet at the time (too many Asian dinners that go on for hours). It is wonderful news that you will make a full recovery and that you are able to find some bright moments after such an ordeal. A good cry hopefully has helped you to cope more with your feelings.

While I was studying at Vaganova Academy, a fellow international teacher friend was mugged twice for his warm coat. This was early-mid 1990s. I walked to and from Mariinsky almost every night alone (trollies were either packed or did not arrive, so rather than freeze walking was the most dependable mode of transport) to see performances of some sort and visit with friends who live around the corner from Mariinsky. My first year I took my fur coat with me. I stuck out as a foreigner and learned quickly to dress down. Everyone walked then. I never took the car rides and my friends never allowed me to do anything but take a taxi they had phoned ahead for if the evenings ran into the wee hours of the morning.

My last visit was in 2009. I again walked every where. I was able to see I. Kuznetsov do Tybalt, btw. Having watch him grow up from 6th year to 8th, it was very exciting for me. He was an excellent Tybalt indeed. He was a good Albrecht in school as well. It is interesting how in Mariinsky, he was developed more as a character actor. He is a character indeed.

As for walking and safety, I realize that when I am traveling, I tend to go into vacation mode and can be a bit unrealistic about where I am. As beautiful as St. Petersburg is, I was brainwashed by my Russian friends what to do and what not to do. I am sure I was just lucky as I did not use my smarts as often as I should have. Walking is however the best way to see this beautiful city, daytime and nighttime.

I will miss your reviews. They kept me so in touch with a city and ballet company I love. Thank you for your love of ballet and your vivid, intelligent reviews. Maybe we will meet one day when the company is on tour.

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Bart, I also just noticed this thread and am so sorry you had such a horrendous experience in St Petersburg, as I know your annual trip to see the Mariinsky is the highlight of your year.

I am glad you have recovered so well and amazed at how you have managed to put a positive spin on things. definitely you should treat yourself to as many Raymondas as possible.

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Bart Birdsall -- Glad your healing is going well and that there have been at least a few benefits to go along with all the distress and inconvenience. (Massive dental work is no fun--laughing gas notwithstanding.) It shows what a great spirit you have that you are able to point out the positives.

I may try to see Raymonda in D.C. as well, so perhaps we will meet again!

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Thanks, everyone!!! Got the first 3 sets of Invisalign braces today. They are hard to take off (when you want to eat), but the orthodontist said I will get used to that and learn to snap them on and off without any trouble. I'm on my way to fixing my messed up bite!!!

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