Writing this post from the storied riverbanks of the Russian host city for the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum. For the last 14 years, the conference gathers over 2,500 political and business leaders, entrepreneurs, scholars, and the media to exchange ideas on pressing world economic issues and policies. The city is packed. The traffic—“just like home.”
I’m not exactly what you would consider to be “an expert” in global economics—in fact, you might say my comprehensive economic policy can be summed up in two words–
So I’ll stick to what matters: cool art, jaw-dropping architecture, and a few fun fast-food facts. What? Just hang with me…
Saint Petersburg, (formerly Leningrad) was founded in 1703 by order of the Russian Emperor, Peter the Great. Initially, the town was developed as a fortress and seaport, but developed into a center of economic prosperity and industry.
(For the record, I’ve always wanted to be addressed as “The Czarina.” I picked the perfect city for that to happen. But it never did. I guess real Czarinas don’t wear Rocket Dogs.)
This very European looking city sits on the Neva River on dozens of islands, and–because of its cultural and historical treasures–this “northern capital” is also known as “Venice of the North.” (Saint Petersburg ceased being the capital after the Russian Revolution of 1917.)
I arrived during the region’s famous “White Nights” period, when it’s daylight–at midnight—in fact it’s daylight almost all night long–and a bit disorienting. But all the more time to really “see” the city.
Highlights for me—as usual—are visual “moments.” When we arrived in the heart of the city, I was jolted by the red-painted city buses (top) and the lack of outdoor advertising and signage bombarding most of us on city streets in the states.
But that doesn’t mean an American cultural icon can’t be an integral part of Russia’s burgeoning urban landscape.
Russia is the fastest growing market for McDonald’s in Europe. (Pic #5) When McDonald’s fast food restaurants first landed here—it made headlines. The photos of the first McDonald’s opening in Soviet Russia 20 years ago led to a 7-hour wait (Pic #6) in Moscow. The black and white photo below confirms it was a mega hit. A total of 30,000 Soviet citizens tasted hamburgers and Coca-Cola on the food giant’s first day.
Now that I’ve steered the train this far off the track—maybe you remember this exchange between Vincent and Jules in “Pulp Fiction:”
…You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?
They don’t call it a Quarter Pounder with Cheese?
No, they got the metric system there, they wouldn’t knowwhat the f**k a Quarter Pounder is.
What’d they call it?
Royale with Cheese.
Royale with Cheese. What’d they Call a Big Mac?
Big Mac’s a Big Mac, but they call it “Le Big Mac.”
“Le Big Mac.” What do they call a Whopper?
I dunno, I didn’t go into a Burger King. But you know what they put on French fries in Holland instead of ketchup?
Okay, I didn’t opt for the Big Mac or the Little Mac. But I did have a chance to experience he quirkiest little bread plate I’ve ever been served (left) at the tony “Lumiere” restaurant overlooking Arts Square and The Cathedral of the Resurrection.
The Chef flavored the dinner rolls with black SQUID INK.
Wasn’t sure if I should eat it — or use it to refill my printer cartridge.