On the Way to the Dacha

On Bolshoy Prospekt on Vasilyevsky Ostrov, I was taking a walk to collect impressions of St. Petersburg, admiring church cupolas in the distance, each one with its distinct color, blue, red, gold, green, brown. I raised my hand to hail a cab, and a black BMW SUV that had been driving at a slow pace along the curb stopped. It was like magic—you raise a finger, and voilà, a fancy car pulls up. Now, this was before Uber, when any driver could stop by and give you a lift and make some cash. A middle-aged man, with short silvery hair, lowered the window. I offered two hundred rubles. The man asked for three hundred.

But it’s not far, only to Kresty Prison on Arsenalskaya.

In this traffic, it could take a while. Vyi anglichanin? How much would it cost in London?

We are not in London.

Fifteen pounds, which is at least seven hundred rubles.

Fine. Two hundred and fifty. And I opened the back door.

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