April 6, 2003
Natalya, the owner of our very informal bed and breakfast in St. Petersburg, is apologetic. We've just arrived in the Russian city for a few days, and decided to stay as guests in her family's rambling apartment on the Moika Canal. The apartment is in one of the most fashionable parts of town -- a second-floor flat not far from St. Isaac's Cathedral and just down the block from the birthplace of novelist Vladimir Nabokov. More luridly, it's across the canal from the Yusupov Palace, where about a century ago the sinister mystic Rasputin -- who bewitched a czarina -- survived being stabbed, shot and beaten.