After our mad dash through Europe we arrived in St Petersburg feeling slightly frazzled and very much looking forward to stopping in the same place for 4 days. Fortunately the hostel we were staying in afforded us a bit of down time with a large common room. Another benefit of slowing down meant we got talking to other people more in the hostel which made it more sociable.
It wasn’t all rest and relaxation though, we still had a brand new city to explore!
St Petersburg is an absolutely stunning city. The city was commissioned around 300 years ago by Peter the Great and he used European architects to build it. The result is this opulent, highly decorative, well designed beautiful city. He certainly did a good job! We were staying on Nevsky Prospect which was one of the main thoroughfares through the city. Just walking along here affords you views of spectacular building after spectacular building. Our stay of 4 days only scratched the surface of what there is to see, we certainly could have spent longer exploring.
As well as drooling over all the beautiful architecture we spent some time hitting the touristy sights too. Naturally the Hermitage was on our list of must sees. The Hermitage is based in the old Winter Palace where the Tsar’s used to live. The building itself was a work of art as each room was beautifully decorated. Inside there are thousands upon thousands of priceless pieces of art. We were treated to some Van Gogh, Leonardo Da Vinci, Monet, Rodin and the list goes on and on. I’m not especially an art lover but even I could appreciate quite a lot of things in the Hermitage.
We also crossed the Neva River to visit the fortress of Peter & Paul. Inside the cathedral in the fortress is the last resting place of the Romanov dynasty of Tsars, including Peter the Great. Also buried there now are the remain of Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia who was murdered by the Bolsheviks, and most of his family and servants (they couldn’t find the remains of his son’s). They were reinterred there during the 1990’s. Having studied Russian history at school and learnt about a few of the people buried there I was finding this fascinating. Alan wasn’t though and soon got bored of me having a history geek moment and went and sat outside while I carried on. Which left me the task of finding Alexander II, another murdered Tsar I had learnt about at school. Turns out he was in the extra blingy coffin. His son requested an upgrade from the standard white coffins that the rest of the dynasty are buried in. Dead Tsar spotting completed I went and rejoined Alan outside.
On the theme of dead Tsar’s we also went to the Church on Spilled Blood. This rather splendid looking church is very similar stylistically to St Basil’s in Moscow. It was built upon the site where Alexander II was assassinated. No expense had been spared building this church. It was decorated on every surface on the inside making it just as pleasing to the eye as the outside was.
Back into the modern era we were also treated to the sight of the might of the Russian military. When we visited Moscow on a previous trip last year we had a similar experience as our visit coincided with the victory parade they hold in May. This time I’m not sure what this was all in aid of, but we again got to see tanks and missile launchers. They looked very surreal parked up in front of the Hermitage. Not only did we see the army, we got to see a sample of their naval fleet, including a submarine parked up in the Neva. Very surreal.
By the time it came to leave St Petersburg I had very much fallen for this city. It is definitely somewhere I could see myself going back to in the future.