Arriving in St Petersberg at some ungodly hour in the morning, it must have been ungodly as it was still dark, we offloaded our stuff at the hotel after what seemed a long walk from the station. Well any walk at that time in the morning feels like a long walk. During the day we undertook a good 4 hour walking tour with a local guide taking us through all the sights of the city. Its really a beautiful place with all the palaces, parks, museums and canals.
I think a lot of us felt completely lost during the tour. Seemed to taking a lot of back streets and winding roads. As soon as we found our way to the main thoroughfare it seemed a lot easier. I thought the women in Moscow were tall but they really didn’t compare to the ones in St Petersberg as they seemed to wear even higher heels and move at breakneck speed. I so was so hoping to see one woman break a heel or even fall over but to no avail.
The beauty of St Petersberg is wonderful. The canals interlock perfectly within the architecture of the city and if you are a museum junkie you could easily spend a week here. You sort of get the impression every second building is a museum and it probably is!
After the tour I wandered into the Church of the Saviour of Spilt Blood (pretty gruesome name for a church) and couldn’t believe that pretty much all the inside was mosaics. I though St Basils in Moscow was impressive on the inside but it didn’t really compare to this church. Floor to ceiling mosaics is something to behold.
By this stage of the tour I am feeling pretty worn out and ready for a big sleep and a day of doing very little. Was a pretty quiet night as most of the others went to the ballet, so it was just James, Scott and myself. Had a good meal at a Georgian Restaurant, tried to sort out a canal tour for the farewell night and found ourselves in an bar called Inside Lenin on the main canal. It was sort of an underground theme bar based on Lenin predominantly red in colour and with all sorts of random stuff on the walls. A small highlight amongst many.
The real highlight of St Petersberg was arriving this morning and that was the trip to The Hermitage which bills itself as the best museum in the world. Given I have been to a fair few on my previous travels I was keen to see if it lived up to its claim. The bus ride to the museum was interesting in its own right as we missed our stop by a fair distance (oops!) and had a fair walk back to the museum in an area we had no idea where we were. Thankfully some local cops pointed us in the right direction.
The Hermitage itself combines some brilliant art from the masters such as Picasso, Monet, Rubens and Van Dyck amongst others as well as having some rooms of the Winter Palace within it. The art collection was amazing and to think we only saw about 20% of it, completely blows my mind. The rooms of the palace were very extravagant with all the gold trimmings but when it comes to royalty and riches what can one expect? I would definitely rate this museum in my top 3 but where it would fit exactly I am not too sure but when I can spend 5 hours in a museum and run out of time it must be pretty damn good.
Tonight was the farewell night and knew Scott would plan something worthwhile. Its just his nature. First stop was canal cruise taking in the sights was a different angle but we had one problem. We were told to either meet at the hotel by a certain time or at a bridge on the main road that had 4 horse statues. Well one of us (not me!) seemed to misplace herself. As the cruise was optional it wasn’t a huge worry at this stage as she could have decided to opt out of it. Cruise was a lot of fun, with a few good beers and lots of laughs. The way Scott was messing around with this old lady on the boat who was filming the cruise by celebrating landmarks and showing overwhelming excitement when arriving on the Neva River was hilarious. I can only imagine what she was thinking.
Dinner was at a Ukrainian restaurant and still no word from our misplaced person. All sorts of theories were being mentioned ranging from being lost, meeting up with some Russian soldiers to being kidnapped. None of which Scott really wanted to hear as he hasn’t lost a traveller to date. Eventually by about 9pm, 3 hours later then the proposed meeting time, he received a call from the hotel and all was relieved as our missing member had arrived. Apparently she was at the wrong bridge.
The night was a great, food was awesome as usual, drinks flowed nicely and once again Donny Dazzler (the elder statesman of the group) showed off his dancing prowess with the Ukrainian singers. It was a fantastic note to finish on.
Waking up in the morning, slightly worse for wear, but not too bad, we said our goodbyes over breakfast as one by one we departed into different directions. I had a bit of time up my sleeve as my airport transfer wasn’t until 2pm. I just spent the time in the souvenir market and hopeful of going to the Museum of Hygiene (bit of a freak museum) but unfortunately I was cut off at the post by some grumpy Russian women who had no idea what I wanted, or had no idea that I was asking ‘How much?’ that I just walked out. I was probably the first visitor they had in months and were surprised to see a visitor. Well maybe not, but it was their loss.
Later that day I transferred to the airport to catch my flight to London. The process to leave Russia is quite painstaking. So many queues and can only check in when they say, then you just end up in a room, with little airflow, waiting to be ushered into another room for more waiting. It was actually a relief to get onto the plane!
Usually I like airports, especially leaving them as one can people watch or shop. Unfortunately in St Petersberg this really isn’t the case. Sad to finish up the Russian trip in such a way but I still rank the city as one my favourites and would love to go back again in the future.