• gautami2007

St Petersburg~ The mecca of cultural, historical and architectural landmarks.

Updated: Nov 15, 2021

As my flight descended into St Petersburg, all I could see around me was white snow. And the first thought that came to my mind was “Oh, S****,I don’t have proper shoes to wear in the snow!!!”. Moscow was mildly cold, but St Petersburg was full of snow and still snowing in April. I was in a major well. Then I decided, first let me check into my Airbnb and then I’ll see about getting some proper shoes to wear in the snow.

As the flight landed, it skidded a bit and my heart thudded for a moment. But then thankfully, it came to a stop. Relieved, I deplaned and got out of the airport. There was no bus to be seen anywhere nearby. A young lady(who apparently had been waiting to get a cab for a long time) came to me and asked where I was going. Turned out we were going to nearby places. So we decided to hail a cab and split the fare. The cab cost 140 rubles and it was a 40 minutes drive to my apartment. The host was already waiting outside the building and greeted me as soon as I stepped out of the cab. He gave me the keys to the apartment(2BHK and price was only INR 1200 per night!) and showed me the place and left. The place was spotlessly clean. I was finally alone and it took a while to sink in that I was in St Petersburg! Since it was not yet noon, I decided to shower and head out immediately.

First impressions of St Petersburg


First impressions of St Petersburg


First impressions of St Petersburg


My Airbnb apartment


My Airbnb apartment

The first stop I made was the Kazan Cathedral. It was about a 3kms walk from my apartment. though I was starving, I decided to check it out first. Kazan Cathedral is dedicated to Our Lady of Kazan, one of the most venerated icons in Russia. Its construction was completed in 1811. It is on located on the the Nevsky Prospekt, the main street of St Petersburg. It was around this place that most of the sightseeing stops are located. It is also one of the most important shopping streets in the city  It was huge and so grand from the inside that my jaws fell open!!! It started snowing when I got out of the cathedral and I walked as fast as I could to a McDonald’s nearby and had a burger and some fries. I was dreading going out in the snow. Thankfully I had bought my umbrella with me and my trench coat, so I was not getting wet. But it was bitterly cold and I was practically shivering. I saw on the map that there was a Zara store nearby and I rushed there as fast as I could, nearly slipping and falling along the way due to my shoes. I had to get a new pair first thing tomorrow morning. Inside the showroom, I bought a couple of sweaters and a woolen muffler. I wore all of that inside my coat before exiting the store. I saw several of the staff smirking at me doing that, but I didn’t care. Survival was first!!! It was early evening and the snow stopped for a while. I felt relieved. I went to see the most iconic, beautiful, colourful and majestic church I had ever seen in pictures, Church of the Savior on Spilt Blood. It was as beautiful as I had imagined. But I decided to come back the next day to go inside and see. The lane leading to the cathedral was full of “babushkas”(Russian for old lady) selling various souvenirs. I bought a cute silk scarf dotted with photos of cat for my self for only 50 rubles. I have it to this day in the same exact condition. After walking up and down the lane I decided to head back to the apartment. On the way I went to a supermarket and picked up some fruits, some small packets of Russian cheese, a bottle of milk and a type of black bread I had never seen before. I was curious to try it for dinner that night. After that I returned to my spacious apartment, rested a while, had my dinner(the bread was sour but tasted pretty good with the cheese). Then I texted my host on where I could buy shoes for cheap for walking in the snow. He suggested a flea market Apraksin Dvor which turned out to be just round the corner of the block from where I was staying. Then I hit the sack, exhausted.

In front of Kazan Cathedran


In front of Kazan Cathedran


Kazan Cathedral


Black bread with cheese and milk for dinner


Black bread with cheese

The next morning I again had that black bread with cheese for breakfast and headed to the market suggested by my host. Turned out it was the Russian equivalent of “chor bazaar”!!! There were fake(?) copies of all types of brands for dirt cheap prices. I got a Puma shoe for only 600 rubles that looked sturdy enough with a strong grip to be able to walk in the snow comfortably. The owner, who turned out to be from Afghanistan, assured me it will last a long time. Learning that I was from India he offered me tea and wouldn’t take no for an answer. After having the tea and thanking him, I wore my new shoes and went back to my apartment to ditch my old ones. After that I walked back to the Church of the Savior on Spilt Blood. The new shoes were comfortable and I could walk quite comfortably in the snow without fear of slipping. The cathedral was just opening when I arrived and thankfully there were no tourists around. The inside was even more magnificent, with gilded works and ornate designs and thick smell of the sweetest incense. I lingered inside for quite a while, marveling at the statutes of the saints and also basking in the warmth inside the Cathedral! After a couple of hours I went out, clicked some photos of the Cathedral from every angle possible. No angle seemed to justify the grandness of the structure. After that I went back to the babushkas selling souvenirs and bought a gilded dagger(about eight inches long), that was a specialty of theirs. And it looked beautiful. I bought some magnets and other souvenirs as gifts for my family and friends. After about an hour of shopping, I walked to the Hermitage. It is the second largest art museum in the world. I went to a tourist information center near the hermitage and bought some guide books for free. I decided to visit the Hermitage the next day as it would take a lot of time. I spent some time at the Palace Square, took photos of the Alexander column, the monument that was raised after Russian victory over Napoleon’s France. Then I crossed the street and went to the Alexander garden the Admiralty, the former headquarters of the Admiralty Board and the Imperial Russian Navy and the current headquarters of the Russian Navy. Of course you had to see it from outside as you are not permitted to go inside. The building was huge and majestic though. Then I went to the other side of the park to see the Bronze Horseman, an equestrian statue of Peter the Great. It was inaugurated 1n 1782. The statute’s USP is the statue’s pedestal, which is the enormous Thunder Stone, the largest stone ever moved by humans!!! After marveling at the statute, I bought some sandwich from a nearby cafe and went back to the Alexander Garden to sit in one of the benches, observe people and eat in peace. I then visited the Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, currently functioning as a museum with occasional church services. St. Isaac’s Cathedral was originally the city’s main church and the largest cathedral in Russia. It was built between 1818 and 1858, by the French-born architect Auguste Montferrand, to be one of the most impressive landmarks of the Russian Imperial capital. One hundred and eighty years later the gilded dome of St. Isaac’s still dominates the skyline of St. Petersburg. It boasts of magnificent gilded interiors. After visiting the cathedral, I went back to my apartment through an alternative, longer route. on the way I found this small local restaurant where I got to eat Chebureki again!!! I was ecstatic. I even ordered the cheese soup as it really warms you up, which was desperately needed in that cold Petersburg climate. After dinner, I went back to my apartment, spoke to my family using the apartment’s Wifi and afterwards fell asleep.

Church of the Saviour on Split Blood


Admiralty


Admiralty


Gilded interiors of St Isaac’s Cathedral


Gilded interiors of St Isaac’s Cathedral


Gilded interiors of St Isaac’s Cathedral


St Isaac’s Cathedral


The Bronze Horseman


St Isaac’s Cathedral


Church of the Saviour on Split Blood

The next day I headed to the Hermitage. It was around four and a half kilometers from where I was staying. On the way I grabbed a huge sandwich. Took me about forty minutes to walk there. When I arrived, the changing of Guards was had just started. It takes place only on Saturday. After witnessing the grand spectacle, I bought one ticket for 500 rubles and started exploring the Hermitage museum. There were several guided tours going on. I joined one of them and kept in the background so that the guide didn’t send me away. It was a good way to get the history of various items in the museum. The entire tour took more than two hours. After that, I wandered around on my own for another hour When I came out it was evening already. There are several palaces in St Petersburg and it is practically impossible to visit all of them. I went to see the Stroganov Palace from the outside. It is located on the banks of the Moyka River. I stood on the bridge and saw several small boats passing by. Then I went to the Dvortsovyy Most or Palace Bridge. It spans the Neva River in Saint Petersburg between Palace Square and Vasilievsky Island. Interestingly, like most other Neva bridges, it is drawn by night, making foot travel between various parts of the city virtually impossible. From there one gets a sweeping view of the city. Spent a couple of hours here, just taking in the view. It was getting late and I decided to walk back to my apartment. On the way I found a shop selling Indian ayurvedic products and other curios. Curious, I went to check it out. Turned out they were selling things available in India for exorbitant prices and people actually were buying the!!! I came out and went to a restaurant where I ordered Kasha and Stroganoff(I was famished)!!! Then I returned to my apartment and went to bed.

he Hermitage


Changing of Guards ceremony


Changing of guards ceremony


Inside tour of the Hermitage


Inside tour of the Hermitage


Inside tour of the Hermitage


Inside tour of the Hermitage


Inside tour of the Hermitage


Inside tour of the Hermitage


Panoramic view of the Hermitage

The next day I went to visit the Peter and Paul fortress. It was quite far. But I decided to walk. It felt good to walk in the chilly weather. On the way I saw several buildings with marvelous architecture, notably the Zdaniye Birzhi. Then I spent some time in Strelka Vasil’yevskogo Ostrova, an imposing 1810 monument on the river Neva modeled on a Greek temple & framed by Roman-inspired columns. There are benches here and you can sit and watch the river and city undisturbed. But I continued on my way. Finally reached the Peter and Paul fortress. It is the original citadel of St. PetersburgRussia, founded by Peter the Great in 1703 on small Hare Island by the north bank of the Neva River and built to Domenico Trezzini‘s designs from 1706 to 1740 as a star fortress. There is a cathedral dedicated to saints Peter and Paul inside the fortress. It was built in in early Baroque style, radical departure from traditional Orthodox churches. The fortress was spectacular and maintained in excellent conditions. There is a part where the prisoners were kept and all the chambers remain in their original state, undisturbed till date. I spent a couple of hours inside the fortress. Then went outside. There was a cafeteria, bought a coffee and sat down outside and took in the views of the river outside. Fortunately the sun was shining that day to my disbelief and I felt quite content. Soon my peace was shattered and it started raining. I decided to have lunch at Letuchiy Gollandets or the flying dutchman, which was very close. It is built in the shape of a ancient ship and houses restaurants among other things. It looked expensive but for once I decided to splurge!!! I ordered a plat of Risotto. The quantity seemed very inadequate for a price off 800 rubles! But it was delicious. After finishing my meal, I decided to head back to Nevsky Prospekt, since it had stopped raining and I wanted to do some shopping. I bought some clothes from branded stores at very cheap price compared to what I would be paying for the same in India. I then walked all the over to the end of the street(several kilometers) to visit the Holy Trinity Cathedral of the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. The Alexander Nevsky Monastery complex is home to some of the oldest buildings in the city, as well as to cemeteries which contain the graves of some of the giants of Russian culture, including Tchaikovsky, Dostoevsky, and Glinka. It was beautiful beyond measure. The cathedral is the centre-piece of the ensemble of buildings that comprises the monastery complex. The cathedral was finally completed and consecrated in 1790. It was late in the evening when I reached. The complex was magnificent and the cemetery was beautifully maintained. It felt quite poignant to be standing there, where some of the greatest persons were laid to rest. After visiting the monastery, I walked back to my apartment, bought some black bread again for dinner and fell asleep immediately after dinner.

Sweeping views of the city


Strelka Vasil’yevskogo Ostrova


Outside the Peter and Paul fortress


Outside the Peter and Paul fortress


Road to Peter and Paul fortress


Cathedral dedicated to Saints Petr and Paul


Interiors of the Cathedral


Interiors of the cathedral


Jail cell inside the fortress complex


The flying Dutchman


The super expensive Risotto(800 rubles!)


Alexander Nevsky Monastery


Alexander Nevsky Monastery


The cemetery inside the monastery


The cemetery inside the monastery


The cemetery inside the monastery

The next day I went to visit Peterhof, about 60kms outside of St Petersburg. I took the metro from Sennaya ploschad’ station to Avtovo metro station. Had to change metro twice. things were a bit complicated because everything was written in Russian including station name. I had the map of metro in my phone and was matching the characters to the names of stations!!!! Also, people were friendly and pointed me the right way. After exiting Avtovo metro station, there were several matryoshkas waiting outside. I just said “Peterhof” and was spirited away to the first matryoshka that was nearly full. After a couple other passengers got in, we were off!!! The matryoshka driver seemed like he was being chased by the devil himself, he was driving so fast! We reached Peterhof in less than forty minutes. When my stop approached, an old gentleman plodded me and gestured to get down. I yelled “Stop!” from the back of the matryoshka and the driver braked suddenly, causing me to nearly tumble over! While exiting, I paid him 70 rubles, the fare from Avtovo metro to Peterhof. Since it was April, the Palace was closed. Only a section of it was open. It is often referred to as the “Russian Versailles”. Peterhof Palace is a series of palaces and gardens, opening out to the sea.It seemed hard to believe that Peterhof was virtually destroyed during the Second World War. The post-war resurrection of the entire complex was one of the finest chapters in the history of restoration in Russia. From the outside it was just huge. Like literally HUGE! And majestic and imposing. Draped in a white layer of snow, it looked like a fairyland. A palace for the fairy King and Queen!!! The dominant natural feature of Peterhof is a 16-m-high bluff lying less than 100 m from the shore. There is a grand cascade, modelled on the one constructed for Louis XIV at his Château de Marly. There are 64 fountains. Finland is just a three hour journey by sea from Peterhof. The view of the open sea is just fantastic. Thankfully, it was sunny that day. I visited the open section of the Palace and marvelled at its beauty. Then went down to the lower gardens and walked by the sea. Met a Russian guard who on hearing I was Indian, broge out into a “jimmy Jimmy aa ja” jig on the spot! Apparently Mithun Chakraborty is very popular in Russia! Imagine that!!! After spending the entire day at the palace I decided to head back. On my return journey, I got a direct bus that dropped me off quite near my apartment for the same fare. It was already dark, so I went to the nearby supermarket, grabbed some sandwich and pastries and had them for dinner. The day was fun!

Grounds of Peterhof palace


View of Peterhof palace


Peterhof Palace


Cascades in the Peterhof Palace


Sea in front of the Palace


Ocean view


View of the grounds of the Peterhof Palace

The next day was my last day at St Petersburg and the first thing in the morning after breakfast, I went to the Fabergé Museum. The entry fee is 450 rubles. It is a privately owned museum which was established by Viktor Vekselberg and his Link of Times foundation in order to repatriate lost cultural valuables to Russia. The Fabergé Museum’s collection has nine Imperial Easter eggs that were made to the order of the last two Romanov Tsars. In total, there are fifteen Fabergé eggs in the Blue Room of Shuvalov Palace. A Fabergé egg is a jeweled egg created by the jewellery firm House of Fabergé, manufactured under the supervision of Peter Carl Fabergé. The most famous are his 52 “Imperial” eggs, 46 of which survive, made for the Russian Tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II as Easter gifts for their wives and mothers. They are just stunning to look at and are practically priceless. The tour of the Musuem took around 3 hours. After that I had the rest of the day free. I shopped for more souvenirs along Nevsky prospekt. Ate more Chebureki and cheese soup as I was unsure when I could get to eat them next. Went to see the Church of the Savior on Spilt Blood again as I really loved the colours and the architecture. Adjacent to it was the Mikhailovsky Garden, which was closed. So, saw it from outside, it looked beautiful. There was a doll museum on way way to my apartment that I crossed several times. But I didn’t go in as I am scared of dolls(Remember Chucky?) and didn’t want nightmares!!!After spending the entire day wandering around, I went back to my apartment to pack and get ready to fly back home the next day.

At the Faberge Museum


The famous Faberge egg


Cheese soup and chebureki

To my surprise, when my host showed up to take back the keys, he insisted on dropping me off at the airport. I was so touched by the gesture. After I reached the airport, I thanked him and proceeded inside. During security check(before check-in), I was made to open my entire backpack as they had found the dagger I had purchased. I told them it was a souvenir and they let it pass. The immigration officer ever helped me put my stuff back in my bag as I was having trouble with it. And they say Russians are cold and distant!!! My Aeroflot flight was on time and I felt very sad while departing. But I am sure I’ll be back to explore Russia more!!!!

Thus ended my Russian adventure and what an adventure it was!!!!

#russia #solo #StPetersburg

3 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All