Saturday, 20 October 2012

Exploring St Petersburg

 Our final destination on our trans-Mongolian trip was to St Petersburg. I was so happy to get there as I hadn't enjoyed Moscow and heard from a variety of sources how different, and more European it was. In fact I'd read it described as the 'Venice of the North' because of the many canals and rivers. I can now tick of; Venice, Italy, 'the Venice of the East' Suzhou and of the North, St Petersburg. Is there a 'Venice of the south'? It's nothing like Venice in reality but I really loved it there anyway! Our first day we had our last pre-arranged city tour, the weather was pretty good, very sunny but with a slight nip in the air. Our guide, Maria, was around the same age as us which made it easy to ask even the daftest of questions without feeling like a wally. We did a lot of walking that first day and were glad our last Russian accommodation was in a decent hotel (The Cronwell). Thankfully we decided to visit the Hermitage the following day as it was pouring with rain. For some unknown reason we didn't book a taxi from our hotel however and got pretty wet until we found a (stupidly expensive) cab take us there. I wandered around with wet feet the whole day. 
Our last day was one of the best of my whole trip. I plugged in my headphones, and although I had a rough plan to visit St Issac's Cathedral I was in no rush to get there and wandered back and forth along Nevsky Prospekt in the sunshine alone with my thoughts. 

On our walking tour in Moscow our guide had talked a little about Gorky and his literature. She'd told us about the weird story called 'The Nose' about a man whose nose removes itself from his face and goes about St Petersburg living it up at parties and the such. The man however, becomes a recluse, as he cannot go out without a nose. There was, she said, a model of the nose near Gorky's statue off Nevsky Prospekt. I had asked Maria about it, and she pointed out the road it was supposedly on, commenting that she'd never seen it. So on my day of wandering I decided to look for it. I walked up and down the street Maria had suggested and the two either side, but I simply couldn't find the nose. It's either too small to see with the naked eye, or it's not there anymore. I was pretty disappointed.

The last place we made a visit to in St Petersburg was the St Peter and St Paul Fortress. Having made out journey through Yekaterinburg and learnt the fate of the Romanov family, we wanted to see their final resting place. Inside the fortress was a prison where many high ranking political prisoners had been held. One thing that struck me was the size of the cells. Not that it's ever going to be a nice experience to be locked up, the cells were huge! Having taught in an English prison, I was surprised at how much space the prisoners there were allowed. 

Our last night in St Petersburg was the last time sleeping in a bed for two days as we embarked on two overnight train journeys, through Moscow and on to the Ukraine.

A nice day outside the Hermitage

The world's most parallel street, accredited by the Guinness World records.

The Singer Building. Now a bookshop and cafe.

Where you can get a lovely cup of tea and a good view of the street.

Kazan Cathedral, which Lenin ironically changed into a museum of Atheism during the Soviet Union.

Statue celebrating the victory over Napoleon. This is made of solid granite and so heavy it has no foundations holding it down.

The Winter Palace (Hermitage)

St Issacs

Peter the Great, commissioned by Catherine the Great.

Entry to Sts Peter and Paul Fortress
The Romanov's final resting place.
Sts Peter and Paul Cathedral, on a pretty dull and wet day.

The Church on spilled blood. Modelled on St Basil's in Moscow.

The View from St Issac's
St Issac's from the front

Looking from St Issac's towards the Winter Palace and Sts Peter and Paul Fortress.
Networking with some Russian socialites. ;-)

Where the nose should have been.
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