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Posts Tagged ‘Peterhof’

St. Petersburg, Part I

In Asia, Mystery Trip, Russia on October 8, 2012 at 5:37 pm


St. Petersburg is the most romantic, beautiful, and magnificent city I’ve ever been to.  Five days of constant walking and sightseeing was nowhere near enough time to take it all in.  The sights and sounds were overwhelming, all were amazing, and it became impossible to distinguish one great day from the next.  Fortunately my camera kept it in order and looking back at it with time to spare reminds me again of how magical it was.


In Mystery Trip, Russia on October 5, 2012 at 12:19 am

I’m going to call it – St. Petersburg is the most romantic city I’ve ever been to.  More so than Paris because it’s autumn and that automatically makes it much more intriguing, more than New York because it’s relaxed and lends itself to couples holding hands and strolling down even the busiest streets.  The palaces are gorgeous and the river is magical at night.  Two evenings ago we went to hang out at the cafes on 7th Line on Vasilievsky Island.  Instead of taking the metro back we decided to walk as the evening was warm and clear, and all the buildings lit up on the other side of the river made the city look like a fairy land.  Late night fishermen were casting their lines under a waning moon, the bridges were lit up with sparkling lights in honour of the home team’s football victory, and everywhere people were out enjoying the night.

St. Petersburg is worth the visit and one should definitely stay longer than 5 days, if only to have more time to soak it all in without destroying your feet in the process.  We had to walk though, we did not want to miss a thing and the whole city is so beautiful you could blink and miss something impressive.  Of all the things we’ve done and seen, so far I think the gardens at Tsarske Selo were the most magnificent.  The turning leaves made the grounds even more impressive than they already are, and the human artistry mingled with nature’s beauty combined to make every picture frameable.  I know people go to the Hermitage to see the art and the Jordan Staircase, but for me the most wonderful part was the ceilings.  If you go, don’t forget to look up because they are artwork in themselves.  And of course the fountains at Peterhof are even better in person – pictures do not do justice to the beauty of the sculptures framed by shooting water.

Both Doris and I agree that the people in St. Petersburg are prettier than those in Moscow, although in general the Russian face is stern and serious.  She figures smiles don’t come free here, even at McDonald’s.  Having said that, all over people have been generous helping us out whenever we look lost, and when they do smile they are beautiful.

Our flight leaves tomorrow morning at 6am which means we’ll have to be at the airport in the middle of the night.  In honour of this last blast we’ve decided to go without sleep and have booked ourselves a final fanfare.  Swan Lake at the Hermitage Theatre, late night dinner at a fancy restaurant, all followed by a midnight stroll to watch the bridges rise between the city and the islands at 1am.  Then we’ll catch a cab to the airport for a 6 hour layover in Frankfurt.  Fortunately I have friends there who are picking us up to take us home for hot showers and breakfast.  After that it’s one long flight back to Vancouver, my own bed and bathroom and laundry.  It’s only been three weeks but it feels like one blissful lifetime.  This definitely is the life.

Last Stop

In Mystery Trip, Russia on October 2, 2012 at 6:21 am

We are finally sitting still for more than 1 hour so I’ve decided to do a more detailed update than the last few miniscule posts.  The trip has been crazy busy since Doris and I met up less than two weeks ago.  We enjoyed Mongolia and Siberia was lovely.  There was a fresh powdering of snow up in the hills as we went to Lake Baikal and the crisp autumn air threw everything into sharp relief.  We flew out of Siberia after a quick 3 days and landed in Moscow and warmer weather.  Our hostel was two metro lines away from Red Square so when we left it in the morning we did not return until later in the evening.  No chance for old lady naps or just kicking back, but when you’re on a whirlwind tour of Russia what can you do.

Moscow was amazing as everyone said it would be.  Fast-paced and frenetic, huge and sprawling, beautiful and weighted in history.  We were fortunate enough to have landed during the annual City of Light spectacle and so spent a few evenings watching the light shows and all the people enjoying them.  During the days we saw as many cathedrals as possible, and as mentally predicted it only took about four of them before we figured we’d seen them all.  Our last day there it started raining and as we were without umbrellas we took to the cafe culture in the Kitay-Gorod neighbourhood and enjoyed too many pastries while waiting for the rain to let up.  Finally, the rain won so we were forced underground, but all was not lost as the Moscow metro stops are works of art.  We spent most of the afternoon hopping from station to station taking pictures and being in awe of how beautiful they all were.  Eventually we headed to our train station for our final transit on the Moscow-St. Petersburg Express night train.  All good things must come to an end and so instead of landing with wonderful cabin mates this time, we were saddled with an uptight blond (I’m guessing she’s a librarian) and a macho Russian male.  I did not know that one could consume so much garlic that it would be toxic but such was his odour.  The journey, however, passed without event and we arrived in St. Petersburg at 8am.

You don’t know how crazy and busy Moscow is until you land here where it is comparatively quiet and far more serene.  It is very easy to understand why people rave about it.  Fortunately this time our hostel is only 3 minutes from the Hermitage and so we can come and go and take old lady naps if necessary.  Last night we went to a Russian cultural show at the former palace of the Grand Duke Nikolay Romanov and enjoyed champagne and caviar during the intermission.  Afterwards we found a shi-shi restaurant in the same neighbourhood and dined on steak and salmon.  It’s easy to forget that when the guide books say it’s pricey here they are generally speaking to the backpacking demographic.  Our dinner was about the same as eating out back home, and I’d have to say it was possibly better in comparison.

We headed to Peterhof today and once again needed to remind ourselves we are working professionals now and do not have to take the metro to save coins.  Instead we took the hassle-free hovercraft, or flying ship as they call it, and saved about 2 hours of transit time.  The palace was beautiful, and even more amazing once you consider the restoration job it had to undergo in order to get it back to its former splendor.  I’m not keen on all the gold, I do not understand why the uber rich require that much gaudiness in their surroundings (Donald Trump).  They also had to be immune to the misery of building it all on the backs of slaves and exploitation.  It’s magnificent to look at but I think it’s important to remember how it all came to be.

Tonight we’ll go find an ethnic restaurant and hopefully consume some borsch(t) and other Russian favourites.  We could go out clubbing afterwards, our hostel has flyers for the “Barack Obama Bar”.  Not that I want to go, but it says something about the American leader when the Russians name a bar after him.  Can you imagine a “Stephen Harper Bar”?  Or big, bronze statues of him riding a horse, saluting the air, all throughout the cities?  Please, leave comments if you feel you could describe such an apocalyptic world.