The Train Ride Part 5 – Moscow to St Petersburg

St Petersburg…what can I say? It quickly became one of my favourite places in the world. It had a very different feeling to the drabness and darkness of Moscow. This was an upbeat, cultural and enjoyable place to visit.

Day 1 started with an early arrival into the hotel after an overnight train trip from Moscow. After settling in, we went for a quick walk down Nevsky Prospecte, one of the famous streets of St Petersburg. The street is a UNESCO protected landmark as the whole avenue is a perfectly preserved World War 1 monument, with no buildings lost during either world wars.

Along the way, we saw the statue of Catherine the Great outside the Pushkin Theatre; and the Kazan Cathedral, named after the “miracle-making” icon of Our Lady of Kazan.

Also sighted were the “Chocolate Shop” and a large sign that reminded me just a little of my home town. And a canal.

We finished the walk with a first view of the Hermitage and surrounds. Unfortunately, it was closed by this stage but I vowed to return the next day. The culture of St Petersburg led me to believe that the Hermitage would be the ultimate.

But before that, I must enjoy the pleasures of a Russian pub. After joining a like-minded tourist from Norway, I spent a lovely evening and saw snow fall for the very first time. I also had my first snow fight. This was one of the best nights of my life, and whilst there are no photos to remind me, it is still very very clear in my head! Another reason to like St Petersburg, as if there weren’t enough!

The following day, after a bit of a sleep-in, I met up with the Norwegian and we headed off to the Hermitage. And it was a city all of it’s own. It took us all afternoon just to “browse” the exhibits with an electronic tour guide. Here’s just a spattering of the exhibits.

A quick stopover at St Isaac’s Cathedral (below) as amazing inside as it is on the outside. A 19th century building, it was known as Russia’s principal cathedral.

The following day was sunny and there was snow on the ground. I headed to the Peter and Paul Fortress, the first structure to be built in Peter the Great’s newly founded city of Saint Petersburg in 1703. Located on one of the city’s 42 islands, the fortress has six bastions named after some of the prominent individuals who supervised their construction, including one dedicated to Tzar Peter himself. Though ideally positioned to sustain an enemy attack, the fortress was never actually involved in any fighting. It was, however, used to house the city garrison and a section of the complex was soon converted into a high security political prison. Peter the Great’s rebellious son Alexei was its first inmate.

Construction on the Peter and Paul Cathedral (below) began in 1712 and was completed in 1733. For a long time the Cathedral was the city’s main church and until 1917 it was the burial and resting place of the Russian tzars. The Cathedral is dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, the patron saints of the fortress.

Inside the church, was just as stunning. Seen below is the main hall as well as the final resting place of Catherine the Great.

After a great day, I eased myself out of Russia by attending Romeo and Juliet at the Mariinsky Theatre. Lucky as they are now building Mariinsky Theatre II. It was absolutely stunning and enthralled me from start to finish. These dancers were just amazing – highly highly skilled.

And now, unfortunately, I must say goodbye to Russia. A highly enjoyable trip and one that I hope is not the last time I find myself in the largest country of the world. To the Russians – your country is amazing. It is beautiful, diverse and full of interesting people. See you next time!