Lovely weekend in Saint Petersburg

Trip Start Mar 02, 2010
Trip End Oct 29, 2011

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Flag of Russia  , North-West Russia,
Friday, August 26, 2011

We arrived in Saint Petersburg after our last Russian train, overnight from Moscow. We traveled 3rd class, called 'platskartny', and it wasn't too bad if you don't mind sleeping in a coffin-sized box. It was actually fine for one night but we wouldn't have wanted to do it for a longer trip.

We couchsurfed again in SP with a great girl named Olga. I can't stress enough how awesome couchsurfing is. She was so welcoming to us - she had a huge smile on her face and said, "I'm so happy you're here!", while offering us tea and then cooking us dinner. We also spent a lot of time with her friends, which was great. All were super nice and welcoming.

Saint Petersburg as a city is really beautiful. Although we haven't actually been to Europe yet we thought it felt a lot more European than Moscow. It makes sense, I guess, since it's much closer to Europe than Moscow and the rest of Russia. We also felt more welcome in general in Saint Petersburg. Although Moscow had its fair share of tourists, SP definitely had more, and there was just a more multicultural air about it.

One of the highlights of SP is the State Hermitage, which is a museum housed in the former palace and founded by Catherine the Great. It is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world (250 years). Leading up to WWII hundreds of museum staff and volunteers spent weeks packing up all the paintings and artifacts, which were then shipped by train to Siberia for the duration of the war. They then sheltered in the basemen during the Siege of Leningrad. Ever since then, anyone involved in that operation has lifetime free entry to the museum. Pretty interesting. The Winter Palace is the largest and most recognizable part of the Hermitage, striking in blue and gold.

 Another beautiful building, and I thought even more beautiful than St. Basil's, is the Church of Christ the Saviour on Spilled Blood. Quite a mouthful, and there isn't a shortened version that I know of. It was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881, hence the title 'spilled blood'. 

A highlight for me was seeing Swan Lake at the Mikhailovsky Theatre, which was actually around when the ballet was composed by Saint Petersburg's own Tchaikovksy. Pretty cool! The production wasn't actually successful until it was reworked after Tchaikovsky's death (thanks Wikipedia). Anyways, we got the last two tickets in the theatre and they weren't even bad seats. We could see the orchestra pit as well as the stage, which I enjoyed. Nick even appreciated it, which was nice.

We had a very enjoyable weekend in Saint Petersburg, and were apparently lucky to have beautiful weather and no rain.

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