St. Petersburg the Great!

Trip Start Sep 08, 2011
Trip End Dec 18, 2011

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Flag of Russia  , North-West Russia,
Wednesday, September 14, 2011

In St. Petersburg we stayed at the very conveniently located Hostel Marmalade. The hostel is located only a block from the Winter Palace and just around the corner from the (apparently!) most famous street in Russia - Nevsky Prospect. This street is the main shopping strip with loads of cafes, bars and restaurants. Our first morning was spent bar-hopping (some may say sadly!) in search of a big TV and a barman willing to change channels for us in order to watch the Italian GP later that day. We then headed out on foot to explore the city. First up was the spectacular 'Our Saviour of the Spilled Blood' church (see pics). We then wandered through a nearby market before crossing the Neva river to the fortress of St. Peter and Paul. We decided to leave our exploration of the fortress until the following day, and crossed back into the main part of town near the Winter Palace and Palace Square. The Winter Palace and surrounds are quite beautiful. I (Lisa) had always imagined the palace covered in snow - it was not to be on a warm summer's day in St. Petersburg!

One thing we immediately noticed was how expensive everything was, so that evening, in an effort to stick to our budget, we hunted for a cheap place for dinner. We found this great little canteen serving cheap, simple, tasty russian food in a basement on Nevsky Prospect. It was packed with locals and had friendly staff (we were soon to learn that this was somewhat of a rarity in big Russian cities!).

On our second day Dean got up early for a run along the banks of the Neva, while I, having battled ravenous mosquitoes for much of the night, caught up on some sleep. We then headed off to St Isaac's Cathedral which provided a great view over the city (as well as being a lovely cathedral), and the nearby 'Blue' bridge, which claims to be the widest bridge in the world at 97.3 metres. In the afternoon we returned to the fortress (and cathedral) of St. Peter and Paul. The cathedral is the resting place of many members of the Romanov family including the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II.  

My mosquito net, which I hadn't intended to use until we reached south-east Asia, gave me the long peaceful night of sleep required for visiting one of the world's largest art collections at the Hermitage Museum. The museum is located in the Winter Palace and surrounding buildings, and houses over 3 million pieces of art. The main section open to the public takes the best part of a day to explore. Both the buildings and the collection are hugely impressive and our visit was definitely one of the highlights of our time in St. Petersburg.

On our final day we visited Peterhof Palace, which is located on the Gulf of Finland about 30km west of St. Petersburg. The palace was designed by Peter the Great in the early 1700s as a sort of country retreat. The grounds are enormous, covering about 1500 acres in total, with about 300 acres open to the public. The grounds are known for the large number of themed fountains, including the Great Cascade, Whale and Checkerboard fountains.

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