From Russia with Love
Trip Start Apr 14, 2009
22Trip End Aug 06, 2009
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First a note regarding the food on our Austrian Airlines flight to St. Petersburg...top notch!
Arrived in "Pete" at 3pm and our first experience of Russia was just how we imagined it - scary. Passport control was ruthless! For a moment there we thought we'd be trapped in the arrival gate, but all clear. For the second time in a week we were collected by a person we'd never met, Tatiana, who organised our visas. Glad she actually existed and wasn't just a big con! She drove us (again, recklessly) to our B&B down town and met Natalia who looked after us brilliantly over 3 days.
Pete is like Melbourne. When we arrived we had beautiful weather and were told the last few days had been like summer
Had a short walk, lost our map, returned to hostel and ventured out again to join in Russian Victory Day celebrations. And wow. You have never seen a party like it. It's hard to describe. On ANZAC Day and Rememberance Day Australians remember war by remembering sacrifices and humbly relearning the tragic cost. Victory Day in St. Petersburg is like 200,000 Collingwood fans after winning (hopefully never) a grand final. They did defeat the Nazis after all. The streets were FULL of people charging with flags and chants, heading in the direction of the deathly sounding fireworks. We braved a position in front of Hermitage with the fireworks right behind, hearing the chilling war cries "ORRRRRRAAAAAHH!!!" everytime something exploded. It was a lesson to us how different the values of this country are and a reminder that they're still a powerful unit. Struggled our way home through the chanting drunks and safely got home.
Through our walking we caught a glimpse, then a stare, and a few more minutes staring at the Church of the Saviour on the Spilled Blood. What an amazing work of art this building is. Didn't fork out the cash to go inside but this building has to be seen
Natalia served a great local breakfast where we tried syrniki (cottage cheese type pikelets had with jam & sour cream). Trekked up town to the Hermitage museum which houses room upon room of medieval art from all over the world - Egypt to Netherlands and of course Russia. Was a labyrinth of sorts which took us a while to exit, but a great look. On top of the 2 hour wait to enter, we'd had a pretty long day by this stage!
After a quick walk past St. Isaacs church, had a rest and set out for an evening at the ballet. Dinner of Kiev & Stroganoff, then to the gourgeous & intimate Michailovsky Theatre to see Sleeping Beauty. Sat front row of the dress circle really close to the stage. We had a wonderful time with Alicia wishing she was a ballerina again. On the way home threw some coins at a cat for good luck, and just as the sun set at 11:30pm we returned home.
Natalia's breakfast today had a lettuce salad with shredded bacon, great cake and scrambled eggs. So nice to have a big homecooked meal to start the day! Packed our room and checked out Yusupov Palace. Cost a bit to enter but the 28 or so rooms were so beautiful and again a bit 'grand' for any modest person to live in. Bought a classic Russian babushka doll, walked across the huge Nevy River to the Peter & Paul fortress, and just missed escaping the rain by a few minutes. Couldn't resist another walk past Spilled Blood Church.
Rested until our taxi arrived to take us to the Grand Express - 9 hour overnight train to Moscow. Each got about 5 hours sleep preparing for tomorrow night's extravaganza...Eurovision Song Contest!!!
Details to follow....