St Pete's - it's all a festive blur

Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
Trip End Nov 30, 2009

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Flag of Russia  , Sankt-Peterburg,
Saturday, January 7, 2006

Sheesh. One whole entry dedicated to The Hermitage. Well, I know there's a few of you out there (like my mum :) who would think that's fair enough - it's an awesome collection of extraordinary art and artefacts, probably the biggest on Earth and thus deserving of its own entry. No complaints awright?

Anyway, there's plenty else to see in St Pete's, even if you only have six hours of light per day (and you just used four indoors). Our next stop was St Isaac's cathedral, a monumental church with the largest red marble columns I've seen in my short but sweet existence. All carved out of single pieces of rock by the way. And these weren't only on the ground floor, the colonnade up the top there has almost as massive columns, 30 or 40 metres above ground! I wouldn't have liked to be a hapless serf with these tsars around...

Apparently inside is a bit gaudy so we climbed up to the colonnade viewing platform more than 300 stairs up, to be met by quite a view indeed. Unfortunately the powers that be in their infinite wisdom insist on blasting the platform with spotlights from every angle, saturating the area in white light that bores through your retina and camera lens with mind-numbing intensity. Excuse me while I kiss the sky. Still, landmarks are faintly visible through the aura and pictures were possible with my less than special touch, which left me satisfied in the end.

Onwards and southwestwards we quickly hit Senate Square, where a dashing bronze statue of Peter the Great on horseback adorns an lump of strangely carved rock. Those wacky Decemberists, the guys eventually exiled to Irkutsk and hence mentioned in an earlier entry, met here to demand a bit of justice in the form of an unsuccessful coup d' etat. Oops. Poet Pushkin also featured it in one of his poems.

Despite the statue's infamy more interesting was the neighbouring Church of the Spilt Blood - a catchy name indeed which was inspired by the spilt blood of a very popular tsar brutally 'done in' on the site. On a par with St Basil's in its extravgant decoration, it's definitely worth a visit.

And when I thought I couldn't stand any more, we returned to the hostel to find a bunch of rowdy but friendly Moscovite recruiters partying in an adjoining room. They shared some vodka and beer, we shared some vodka and wine and before I knew it, we were out on the town to find some fun. That eventually meant Cafe Magrib, a great little dance club with a fantastic DJ that didn't miss a beat, so I ended up having an well deserved big night out with some very cool guys. Thanks Natalia, George and the rest of the gang for letting me tag along!

Next day was difficult as you might imagine. Fortunately Leigh and Amanda had organised to go to the ballet and see the Nutcracker Suite so I had the morning off to nurse a surprisingly mild hangover and see off new friends who were heading back to Moscow. It wasn't til late afternoon that we got out sightseeing, with the Peter-Paul fortress in our sights. Again it was a case of people in this neck of the woods building immensely tall structures, so much so that the Germans used the spire of the fortress as a sighting target during the seige of Leningrad (as St Petersburg was named back then). Still, it's an attractive building glowing gold in the gloaming.

We couldn't get in to the museum, something about too many rug-rats (children) hanging about yet again, so off we went to Kazan Cathedral because it just happened to be Russian Orthodox Christmas Eve that very day. The cathedral itself (modelled on St Peter's in Rome) loomed large with its imposing columns of shiny grey marble and towering statues, but the sombre atmosphere held an air of quiet festivity in the milling crowds. Pretty holy stuff in progress no doubt.

We arrived early in proceedings, around 6pm which happened to be the start of the main event. Some chanting, smoke waving, icon kissing and general praying ensued. Despite being outsiders we weren't troubled and felt a soothing peacefulness as things progressed around us. We were treated to a glimpse behind heavy gilt doors that only open once a year - today. After checking these sights out, plus a variety of paintings and relics, we thought it best to move on and leave things to the professionals. Still, it was pleasing way to conclude the tour and end another busy day.

Leigh and Amanda were packed on a train that night to Poland. Thanks guys for your company across China, Mongolia and Russia and I hope you have a wonderful time during the next three months as you wind your way to the UK. You've done the hard work now on this your maiden journey, so keep trekkin!

I ended up staying an extra day in St Petersburg, giving me a chance to wander the streets and catch up with Pushkin (the statue), Putin (the doll) and a bunch of chocolate in the Chocolate museum that I'm sure all female readers will be requesting more information about. In all, this is one very classy place that I will look forward to returning to, preferably in summer when it will really shine.

Next entry -> maybe a summary of Russia, maybe straight to Estonia

Freak of the Week

I haven't featured a freak for a while because I haven't met anyone cool enough to qualify, which may say something about the company I keep or just that I haven't had the chance to get to know anyone due to speed of travels. Anyway Mitra, aka Dimitri, our city guide for Moscow qualifies for this rare honour, so trust me mate and don't take it as an insult!

Dimitri is an extremely well-travelled Muscovite of 22 who speaks great English, some European languages (no doubt) and a year's worth of Japanese just to top it off. He's a journalism student and part time army lieutenant who's very knowledgeable in Russian history and general knowledge about his city. Couple this with his energetic delivery, patience and interest in learning some of the finer points of Australian slang and you've got a first rate city guide who will take you to all the hippest joints if you could only keep up. No wonder the ladies love him.

Cheers for a great insight into your city mate - 'avagoodone boarding France next week!
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lera on

post from StPete
Thank for this great blog about StPete...I live here more then 10 years and i love this town, and not only it's gorgeous part...

Actually i'm starting to plan my trip right now, which will be (i hope) next year...i'm going to visit Australia, and i hope i will catch ur country's mood as u did...=)

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