As a finale to their enforced extension to their visit to Moscow due to the volcanic ash cloud over most of Europe we decided to go to St Petersburg, Lou took the Friday off work so we would be able to leave on Friday Morning and come back on Sunday. ?the only problem was the visa extension I had arranged for the in-laws wasn’t ready until Thursday evening. When I had their passports in hand I booked the train tickets through an agent (Real Russia), leaving early on Friday morning on the fast train, and returning the same way on Sunday morning. I got an email through from them and Lou got a call saying the train company had actually ran out of tickets for the journey there, so I checked flights. the journey there was fine, but coming back the only convenient flight that got them back in time for their flight back to the UK only landed 2 1/2 hrs before their flight was due to leave from the same airport, understandably they were wary about delays to the return flight from St Petersburg causing them to miss their flight home. So we decided to fly there and get the existing train booking back.
The metro and train to the Domodedovo airport was fine and we arrived fine in St Petersburg where it was colder than Moscow, but similarly dull and drizzly. We went out for a bit of exploration, from the Radisson Hotel that we were staying in down Nevskiy Prospect, pointing out some of the more famous buildings until we go to the Kazan Cathedral which was fantastic inside and out, it appeared to be a church that held services and the first one I have been in that insisted on the ladies covering their heads as is custom in the Orthodox Church. Inside you were not allowed to take photographs, but outside there were some fantastic sets of columns that looked amazing and forming a semi circle with a roof on top of them.
From here we walked down to the Church of our Saviour on Spilled Blood who’s external shape is reminiscent of St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow except this Church is much newer being completed little over a hundred years ago and is covered inside and out in made mosaics. After walking around here we took them into the Souvenir Market opposite, we bought a few things, amongst them a Lubitel 166 Universal TLR camera for me.
After this we went into a bar that was a theme bar about Spies called ‘The Travelling Bag for a Pregnant Spy’ which was pretty interesting and with the serving ladies wearing almost non existent shorts and these odd scupltures of bodies built into the walls to the extent that Lou’s mum thought one had a face that looked like Lou’s Uncle Alan.
The next day we walked down towards St Isaac’s Cathedral and had breakfast near to it at a cafe then proceeded to the cathedral and paid to go up to the Colonnade which is the outside viewpoint all the way around its dome. You walk up to the dome via and old stone spiral staircase, followed by a section of metal spiral staircase, and finally a set of metal steps. When we got up there the view was amazing as the weather was much clearer that morning, after a lot of walking around up there and taking of lots of photos (And video in John’s case) we descended, on the way down, at the base of the metal spiral staircase I paused for a couple of cool long exposure shots looking directly up, I really like both shots.
From here we walked along the front past the Admiralty, showed them the Palace Square and went for a coffee, from here the in-laws went off to look at a military museum, Peter and Paul fortress, and the Aurora (the boat that signalled the start of the 1918 revolution). After going to book a restaurant for the evening by walking into it, Lou and I decided on a boat trip, that started in front of the Admiralty, down the river then weaved in and out of several of the city’s canals before returning an hour later. After this we wondered up Nevskiy Prospect, and Lou decided she needed the toilet, we wondered into a building that looked old, but a sign outside assured us there was a bar/cafe inside. Inside the building was old, and beautiful with huge yellow stone marble-like columns, on the ground floor there were many travel company booths so we doubled back and went up the stairs, found the sign for the cafe/bar and went in. It was fairly open just on a mezzanine from the ground floor, and we discovered it was the holy grail of bars in Russia so far, beer for the equivalent of about 1 British pound per pint (50 Rubles), and the beer was lovely. After a couple of these we headed back to the hotel.
That evening we went to Stroganoff Steak House which had heard great things about, Lou of course had fish, but the steaks, well they brought the full selection available from their menu out, raw on a huge platter so you could see the quality of the cuts and so the waiter could explain them. All of the food we ate was delicious, and to go with this the others had wine, but had the house beer that they brew themselves, I got a 2 litre flagon, it came out as huge bottle with a big metal handle and a big Grolsch like stopper for it.
After the taxi home to the hotel we crashed for the night, I didn’t get too much sleep as we were getting up again at 5 so we could be ready and get to the train station in plenty of time for the fast train back to Moscow. On the way back I definitely saw lots of communities made up of Dachas, and fair amount of snow still which surprised me. But for the most part the journey was so smooth I just slept for the majority of it.
Here are the photos from our trip to St Petersburg, click for the larger sized photo.