Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Week in Russia - St. Petersburg

*This is a continuous post from my first post on my Russia trip. Click here if you've missed the previous post.  

After about four days in Moscow, we took a night train and arrived in the rainy St. Petersburg very early in the morning. According to our tour guide, the city only has 60 sunny days per year and guess what? Well we were lucky enough to experience one of the 60 days there! Just that one day! Ha!
St. Petersburg train station in the rain.
Our trip in St. Petersburg was relatively short and very rush as compared to what we had in Moscow and this is one fact that I really hate because St. Petersburg simply blew my mind away! Having zero idea on what to expect from the city, I actually arrived in a city that pretty much reminds me of Venice or Amsterdam because there are rivers across the city and compare to Moscow, their architecture aren't so stubbornly Russian. Again, according to our tour guide, Peter the Great, the guy who first founded the city is a fan of foreign cultures so when he started building the city up, he invited architects from Europe to design the city. Hence some people could even feel like they are in Paris when they walk on the streets of St. Petersburg. To me personally some of the streets actually feels like New York city and I guess that is why I love the city so much because hey I love New York! :)
At the river banks you see stuff like Egyptians or even Chinese sculpture as they were presents  from the mentioned countries!
The city feels really romantic!!! 
Seriously, didn't these remind you of New York???
And plus, apart from cathedrals, the city is actually more well known for its gorgeous palaces as a lot of Russian historical and political events happened in the city of St. Petersburg.  Understandably, there are so many palaces, monuments, museums and art galleries to visit and honestly three days was far from enough to explore the whole city!!!
Anyway, I've chosen some must go places where I've been to to share with you guys...

St. Isaac Cathedral
From the outside, the St. Isaac Cathedral doesn't look as pretty as St. Basil but the size of the cathedral was enough to impressed me. It was so huge that it is impossible for you to miss it even when you go past it in the nearby street. The cathedral is the world's fourth tallest domed cathedral in the world! We didn't go into the cathedral but from books I saw the interior of the cathedral is also freaking cool! Arh... How I wish I have time to visit the cathedral!!! 
Obviously they were doing some revitilising work at one of the domes at the super impressive cathedral...

Smolny Convent
I don't know is it true or is it just me, cathedrals in St. Petersburg actually look more attractive than the ones in Moscow. Smolny Convent was absolutely breath-taking! In front of the beautiful blue sky, the pastel blue and white church with white and gold domes looks super beautiful to me! Too bad it is not open to the public as the church  is now partially a concert hall, government offices and a university's faculty office.
Super beautiful and cute-looking Smolny Convent!

Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood
Looking quite similar to St. Basil Cathedral, the church's architecture from the outside looks a bit more more detailed and complex. And to be honest, the view around the church is much better as it is built by the river. I must say our tour guide was very passionate and proud of her country's history as the way she told stories to us made me damn interested with the history of the city. The Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood for instance, was built by the son of Alexander II in memory of his father who died at the same spot where the church is built. 
Traffic jam forced us to arrive at the cathedral in the evening... :(

Peterhof Palace (The Summer Palace)
Some say you cannot consider yourself been to St. Petersburg if you didn't visit the very famous and super huge Peterhof Palace. It took us about one-hour bus ride to reach Peterhof and to visit the palace which is now partially under some revitalisaiton work. One thing I like about the Russians is that they are very proud of their historical places and maintenance works is quite often seen in these tourist spots. The palace also include a huge park and a bloody grand-looking fountain.
The entrance to the palace, with the cathedral as part of the complex. 
Super nice view of the fountain and the river leading to Ireland or something... 
The Summer Palace from the outside.
Unfortunately the very famous fountain was closed because of the cold weather and we are not allowed to snap photos in the beautiful palace which was built by Peter the Great. The palace has had a lot of important incidents happened so when we were in there I can truly feel the aura of how Catherine the Great snatched the throne in that one particular room we visited. 
Due to time constrain, we didn't finish touring the entire palace. :(

The State Hermitage Museum (The Winter Palace)
Hello~ I've made it to the State Hermitage!!! 
The palace-turned- museum State Hermitage Museum complex is crazily huge! We of course only had about three hours and could only chose some particular sections to visit but I have a feeling even one whole day isn't enough to finish the entire museum. 
Baroque, Rococo, Gothic, Eclectic... You name it, one palace with so many different styles of design!!! 
One of the oldest and largest museums in the world, the museum housed not only antiques in the rooms of the palace which are generally design with the Baroque style, Rococo style, Eclectic style (which is also my favourite) and even Asian style, but also over millions of arts in the form of paintings or sculptures. Our tour guide said if you stay in front of one painting for three minutes, it will take you six years to see all the art works in the museum! Phew~! Best of all, most of these antiques and artworks are from decades ago as part of the collection of Catherine the Great! Amazing, isn't it?
A wall of fame for those who were in the war. Notice some that are empty? That's because the person died before the painter could paint his portrait! 
Guess what? This is a freaking CLOCK! It was a gift from an admirer of Catherine the Great! 
One of the two artwork by the famous Leonardo Da Vinci can be found at the State Hermitage. 
One of the paintings that I really like in the museum. 
I can't help screaming WOW~WOW~WOW~ in the palace because man, those materials they used in their architecture looks just damn expensive I feel like I'm a queen walking in the palace that I wish I own! LOL! As a tourist, this is surely a must go place in St. Petersburg, but you better make sure you have whole load of time if you really want to see the whole thing! 

The Monument of Catherine the Great
After days of listening to the history of St. Petersburg, it is impossible to forget the one powerful woman who has not only showed the world what a woman can do, but also a woman who was so capable in managing the country -- Catherine the Great. I truly admire her! While there were some paintings of her portraits in the palaces we've visited, I was more excited to snap a picture with her monument built by the Nevsky Prospect, the main street of the city.
So the grand... 
Catherine the Great looks amazing!

Kupetz Eliseeves Food Hall, Eliseyev Emporium at Nevsky Prospect
The iconic corner shop at Nevsky Prospect.
A very old corner shop at the Nevsky Prospect, the Eliseyev Emporium houses Kupetz Eliseeves Food Hall, a very famous hi-end grocery store in St. Petersbug. Apparently, the shop has only opened few months before we visited the place! Forget about Jaya Grocer or Cold Storage, this place is one-of-a-kind! Super tall ceiling with damn fancy and classy interior, the shop sells meat, candies, cakes and even has a small area for you to enjoy hi-tea! Of course according to the tour guide, stuff here are super expensive too! But if you are a fan of bakery or interesting cafes, you might not want to miss this one! :)
A grocery store... I'm not kidding!

The Food...
Fortunately, unlike in Moscow, we got to try different food in St. Petersburg, which is also probably why I love St. Petersburg more than Moscow. :p
Our first meal, which is an arranged breakfast at a restaurant situated opposite the train station already made me feel so happy because the restaurant looks so cool and the food was so freaking nice! :)
So homey and warm!!! 
Can I have this for breakfast everyday??? Can I???
The baked beans was for some unknown reasons, super yummy!!! 
And then we went to this Uzbekistan restaurant for halal food and we were served LAMB after so many days! No more fish!!! Yee~Haaa~~~!!! The lamb soup was super awesome with a mixture of some herbs and chunk of lamb! And the whatever-you-call-it lamb dumpling was very interesting too! 
FYI, restaurant is spelled as 'pectopah' in Russia. 
Lamb Soup! *turn around in circle~~~*
Lamb dumplings or something. 
One of my students wearing the tea pot warmer on his head! Ha! 

Our very last meal in St. Petersburg was a freestyle one so out of curiosity we went into this fast food chain named Pepemok (note: pronunciation in Russian is surely different) and ordered the Russian traditional pancake with PORK!!! Ahhh... Such a joy to have some pork finally! Ha! :p I don't find the pancake super nice though but it is indeed pretty interesting as you don't get this type of pancake in Malaysia!
Oh hai! I know you, Miss English! 
Clam chowder and pork pancake, my perfect lunch! :)
This chip-alike stuff was so awesome when you have it to go with the soup! 

The Shopping
Well, Russia isn't such a shopping haven if you talk about buying clothes and stuff. But I did spend about RM500 plus only buying books on Moscow and St. Petersburg, souvenirs and some food items such as chocolate and coffee. Russian dark chocolate is a must buy anyway! :p
Army hats for myself and Deardo! Cool, right? And it was only RM20 each! 
LOADS of souvenirs!!! 
Super cute Russian dolls!!!
Bacon and pork sausage flavoured chips, chocolate and coffee! 
Mind you, these are not all the stuff I bought! I got more stuff on the last day before boarding our flight. :p

Travelling in Russia is in general quite expensive, especially when it comes to F&B. One grande size Latte at their Starbucks for instance is RM23! Imagine that! Souvenirs are quite expensive too but there are cheaper ones when you go to those small stalls you find on the street. But I bet there are difference too in terms of quality. I was there during autumn and it was already quite cold, with the lowest temperature going as low as -5. But Russia as you may already know can be much colder than that when it is winter and when it starts snowing. To me, if you don't mind missing the Peterhof fountain, autumn is just the right time to visit them because there aren't so many tourists and at the same time you get to feel the chill the country can offer without freezing to death! LOL! Because the Russians in generally don't speak English (yes and that's including the front office person in the hotels who are not very friendly, by the way) and their signboards are also all in Russian, I am not sure how you can make it on your own over there. Since I'm so crazily in love with St. Petersburg and I really like our tour guide, Irene, I've taken her namecard so if you are visiting St. Petersburg I have already a tour guide for you! :) 
You know what, I now have a dream to go back to St. Petersburg one day to explore what I didn't get to see! Wanna join? 

Click here for more photos of my trip in St. Petersburg! 


Hayley said...

The Russian dolls is a must buy huh?

I think I am going to like the place, everything is so beautiful there~

ShiRLeXia said...

Yea and Russian eggs but they are super expensive!!! :S

Seriously, if you like cold weather and love seeing cool architecture, St. Petersburg is a must go!!! :)