Welcome back to week three of our Baltic 6 series! If you’re new to Distinctivemode, Baltic 6 is a 6-part series that transports you to 6 Baltic destinations. Here you will find photographs, reviews and your very own tour guide! So far we have visited Norway and Poland. Today we are taking a trip to the height of the Baltics: St Petersburg!
Of all six destinations, Russia provided the most distinct experience. Having left Europe (or atleast the EU!) for a large, ex-communist city, I found my senses were bombarded with the unfamiliar. Despite not having visas, we were allowed to take a coach trip and walking excursion supervised by a tour guide and it was definitely an experience! Most buildings are square, the residential areas house cloned apartment blocks, the river is home to submarines, the highway something from a sci-fi movie and of course, the outskirts reveal what is left of the forest landscape.
I spent two days in St. Petersburg due to its enormous 1439 square kilometre radius. On the first day we visited the Peterhoff Palace and Gardens which is lavished in gold both inside and out. The gardens are home to an abundance of fountains (including trick-fountains) and from the palace you can look out towards the gulf of Finland. A lot architecture in St.Petersburg is of the architect Rastrelli. In fact I have always admired Rastrelli’s colourful work and it was amazing to visit such buildings whilst also taking a look at the interiors!
After a 40 minute bus ride, we found ourselves back in the city centre. We stopped off at a government controlled souvenir shop selling Putin memorabilia and Russian dolls (yes it really was comical), which also kept offering free vodka (everyone declined). I think our tour guide found it just as strange since she kept trying to make jokes about the KGB…
We then headed to the riverside and visited the Winter Palace and Hermitage Museum, both also works by Rastrelli. Again everything came with typical gold detailing and lots of colour. The winter palace (once home to the Russian monarchs) is now combined with a complex of buildings to make up the State Hermitage Museum, an enormous collection of artwork. We spent about 3 hours there yet still only saw a glimpse of what was there. They had works from Da Vinci, to Rembrandt, Dyke and hundreds of other Russian, French, Italian, German, British artists. You could spend days in The Hermitage – it is an artist’s daydream!
What’s unique about The Hermitage is that not only does it house such a large collection of art, but it’s all displayed amongst the restored palace interiors. You walk through living quarters and chapels admiring both the decor and the masterpieces. Unfortunately though, the Russians don’t seem to care as much about the preservation of the art. When I visited, it was raining and most of the windows were open. The works weren’t shielded from the light either – it’s a disappointment to think that these famous works will fade due to not being cared for as much as they should be.
Finally on day two, despite the pouring rain we took a walking tour through the city centre towards the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood. This church truly is magnificent. The orthodox built for the monarchy, is decorated with domes and lavished with mosaics inside. It’s built on the spot where Alexander II was murdered acting as a memorial, which led to the renaming from the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ to the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood.
Being able to walk around the church and surrounding area was so great! Again the architecture didn’t fail to disappoint. I was able to taste the culture and city life a lot more to. Streets were busy, roads clogged, and everything was extremely high-pace. If I’m honest, I didn’t really like the atmosphere. The Russians working in the museums were rather strict and unfriendly, and everywhere you go you are bombarded with other non-visa tourist groups and are constantly on the look out for pick pockets.
St. Petersburg was an unforgettable experience to say the least! I left educated about the previous monarchy, the uprising, and general modern russian lifestyle. Whilst I didn’t particularly enjoy the atmosphere and am unlikely to visit again, I am thankful to have been able to glimpse the world from a soviet perspective. Russia should certainly be on everybody’s bucket list!
Thank you for coming along with me this week! I wonder: where will next week’s edition take us?