Really? We arrived in St. Petersburg after a 3 1/2 hour train ride from Helsinki, stepped off the train and immediately started stripping off layers. It’s 74 degrees when it should be in the 50s and fall. But hey, we don’t mind at all.
What a beautiful day to step into Russia…from where Marsha’s and my roots grew. St. Petersburg is a huge surprise, literally huge, since everything is enormous. Palace after palace after palace, one larger and more ornate than the next. Also water; it’s everywhere. The Neva river runs right through the city and There are over 40 islands in the city with more than 200 bridges and 20 canals.
Our first photo stop is across the Neva from the Hermitage that runs four palaces wide with a fifth holding the impressionists behind
The city is relatively new, early 1700s, built on swamp and wetlands. It had to be planned all at once.
These were once light houses (there’s another one behind) in this symmetrical commercial area.
It was actually Swedish land in the 1600s and became the Russian capital in 1719. We were on the largest islands. The canals used to drain the swampy land.
Second stop was St. Isaacs Cathedral. Lots of European architecture in St. Petersburg.
This memorial is very unique with its horse balanced on two legs. Almost all others have three legs touching.
This very beautiful ex-palace (not parrot) is now an exclusive apartment building. There are lots of them down every block and around every corner.
Catherine the Great memorial in Catherine the Great park. She’s also the true patron saint of the arts, sparking St. Petersburg’s aesthetic renaissance.
Every store on the main drag has its own unique facade.
This one has especially impressive art nouveau glass panels. The city is really clean, crowded with cars, especially at rush hour (when we were there).
A canal boat orientation ride takes us along the palace facades, parks, and under losts of bridges, eventually out onto the Neva for an overall view of the city. Check out the beautiful horse sculptures at both ends of this one.
While on the Neva we came across this impressively decorated and built bridge. It somehow looked very familiar.
Turns out it was designed and constructed by the same firm that built the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Locals call it the Eiffel Tower bridge.
Back on the canal system a beautifully painted and gilded bridge.
The “onion” shaped tower tops you see mostly in Moscow are rarely seen in St. Petersburg, with some exceptions as you’ll see on our visit to the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood.
Getting late, getting tired, we asked our local guide where we could find a truly authentic local, Russian cuisine restaurant. He gives us a damn good tip. It brought me right back to memories of my Grandmother and Great Grandmother. First, chanterelles were in season so they had mushroom specials. We had orders of sautéed onions and potatoes with chanterelles. Fabulous. Then Marsha had eggplant “caviar” on toast points while I had time-warping hot beet borscht with beef and sour cream. Then Marsha had perfectly cooked cod and I had fresh pike (one of the ingredients of real gefilte fish). Shots of vodka and beer and wine. Then honey cake and apple cake for dessert. If we could, would do it again the next night.
After dinner, Marsha and Val took quick ride to work off the calories. We knew it was an authentic experience when the enthusiastic, young waiter, who spoke almost no
English said, “Have always wanted to meet and wait on Americans” as he shook our hands. By the way, Russia is many times less expensive than Scandinavia. This full, full dinner with drinks and everything cost the equivalent of $19 each.
Tomorrow the Hermitage – we’re doing the Impressionists in their separate building in the morning on our own and will meet up with the tour group for a “complete” look at the original, palace(s).