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Sightseeing in St Petersburg

Posted by on July 30, 2011

I spent a while in Saint Petersburg, in fact spanning the best part of 11 days while trying my best to get my Kazakhstan visa (more on that later), and seeing the sights.

Mark and the Hermitage

Mark and the Hermitage

The first four days I saw a lot, including the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood – a traditional style Russian Church built apparently on the very spot where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881. It’s very similar in appearance to St Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square in Moscow, from the outside at least – inside it’s an amazing world of decorated walls, murals and opulence, quite different to St Basil’s simple, multi-chapel layout.

One day I took a long walk around town – up to the river, around through a newer part of town, past where the Russian cruiser Avrora sits – it’s a free entry, so I had a look around that. Quite interesting seeing battles from the Russian side, and realising just how important St Petersburg was to Russia as the main ocean entrance if anyone attacked by sea.

I explored the Fortress and Peter and Paul cathedral within, a huge walk around town and over the river in the the heat, seeing the Aurora cruiser, more little chapels, the amazing bridges over the River, and Nevsky Prospect.

After four days, however, I had had enough of Atmo hostel. No working internet, no English speakers, I was desperate for conversation – and decided to move to Apple Hostel after the weekend. Russia Day was on the Sunday, making Monday a public holiday, so moving worked well as I couldn’t go to the consulate that day. Apple was a complete change – within minutes I was chatting with a group going with the Vodka Train along the trans-Siberian route, and other backpackers mostly coming from the east through Russia, at the end of their trips.

I saw St Isaac’s cathedral, and it was impressive – one of the highlights as cathedrals go in Europe thus far. I spent much time running around for the Kazakhstan consulate, which I’ll come back to later. I went out one night with a Brazillian girl (Isabela) and a mildly crazy Russian girl from the hostel until the early hours, as Isabela was keen to see the “white nights” with very little darkness. At 3am in the drizzle the bridge was up and primed for some photos.

I fluked a free Sting concert, seeing that with an English chap from the hostel and several thousand Russians in Palace Square. I ate borsch and other Russian food, sweltered in the heat and explored more of the city. I improved my Cyrillic and spent many hours in cafes and shops just reading the menus and relaxing, although all the time waiting for my visa.

Of course, the highlight was the Hermitage (see photo), Saint Peterburg’s crown, the magnificent museum on the banks of the river. I’d heard so much about it, built so many expectations, but it was so much more.

I wasn’t sure how to do this post and a post on the top sights, including the Hermitage, so what I’ll do is post this one now, and follow it with a more detailed post with photos. More to come…

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