привет from Russia! If you don’t speak Russian, you may have absolutely no clue what I’m saying and are probably wondering, “What does привет mean?” (or something along those lines). As your guide to the gorgeous city of St. Petersburg, let me translate for you. привет means Hello! In case you were wondering, I don’t know any Russian words yet I have been picking up a few words here and there.
Since we don’t speak Russian, the big question is, “why did you go?” Well let’s back track to 1991, when St. Petersburg was still called Leningrad. As my parents traveled Europe, they ended up in Finland to visit friends. They planned to take a cruise from Helsinki to then Leningrad but, as tension built up in Russia, the cruise line made a change of plans and went to Gotland instead . Why? Long story short, history was created and Leningrad became St. Petersburg…and my parents never made it to Russia.
24 years later, my parents life included 2 daughters with the will to travel. Our friends have lived in Russia for the past couple of years and are moving back to the US. This meant that it was our chance to go visit them and the city. As we discovered, St. Petersburg is a large city with many museums, palaces (and other little hidden gems) that are all within walking distance from one another.Now, that doesn’t mean that I recommend walking around the entire city in one day. But, it does mean that taking a few day trips to certain places allows you to see the entire city.
Our trip started with a walk through the summer gardens leading us across a bridge to Peter and Paul’s fortress. Now this fortress was much larger than we anticipated. Luckily it was a bright and sunny day, so we walked around and visited the Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul. Before leaving, we saw the statue of Peter the Great and rubbed his finger for good luck.
Day 2 included a day long adventure of roaming through the Hermitage. Even though we had a long time to enjoy multiple works of art, we still weren’t able to explore the entire building. As interesting as the Hermitage may seem, we needed to take a break. Thus, day 3 was a slow paced day that started with a little market shopping for lunch.
Needless to say that we were never exactly sure what food we bought because everything is written in Russian and only Russian. That’s how one day we bought a couple of cabbage pies thinking we were buying chocolate croissants. Odd, I know, but from the looks we were certain we knew what we were buying.The surprise came the next day as we were looking forward to having them for breakfast.
So back to our shopping, following our meal, we went out on a search to find a wooden bread box and salt and pepper matryoshka shakers. After going through 2 stores, we came across the bread box-made out of birch bark- yet the salt and pepper shakers were nowhere to be found. We quickly rushed back after remembering that we had plans to go for dinner at a Georgian restaurant.
At the restaurant, we enjoyed many courses of traditional food. As we thought that we were too full to eat more, we took a musical break. After singing karaoke, dancing, playing a few instruments and sharing many laughs, we went back to the table for dessert. This fueled us up for our adventure throughout Catherine’s palace the next day.
As we arrived at the palace, we had to wait in very long lines so decided to split up so we could see the gardens. One group would stay in line while the other group explored until we switched again. Once we entered the beautiful palace,we marveled at all the richness and beauty of the few rooms open to the public but were particularly stunned at one room,the amber room where walls,from top to bottom were covered with all shades of amber! As we exited the palace, we went to the souvenir market that was right next door. Here we found the perfect little matryoshka as well as other little goodies like Faberge eggs pendants and painted wooden spoons and boxes.
Day 5 was another long day because we did quite a bit of walking. We decided to see the inside of the Church of the Spilled Blood and then walk up to the top of St. Isaacs cathedral.
Spilled Blood is such an impressive church because the interior walls and ceilings are made from mosaics that illustrate scenes from the bible. After, we walked towards the cathedral and were just as amazed by the view. Since it was a sunny day with a few clouds, we could see all of St. Petersburg.
Day 6 was our last day to explore yet we weren’t quite sure what to see. We decided to go to the monastery at the end of Nevsky Prospect. We wandered around the grounds and then picked up some homemade bread made there by the monks (it was pretty yummy). Knowing that we still had all day, we went towards St. Nicolas’ cathedral and then started to make our way back with many stops along the way including the famous Mariimsky Ballet theater. When we got home, we were very tired and our feet hurt… a lot. Luckily, dinner was already prepared. We had a borcsh-traditional soup, salmon cakes and other little dishes.
St Petersburg is a city that I definitely recommend. Even though we stayed a week, we didn’t get to see the entire city but we were able to see what we wanted to see without being rushed. Next time I go to Russia (hopefully soon), I would like to visit Moscow and preferably in the winter. You might be thinking I’m crazy for wanting to go during the winter but it’s probably less crowded and it would be a different experience.
Thank you St. Petersburg for such a lovely visit.
-D and S