Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Exploring St. Petersburg


St. Petersburg is truly a fantastic city. It is rich in soviet history and architecture and is one of the most pedestrian friendly cities I have ever traversed. The Hostel keeper took good care in pointing out the must see spots of the city, and thanks to her local knowledge I was directed to the best bars and caf├ęs in town. The Cathedral of Spilled Blood looked unlike any cathedral I had ever seen. The "Winter Palace" - as the locals affectionately call the government center - spans the length of two football fields and bestows beautiful renaissance era architecture. The town hall was a massive Romanesque winged structure right in the heart of the city. As I walked further north towards the immense canals cutting through the middle of town, the buildings changed to a Danish coastal look stemming from foreign sailors who arrived to St. Petersburg by ship. The Hermitage was one of the most prestigious museums I have ever seen, second only to the Lourve in Paris. Incredible works of art hung on display alongside an impressive array of Greek and Roman carvings. Marble blocks 20 feet tall by 15 feet wide were expertly chiseled away to reveal the likes of Greek gods and goddesses, the level of detail and sheer size almost incomprehensible. Alongside the central canal sat an island that I was told to explore which housed the most elegant graveyard I have ever laid eyes on. Built in pure celebration of the Soviet Union's immense rise to power in the 1700's, Russian military commanders with the most prestigious ranks were given a "proper" burial in a palace built of gold. An eclectic mix of a royal palace, holy cathedral and majestic temple, this graveyard was one of the more incredible sights of the city. 

After taking in the sights on my second and final day, I returned to my hostel where I spent some time getting to know the other hostel goers. The room I occupied was shared with five other girls - I am not sure how I got so lucky. We held brief conversations as their English is elementary at best but still laughed and poked fun at each other all the same. When it was finally time for me to head to the train station to catch my ride back to Moscow, I found myself in the company of a Russian girl from the hostel who seemed to enjoy my company. She held my hand and pulled me into three local bars before we were able to find a seat where I had a local beer and a customary shot of Russian vodka. With her guidance we navigated the metro and arrived to my platform with 10 minutes to spare. Had I been alone, I most likely would have been in big trouble. My train was sitting at a station outside and adjacent to main train terminal, how I would have figured this out without the help of Katarinda is beside me. My friend was even kind enough help me obtain my ticket from the window and even walk me to the train and help me aboard to find my bed. I am now laying on the top bunk of a sleeper train heading back to Moscow at 4:30 am, reminiscing on the timeless memories that were just made. 






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