We left for St Petersburg by cruise boat at the time of the centenary anniversary of the Titanic. GREEEEEAAAAAAT. I was a little bit concerned, but decided to put such thoughts behind me and step on the boat full of confidence, whistling a happy tune.
When I went to Munich I had my own local guide. St Petersburg was to be quite different as I was on a tour bus with preplanned excursions to specific tourist destinations. If you ask me, I think I would always prefer the local guide version of a holiday, but sometimes you just don’t have friends in interesting places and one must make do.
We arrived in St Petersburg and were whisked off to a guided tour of the city. The city of St Petersburg is a strange collection of people and buildings. Sometimes you see walking caricatures: the old lady with sensible shoes, thick woollen knee-length coat and a floral headscarf; square-faced men with shaved heads, tattoos and black leather jackets; the young women with their teeny tiny short skirts, thigh high boots, hair and make up DONE (and it was only 9am) walk with long easy strides that are make them look determined but not rushed and a lot like runway models.
We went to all sorts of interesting places which you can click on the names below to get more information about where we went in our three days:
Peter and Paul Fortress; Aurora Battleship; The Spit of the St Basil Island; Catherine’s Palace; Hermitage Theatre (to watch Swan Lake); Hermitage Museum; and then the cathedrals: Izmailovsky, Nikol’skyj, St Isaac’s and lastly the Cathedral of the Spilt Blood.
Below is a slide show of some of the things I saw in an around St Petersburg. You can just get a feel of the city from these pictures:
So, my thoughts on St Petersburg? I loved it! It was a bit grimy and a little bit dangerous (compared to Oulu, which isn’t very hard) but that gave it an energy that made it way more interesting to me. It lacked that sort of “perfectness” of other European cities. It reminded me a bit of the city centre of Cape Town in this way. There were so many fascinating shops and big and little restaurants, military men walking around in long coats and fur hats, tourists looking lost, geometric cement Soviet buildings next to Imperial Palaces and tall colourful churches that I thought I could easily spend a month there and never get bored.
If you like museums and art galleries: St Petersburg is the place for you
If you like partying and night life: St Petersburg is the place for you
If you like walking a lot and especially next to channels: St Petersburg is the place for you
If you like taking the underground: St Petersburg is the place for you
If you like ballet: St Petersburg is the place for you
If you like people watching: St Petersburg is the place for you
If you like history: St Petersburg is the place for you
Being in St Petersburg I felt like I was in Russia, but at the same time not quite in Russia. It felt like St Petersburg is just the beginning of Russia and the end of Europe, maybe a Europeanised point of Russia -like the city centre of Cape Town which is definitely in Africa but looks surprisingly (?) European in places. It’s probably just the tip of the iceberg of Russia, but from the story of the Titanic, we know that just the tip of an iceberg can be very significant.