Welcome back to my weekend in Russia!
Day one ended on a high note with some pretty amazing cathedrals and I was eager to see what day two would have in store. First activity of the day was an hour-long canal ride along the Fontanka and Moika Rivers.
I went on a canal ride in both Belgium and Denmark and both experiences really made my time in the countries so much more special. My grandmother had also gone on a canal ride with her tour group on day one in Russia and absolutely loved it. Unfortunately, there was one big difference between the earlier canal rides I had taken and the one I would take in Russia: the weather. It was cold, sunless, and rainy…not really the ideal time to be on a boat. My group got settled in the lower, covered part of our boat and we were served champagne and blankets. Despite the cold temperature, I left the warmth of the lower level for the better views of the upper.
We passed under tens of bridges and got to see many of the palaces and cathedrals we had already visited from a new vantage point. Honestly, I much preferred the colorful waterfront buildings in the Nordic regions to the more classical European styles of St. Petersburg. If I had the possibility to do it again, I would take a boat ride in sunny Finland and pass on Russia.
Next stop was the famed Hermitage Museum. This museum began as the collect of Catherine the Great’s work in 1764. With the help of Voltaire, Catherine the Great built up her collection. With over a thousand rooms and three million pieces of art, it would take you 11 years to observe every piece of work for one minute.
Despite the fair warning that it would be a lot to take in in a short amount of time, I was still stunned upon entering. Like the palaces I had seen the day before, the walls and ceilings were intricately covered with paintings and gold-leafed woodwork. As we walked through only a small fraction of rooms, it honestly became too much to absorb in such a small amount of time. By the end of our quick hour and a half at the Hermitage, I was focusing only on taking in the delicacies of the room décor and (I hate to say it) glossing over the paintings.
There were a few paintings that I did not gloss over however. First were the Da Vinci’s. The Hermitage has one of the world’s largest collection at only two. Both were beautifully crafted, of course, but, as with the Mona Lisa, one has only a few seconds to admire the painting and snap a picture before being shoed out of the way.
We also saw masterworks by Titian, Van Gogh, Matisse, Gaugin , Renoir, Cezanne, Manet, Monet, Pissarro, and Michangelou.
The Hermitage is also widely known for its Rembrandt Room, which boasts of 12 masterpieces. This room was swarming with tour groups, but with a little patience and good timing, I found myself alone with his works multiple time.
In some ways, an hour and a half was the perfect amount of time. If we had meandered for, say, four hours, I personally would have been on art intake overload (the sheer amount of work is just staggering) and would have been suffering from museum legs (the dull pain of tiredness one gets while walking at an extremely slow pace). Go for an hour and enjoy the rooms and a take in a few paintings, or go for 11 years and see it all – it is my opinion that there is no in between.
With the main event of the day completed, we went for lunch. Again we were taking to a tourist restaurant and again I found the food delicious. We started with a salad with an interesting meat topping. Most at my table passed it up, but I scarfed down this salty curiosity. We then were served chicken with potatoes and a lemon loaf with ice cream for dessert.
We ended our weekend in St. Petersburg at the first structure to ever be built in the city, Peter and Paul Fortress. Although it was supposed to be the city’s defense along the Neva River, it was never used in that function.
It is now the burial ground for the Russian Imperial family. Peter and Paul Cathedral is the main attraction here.
You walk into these palaces and cathedrals and they are breathtaking. But then you walk outside, and there is no pleasure or fun or happiness. I am so glad to have visited St. Petersburg because now I can focus my future travels elsewhere. I would love to see other parts of Russia, but unlike Copenhagen, Ghent, Helsinki, or Gdansk, I do not feel the need to return to St. Petersburg. They say “not all that glitters is gold.” Well, in St. Petersburg, it is all real gold, but it is truly the only thing that glitters in this city.
What are your thoughts on St. Petersburg? Let us know below.