Posts Tagged ‘ travel: russia: st petersburg ’

regrets?

This time last year, I was in the midst of cramming of exams Equity & Trusts (the Law requirement before you can go on exchange) and trying to plan out how I was going to spend my first couple of weeks, and what I wanted to do, and where I wanted to go, and just figuring out the grand plan for everything. It felt like there were so many things to organise…

If you recall, I tried to learn Danish, and spectacularly failed. I had considered attending classes at Frederikskirken, the Danish Church over in Pennant Hills, but was told that I was too late for enrolments. This made me far more disappointed than I thought it would, but in any event, I told myself that I would go through exchange with no regrets.

Looking back, I really don’t have (m)any. Sure, maybe I could have done some things differently, but that would have been more of a curiosity thing, to see how things would have turned out, rather than because of any dissatisfaction with the way that they did.

I have mentioned before, somewhere, I don’t know whether it was here or Facebook, but I really had wished that I had made it to a FC København match…

Anyway, my point for this post, is the following video that made me wish a little that I had experienced a little bit of this craziness. :)

Note: This video was taken in Aarhus/Århus (depending on which view you prefer. See here for an article about the controversy!) Anyway, yeah, that’s where my original first choice, but due to mix ups and misunderstandings, I did not end up going there… Just a side note!

Anyway, yeah, things like that make me happy. :)

And because this post would not be a post without a photo, here’s one I prepared earlier, me being a super fan over a different sport, from an amazing country that I am still yet to post about… :)

misselty.

ice hockey at ice palace, st petersburg. :)

RST Day 3: getting lost in st petersburg.

I’m going to keep writing like I actually wrote in on the actual day. I don’t know why, but I’m weird, so deal with it. :)

Sunday, 17th October, 2010

Today was the visit to The Hermitage/Winter Palace. It was built by Peter the Great for his daughter Catherine, in which she housed a number of her prized paintings/statues/super special awesome clock thing.

We took the bus and dropped near by, took a short walk to the main square AND THEN IT WAS SNOWING. Awesomeness. :) And so exciting. :))

the hermitage; SNOWSNOW!; poser.

Fun facts:
– If you looked at each exhibit for 30 seconds, it would take you 11 years to get through the entire collection.
– The building used to be painted a red, but it was later repainted the current light green.
– The museum takes up 6 buildings worth of space! However, only 4 are open to the general public.

So I mentioned the Hermitage was big right? Here are some a lot of pics from inside.

inside the hermitage.

The interior is so ornate though, what you would expect from a palace I guess. Of the pictures below, The Peacock Clock (top-middle) is one of the first pieces that Catherine II acquired for her collection. It is apparently still in working order, but is only wound up for special visitors. One thing that really excited me, though, was the Rembrandt Room (bottom-right). That was super cool, since Rembrandt is one of my favourite painters, when I decide to be particularly artsy. :) I’m not actually sure what the various rooms are; we were whizzed through on a crazy tour. Oh well, looks like I will have to revisit Russia. :)

more of the hermitage.

Seriously though, wandering around inside, you could get completely lost. But there is just so much to see, in terms of exhibits, but also the architecture of the place. I totally loved this blue crystal light (top-left). Another thing, it was lucky that we went as a group, because the line to get inside was absolutely crazy (bottom-middle). I cannot imagine what it would be like in summer. I actually spoke to our guide (who was fabulous) and I asked her what it was like in summer, because it was already so crowded when we were inside. She kind of groaned and said how it was next to impossible to move, or even see some of the exhibits, it got thaat crowded! So note to self, when I go back, avoid summer… even if it would be nice weather!

more inside and some outside of the hermitage.

The Hermitage houses so many different styles of art, across different periods and countries. There was so much though, it was overwhelming at times. I’m glad that our guide took us by the way that she did, because we got to see a good variety- Italian Renaissance, French Neoclassical, Impressionist, post-Impressionist, and even some Modern art.

monet, van gogh and picasso.

After our whirlwind 2-hour tour, C, B and I managed to find each other again and set off to St Isaacs once again. Luckily, the skies had cleared up and we were given some beautiful blue skies. :)

blue skies, blue skies!

We may have gone around in a bit of a circle at one point, but we made it, and headed on up to the colonnade.

stairs up st isaacs. 200 spirally ones was only part of it. :)

Once we got to the top, we were rewarded with beautiful views of the city. Only a couple of days in and there is already so much that I love about this city.

hello st petersburg.

view from the top.

the colonnade.

After St Isaacs, we wandered the streets a bit more, seeing the Mariinsky Palace (top-left), canals, Nicholas I (bottom-left), and oh yeah, that’s St Isaacs (bottom-right).

a little bit of wandering.

A late lunch was in order and we were lucky to find this awesome little Italian place. I guess it’s something you can’t really go wrong with, and it had a really good vibe. Food was excellent too.

super pizza man... and food.

After lunch, it was back to the streets. We spotted this sign in a window of a bar.

how to drink vodka.

One thing that I have noticed about St Petersburg so far is that there are a looot of statues to various people littered throughout the city. However, the names are generally all written in Cyrillic, making it difficult to figure out just who they are trying to honour. Here is just one of the random statue men.

random statue man.

As we wandered the streets, we came close to Gostiny Dvor, a huge department store, (although I do not think top-left is it exactly; but it does look somewhat like that), some sort of military academy, and then a military product store. We headed back to the market near the Church of Spilled Blood, and I bought a couple of things, before splitting in search of the Mariinsky Theatre for the night’s opera performance. Except, I may have gotten a little lost on the way. And time was ticking. So I caught the metro a few stops, got off and, after a quick consult, headed in what I thought was the right direction. After a lot of walking, I realised that things started to look familiar, and I had in fact made my way to the Mariinsky Palace (as I’ve mentioned somewhere above). That’s what I get for reading my map and walking at the same time. I checked again, and found that the Mariinsky Theatre was a few blocks away. I decided to follow the canal so that I would not get lost. I got to the Theatre at about 6.45 (bottom-right), with the opera starting at 7pm.

a little bit of st petersburg.

However, when I went inside, I was met by a few men sitting at a table. They looked a bit like security, and so I thought that it was just some standard procedure to get inside. One of the men then stopped me and told me in very broken English that I was in the wrong place. Poor little confused me did not understand how I could be in the wrong place. I showed him my ticket again and something clicked for him and he directed me to a computer screen and pointed to the place that Ineeded to get to. I soon realised that the Mariinsky Theatre, where I was, and the Mariinsky Concert Hall, where I needed to be, were not the same thing. And the little map he tried to show me didn’t really help, seeing as I couldn’t really figure out where I was in relation.

So I did the next best thing. I headed back to the street and stopped a little old lady. I showed her my ticket and pointed to the words in Russian and, after a second, she nodded and tried to give me directions in Russian. I wasn’t quite sure where I was going, but at least now I had a general idea. As I ran for a few blocks, I kept stopping random people on the street, one girl with a violin who luckily spoke a bit of broken English, another group of girls, and finally…

inside and outside the mariinsky concert hall.

… I made it. And just in time too. I was a mess after running around like a crazy person, but I got there in time and everything. *phew*

So tonight, we saw a performance of Le nozze di figaro (“The Marriage of Figaro”) in Russian. It was definitely an interesting experience, but I think opera is not really for me… particularly when it is in Russian!

le nozze di figaro, at the mariinsky concert hall.

After a lovely night out with the girls, we made our way back to the hotel, but not before spotting the beautifully lit up St Nicholas Cathedral on our way home.

st nicholas cathedral, by night.

And now I am back at the hotel, playing Golf with B and C. It may be a late night. :)

I can’t remember just how late we stayed up but… oh the things that I would like to write here, but probably shouldn’t. Maybe I will add them later, for memory’s sake. But there we go, a little bit more of Russia for you. :)

misselty.

RST Day 2: snow, sights & shine.

(I started writing this on Saturday, but ended up being pretty fail and only getting around to finishing it today. So references to today actually mean Saturday, rather than Thursday…!)

St Petersburg is cold. I expected cold, but this was cooold! AND IT SNOWED TODAY! Ok, so maybe I have seen falling snow that one time in the Blue Mountains, during Maculty Getaway, but continuous snow falling from the sky was SO AWESOME. I wish I had a better macro lens. :)

Anyway. Today…

Bufffet breakfast.

pastries, egg, sausages, wedges, 'blinis'.

Bus sightseeing tour. But first we had to wait for two people who hadn’t managed to wake up… Then we were on our way. The thing I love about St Petersburg, as well as European cities, is how picturesque everything is. I just want to wrap entire cities up and take them home. Everything back home in Sydney is just too modern and city-like. Nothing is pretty, except maybe some of the older suburbs…

We made a stop at St Isaac’s Cathedral…

st isaac's cathedral.

We passed through a park, where there were lots of people raking up fallen leaves. I have kind of missed deciduous trees while in Copenhagen…

leaves!

Then we paused for a while to admire The Bronze Horseman, a statue of Peter the Great.

peter the great; senate and synod buildings

After freezing our butts off for a while, we headed back onto the bus and headed towards the Peter and Paul Fortress. Before we got there though, we stopped at the two old lighthouses… where we also froze, but it was exciting because there was REAL snow falling from the sky. Not to mention the numerous wedding photos going on.

red lighthouse, with second one in the back-ish...

Then we finally got to the fortress and headed in to the Peter and Paul Cathedral, but not before being distracted by a band of guards.

guards are super cool.

The cathedral was so elaborate and ornate inside. Many of the past tsars have been buried inside, although much further underground than their tombs might indicate.

peter and paul cathedral; and interior.

l-r: elizabeth i, catherine i, peter the great. (double headed eagle on the corners of the marble blocks indicate that the person buried there was in power at one stage.)

But what I was most eager to see was the final resting place of the last Romanov family: Nicholas II, Alexandra, Olga, Tatiana and Maria. Also buried there are a number of the family’s servants. The remains of who are thought to be Alexei and Anastasia were found recently, but are yet to be buried with the rest of their family in the side chapel of St Catherine the Martyr, while DNA testing is being conducted.

the chapel of st catherine the martyr.

We headed outside, by the side of the church, to hang out with Peter the Great’s statue.

peter the great. touch his fingers for luck, apparently?

random building. :)

After our stop at the Peter and Paul Fortress, we took the bus back towards the main part of the city and to the Church of Spilled Blood.

church of spilled blood.

After admiring the onion domes, we headed across the road to the souvenir fair, where Ben found a matrushka doll related to some sport team… but didn’t buy anything. We resolved to go back later.

souvenir fair.

We took a bit of a walk along Nevsky Prospect, the main street through the city of St Petersburg, before catching the metro to Udelnaya to visit a flea market there. When we got there, we stumbled around a bit trying to find the place before we came across what seemed to be the right place. It wasn’t quite what we were expecting though, as the front was made up of a number of stalls that were inside numbered buildings, selling clothes, shoes, but not a lot of random ‘flea market’ type stuff. As we kept walking through, the buildings disappeared, replaced with shelters under which people were displaying piles and piles of clothing. You could tell that things were being sold for bargain prices, but our lack of Russian communication made it difficult t even contemplate buying anything if we had wanted to. Still, it was worth a look.

udelnaya flea market.

We took the metro back to Nevsky Prospect and stopped by at “север”, which the translation of Russian wiki tells me that is one of the oldest patisseries in St Petersburg. We ended up buying an entire cake, because it worked out to be much cheaper than just buying a slice each. It was so good, and creamy and just full of awesome goodness. :)

super awesome cake. :)

After cake we ran into a couple of people and then took a bit of a walk back to the hotel, following the canals. It took over half an hour, but it was a decent walk, and definitely a better
way to see a little bit more than just by simply taking the metro.

walking back to azimut.

Got back to the hotel, freshened up a little bit, got distracted by some random movie that included an outrageous car chase scene with ridiculous violence, then headed down to “Meet
the Locals”. We followed Alex, her cousin Pavl and …? (Man, I am SO bad with names!) to the metro, and to an old sports bar called ‘Barcelona’ (or at least, something similar to that in Russian).

'barcelona'.

When we walked in and got seated in a separate room, we were told that something had happened to the power, and so they started to bring out numerous candles. We ended up ordering paella and some meatball tapas. It was kind of weird though because we ended up kind of sitting as one group of us internationals and then the Russians next to us, and then a few of us at the other end, so our little group didn’t end up talking to them very much.

The dramas from the night?
– Food took forever to come out. In the end we spent about 3 hours at dinner…
– Meatballs were brought out and they were not warm at all. So we sent them back. Luckily we didn’t get sick or anything from that.
– Towards the end of the meal, a picture fell on Ben’s head. So Alex talked to the waitress and in the end they brought out another dish thing by way of apologise. It was basically potato done 5 ways. So that was interesting to share that around, although there was one portion that was a bit of meat.

After the dinner, we ended up going to a club, which was a little bit swanky, with drinks costing way more than necessary.

shine.

russian dancing... yeaaah.

 

Sam and Vanessa danced with the Russians a bit, while the rest of us hung back on some of the couches, chatting and such, before one of the Russian security guards approached us and told us that we had to pay 1000 rubles or something to sit there. Alex tried to sort it out with him, but we found out that the tables were permanently reserved, so we just went to stand by the dance floor, watching the Russian guys dance, which was entertainment in itself.

In the end, Carla, Ben and I decided to head back to the hotel, while Sam, Vanessa and Joao stayed with the Russians and headed to a Soviet-style bar.

More posts to come eventually about the rest of the Russia trip. Possibly when I get back to Copenhagen, after my EICL exam, and after Beck comes and we jet over to Stockholm. :)

misselty.

RST Day 1: If you are late, we will not wait for you.

02.30: Sleep after having completed online trial exam for EICL.
06.00: Alarm clock rings.
06.50: Leave the house, after having rushed around making sure that I had packed everything. Blue bag is much heavier than expected. Better than wheeling around broken suitcase. Grab two jam donuts bought at Bilka yesterday.
07.09: Train from Ørestad to Kastrup Lufthavn.
07.18: Arrive at Kastrup. Meet the rest of the group at the metro station.
07.45: Check in and join the super long queue for baggage drop.
08.10: Starbucks.
08.30: Go through security. It is strange to have a guy perform checks on you…
09.10: Head to gate and start to board.

departing 9.35.

09.35: Notice a strange smell on the plane…
09.50: Announcement made about how the plane has been sitting for a day and dust may have gotten into the air conditioning unit. Attempt to solve problem.
10.15: Taxi-ing. Getting ready for take off.
10.20: Complaints of smell.
10.30: “Please head to Gate Delta 103. We will get a new plane and expected time of departure is 11.30.” Proceed to get off the plane and head to the  aforementioned gate.
10.40: 7/11 stop.
11.30: Still no movement at the gate.
12.00: Everyone has boarded. Excitement now at finally being able to get off the ground.
12.15: Some navigational thing is not working. Further delays as a technician is called to try and fix it.
12.40: Orange juice is served. Small compensation is small.

small compensation is small.

12.50: Pilot makes an announcement about lunch. “I tried to get some food to be put on the plane so that we can serve you, because it is not acceptable that you haven’t eaten since your breakfast this morning. However, this was impossible. I don’t know why, it should possible, but it wasn’t. So then we thought that we would let you off the plane so that you can get food and maybe come back in an hour, but then the flight would not be able to go and it would be cancelled. And there are no more flights to St Petersburg today. So have a think about it.” One of the crew members then comes out to gauge the passenger’s reactions. There is a resounding “FLY!” from our tour group. Some of the other passengers are less vocal about their thoughts. But overall consensus is to fly.

13.10: Plane finally takes off, almost four hours behind schedule.

applause as the plane leaves the ground.

13.40: Tea/coffee is served. They’re trying to buy our favour with drinks.
14:40: Descent into St Petersburg.

first views of russia.

15.00/17.00: Russia is +2. Finally touch down in St Petersburg. Buses arrive promptly to drive us to the actual airport. Go through passport control, collect luggage, load luggage on bus, board bus, wait for girl whose luggage did not make the transition between planes, but instead got sent to Helsinki… Bus drives through Leningrad, the Soviet part of town, on the way to Hotel Azimut.

st petersburg.

19.00: Arrive at hotel, wait for keys to be distributed. Hotel system fails of course. Finally get room keys. Dump luggage. Head back down to the lobby. As a whole, the group consumes a numerous amount of Chupa Chups. :)
19.30: Leave hotel finally. Night time pictures on a moving vehicle are blurry. But night time St Petersburg is absolutely beautiful!!
20.00: Arrive at Café Jam (Ul. Ryleeva 12). It is owned by a Danish woman. We get fed real food for the first time since breakfast.

café jam (ul. ryleeva 12)

entrée (featuring reindeer meat, beetroot/herring, 'vitamin' salad, marinated salmon, egg/prawn thing); main (beef stroganoff); dessert (lemon pancakes with icecream); tea.

russian vodka shots.

22.00: Underground time. Down the super long escalator. Luckily it is now legal (apparently) to take photos. Otherwise I might be in trouble. Up until last year, it was considered to be a strategic/security issue. The underground is really quite far underground. In the case of a nuclear attack, huge doors will come down between the escalators and the underground platform and… people on the underground will be safe??

22 rubles for a token to catch the speedy underground..

the underground is... under ground.

23.00: Arrive back at the hotel after walking from station and stopping at 24 hour store to buy water… with which to brush our teeth…
01.30: Time to sleep.

misselty.