A typical day visiting St. Petersburg


Today is our last day in St.Petersburg and although we had quite a few days here, there were still a few things that we did not visit yet. We started of this morning with a visit of the Nicholas Church actually quite close to our hostel. The church is very nice from the outside painted in white and light blue. On the inside it is a typical orthodox church with ornaments in gold and with a lot of paintings.

Although the church is a little bit out of the town center, it is definitely very popular with guided tours because numerous busses stood at the entrance gate and we did not see as many foreign tourists as we had seen in the whole week. Although tourism is quite developed here, it concerns mainly Russian tourists. Foreign tourists are actually quite rare. We figured that this is due to different causes: first, it is not really one of this “get sun-tanned and party destinations”. Then it is still quite a hassle to get a visa (numerous visits of the embassy, a lot of paperwork, quite a lot of money, even more patience with the Russian officers… And then, once in Russia, it is not done, you need to register at every place where you stay more than 3 working days, etc. And the third reason is maybe that it is not a cheap destination. Entrance to musea and churches often come near to 10 Euros per person which is comparable to European prices.

After the church we visited the Marinsky Theatre, in Soviet times known as the Kirov Theatre. It is quite a nice building from the outside, unfortunately we never got to see the inside as they were renovating (and also because we think the unfriendly lady and the guard at the gate did not know what to do with us, non-Russians. :-)

Speaking about renovation: this is probably the national activity of the moment, as virtually every building is under construction. We did a walking tour proposed by LP which was called “Beauty in Decay” which was supposed to lead us along old houses and palaces in decay. But almost every building was currently being renovated and thus hidden under scaffolds and inaccessible.

There were two other churches we did not visit yet: one was the St.Isaac’s Cathedral and another the Kazans Church. We heard a lot of good things about the St.Isaac’s Cathedral, people saying that it was “beautiful”, “amazing”, an absolute “must see”, etc. So we paid the (very) high entrance price (our student-trick did not work unfortunately), almost 30 Euros for visiting the Cathedral and going up into the tower to have a view on St. Petersburg, and were very, very disappointed. :-( Basically it is not a church anymore but a posh, overdone museum where different styles have been mixed without too much thinking. And the “stunning” view on St.Petersburg is basically blocked by working cranes and too-high buildings. Very, very disappointing… :-(

After this, we went to the Kazan Church, which is a real working church still (with free entrance!) and not as overdone as the cathedral. Well, it is an orthodox church, so it is too much ornamented to our taste, but it was nice. Rather strange and impressive was to see the pilgrimage going on: many Russians standing in line to see an image of Mary Virgin and her baby and kiss the image. One lady was so overwhelmed with feelings when she finally could kiss the painting that she started to cry. Very touching…

We had a self-prepared lunch in a small garden next to the Hermitage, where we enjoyed resting our legs a bit in the shadow of a tree. Then we decided to take the metro to the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. It’s quite impressive to take the St.Petersburg’s metro as you are going down at least 50 meters and then get into a very old, rumbling metro. It’s not expensive though: 14 rubbles per ride (50 cents).

The monastery is very nice as it is still working and thus you see monks walking around and doing their work. The church inside the monastery is very nice, not overdone and representing a quiet atmosphere.

In the evening we did a boat tour on the Neva. Quite nice to hear some inside explanations on St.Petersburg, its people and the tsarist families. And then the view on the different buildings is really great with the evening light, making them all look very bright and colourful. The guide explained us also why most of the houses are yellow. The reasons are actually threefold: first, yellow paint was the cheapest, second in winter, the yellow colour is brighter and therefore more of pleasure when winter sets in with cold, grey days and third Tolstoi said it was the colour of madness, which fits very well with this town atmosphere. :-)

We hoped you enjoyed visiting St. Petersburg with us as your tour guides. :-)

Vera & Jean-Christophe

One Comment

  1. Posted August 8, 2007 at 17:21 | Permalink

    Bonjour à tous les deux, je prends le train en marche mais ce n’est pas trop tard, la route est encore longue! Vos premières impressions sur ce pays me rappellent celles que j’ai eues en escale à Sébastopol il y a quelques années. Vos textes et photos sont magnifiques, continuez!
    Bonne continuation et à bientôt.