We jumped off the train in St Petersburg and headed straight to our hotel. St Petersburg is very spread out, but somehow we’d managed to pick a hotel that was in walking distance of the Moscow line train station. We caught the four hour Sapsan train.
We were really tired. We’d spent the entire morning walking around Moscow. And bizarrely, the hotel offered room service on the TV menu. So that’s what we did on our first night in Russia’s cultural capital. Ate room service.
In the morning we were ready to get out and explore. One thing that had been in our favour this entire trip was the time zones. We changed time zones every couple of days, and were turning our clocks back several hours each time. That meant we’d wake up at 6am each day, and were ready to get out and see the city by 8am. And St Petersburg had a lot we wanted to see. By this stage we’d been travelling for weeks and weeks, so I barely took any photos.
Having ridiculous amounts of phone data meant we’d been able to use Google Maps throughout Russia, and we had taken advantage of this wherever we’d gone. However often we’d been following a painted line on the ground, or had a guide with us. In St Petersburg we had neither of those things, so our phones were even more useful as the city has lots of confusing roads and bridges.
Our first stop was the Church of the Saviour On Spilled Blood. It was pretty stunning. This is a very touristy spot, and right behind it is a canal filled with street stalls selling various touristy items. We took photos, but we didn’t go inside.
Next we walked to the Hermitage. The whole time I had been in Russia I had been reading The Bronze Horseman, a terrible/amazing romance set during WW2 in St Petersburg. I had to go and see the real Bronze Horseman statue. So while my mum sat in a park, I ran over and took photos of it and thought about Tatiana and Alexander, two characters I hated with a passion yet couldn’t stop reading about. If you’ve read the book (and the two sequels) you will understand.
I’ll be honest. We didn’t go into the Hermitage. There was so much we wanted to see in St Petersburg, and we thought it would be a drain on our time. It’s so big, and there was too much to see.
Instead we walked across one of the many bridges to the Peter and Paul Fortress. On the way we saw a completely ridiculous pirate ship in the water, so we stopped for an iced coffee. As it was mainly a glass of milk, I don’t recommend doing this.
Eventually we made it to the fortress, and had a good walk around. It was very crowded with tour groups and school kids. There’s a lot to see here, but we were under time constraints and we hadn’t even made it to our main destination.
We continued walking, and finally got to the one museum we really wanted to see. The State Museum of Political History, which is basically the history of the KGB and the Soviets. It was excellent. It traced Russia’s political history from the revolution until the end of the Cold War, and there was plenty to read in English.
There are lots of places to eat in St Petersburg, but we ended up eating at Jamie’s Italian. Because why not? I’m sure it was the same as all the rest of Jamie Oliver’s restaurants in other parts of the world.
That night we went to the ballet! When in Russia you need to go to the ballet at some point. We had booked our tickets months in advance, and they were honestly very cheap. We saw Cinderella at Mariinksy II, and it was very good. Also we just wore our usual tourist sightseeing clothes – but everyone else was pretty dressed up.
The ballet was how we said goodbye to Russia. The end of an incredible Trans Siberian trip!