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Showing posts from May, 2017

The Red Square, the National History Museum, Tverskoy

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My first full day in Moscow came up cloudy but noticeably warmer than St Petersburg. As any tourist would, I went straight to the Red Square first thing in the morning!

From my hotel in Arbat, I can take the metro and alight at Revolution Square just two stops away, so already I am way better connected than I was in Peterburg. I tried to buy a metro card but was told in broken English that cards only come in 1, 2 or 20 trips. Do I have commitment issues, or is 20 trips a bit too much for people who are just visiting? I think I'll stick to single or double tickets, which at ₽55 (€0.88) each trip are cheaper than the Paris or London subways by several orders of magnitude.
The Revolution Square exit kind of pushes you out looking the wrong way and you have to go up some stairs and down some alleys to cut your way into the Red Square. When I finally stepped out onto the square, instead of elation my first reaction was dismay, when I saw that pretty much the entire surface of the squar…

From St Petersburg to Moscow

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My time in the city of the tsars has come to an end! This morning I took a seemingly endless cab ride to Moskovskaya Station; Nevsky Prospekt is a very wide and long, straight avenue, but there's so much traffic that it takes forever to ride along. Sidenote: does anybody else find it confusing to call St Petersburg's main train station "Moscow Station"?

We had verified online beforehand that Moskovskaya has a left luggage facility, so I dumped my bag there in order to spend the rest of the morning unencumbered. The signs inside the station were almost exclusively in Russian, but I managed to find a small window where a man took my bag for a fee (on the way out I found there are also automatic lockers across the hall that are cheaper, oh well).
Once that was taken care of we called an Uber, which in retrospect wasn't a terribly smart thing to do in a station square teeming with taxis, but we didn't get into trouble and took another long ride to the Russian Mus…

Peter and Paul Fortress, canals, St Isaac Cathedral

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Getting up and walking is becoming harder every day! Tomorrow's four-hour train ride to Moscow is starting to feel very attractive right now!

Today we took the busy metro down to Nevsky and then up to Gorkovskaya to visit the Peter and Paul Fortress, a military encampment from which the city of Saint Petersburg eventually grew. It occupies its own island and houses several structures inside its walls.
(Sidenote: every time I researched something on Google about the fortress and started typing "peter paul..." it would auto-suggest Peter, Paul and Mary instead, and now I have Leaving On A Jet Plane stuck in my head, and perhaps now so do you.)
The main attraction on this fortress is the cathedral, which itself isn't very big but features a very tall golden spire that can be seen from miles around. We walked towards it as soon as we entered the fortress from one of the bridges, after buying a ₽600 (€9.50) ticket that allegedly gives you access to all the different sites…

The Hermitage: Round 2, the Church on the Spilled Blood

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Today the first order of business was our second and final visit to the Hermitage, thanks to our two-day tickets. I heartily recommend them!

Yesterday's visit was very thorough and exhausting, so today I wanted to focus just on a few exhibits that I'd missed. The first among them was the Graeco-Roman sculpture wing on the first floor, near where we went on the Diamond Room tour yesterday. There are actually classical marble sculptures all throughout the museums, but most of them are Neoclassical creations from the 19th century; the real Greek and Roman statues have their own exhibit, and it's definitely worth a closer look.

For one thing, there's barely anybody down there, as the thousands of visitors all gather around the staircases and all over the second floor. By contrast, we had the sculpture wing almost to ourselves. They have a giant statue of Jupiter, several busts of Augustus, and a beautiful series of statues depicting some of the muses like Calliope, Thalia …

The Hermitage Museum

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This crisp, sunny morning it was time to go straight to the main course of the trip, the crown jewel of St Petersburg: the Hermitage museum!

Turns out Vasilievsky island isn't as well connected as I'd hoped, despite being geographically very close to the historic centre, so we ended taking a taxi. The driver was typically circumspect until I paid the fare and said "Thank you" in Russian, at which point he burst out laughing. Always happy to bring hilarity to people, I guess!
The Hermitage, one of the world's largest museums, occupies what used to be the tsars' Winter Palace, built on the banks of the Neva river in the 18th century. I'd bought tickets online well beforehand, so I was able to go to the side entrance instead of the main one, which always has long queues. We only had to wait in line for a few minutes, which is just as well because the wind can get pretty cold here!
The Hermitage's vast collection, which focuses on Western European and Rus…

Peterhof

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Another year, another adventure! This time, we're off to Russia! First St Petersburg, then Moscow. Time to put my six months of Russian lessons to the test!

I flew in last night with Finnair, via Helsinki. Vantaa airport has hardwood floors -be still my beating heart- but they also sell reindeer hides, like, hope you didn't like Rudolph 'cause these guys are gonna nail him to the freakin' wall. Takes all kinds I guess! The stop made the trip a bit longer but it was very affordable!
So today I left my hotel in Vasilievsky island and walked across the river to the Admiralty, where I took a boat to Peterhof!
All right, so, you're not supposed to do a day trip on your first day of holidays... But, I was filling in my itinerary during my flight, and I realised that Peterhof closes on Mondays, and on the weekend is when I have my Hermitage tickets, so I kind of had to go today! 
Peterhof is about 30 km outside of Peterburg and although there are train and bus connections to …