Archive | January, 2013

St. Petersburg: Part Three

27 Jan

So. Many. Photos.   While this is definitely a good thing, it also means that it is going to take some time to sort through it all.  I have decided to share photos and stories from our vacation in pieces.  Hope you enjoy!

After two crazy-busy days of tourism, we took a day off on Thursday to hang out and relax.  Our biggest accomplishment was braving the icy streets to go to the grocery store for some food.  It was a lovely day of family with feet up.

We were back at it on Friday, though.  We ventured out for brunch at Brooklyn Local Cafe. I was sold the moment I heard they actually had bagels.  Bagels are one of the things that I miss A LOT over here.  They made a good one, too.  Once we were fed, we visited the Russian Museum which is the largest depository of Russian fine art in St. Petersburg.

State Russian Museum

State Russian Museum

Since the Russian Museum is not quite as large as the Hermitage, we had time to walk around and explore a bit after.  We primarily wandered up and down Nevsky Prospekt, a main street in the city.  We were able to spend some more time looking at sites that we passed with our guide earlier as well.  This included walking around and taking a million photos of Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood.  It is certainly impressive and makes Moscow’s Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square look even more like a model at Disney than I originally thought.

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

We had warm beverages at Cafe Singer in the Singer House, Kevin treated himself to a jersey at the Zenit store, we  marveled at the treats in the Kupetz Eliseyev Food Hall at the Eliseyev Emporium, enjoyed cocktails at the Grand Hotel Europe, and finished off the day with dinner at Van Der Wafel.

Saturday was our last day in St. Petersburg.  We planned a few last things, but spent much of the day packing up and preparing to head to Moscow.  We had lunch at the Idiot restaurant and then walked to see the Bronze Horseman statue.

Bronze Horseman

Bronze Horseman

Earlier in the week we decided to take an overnight train back to Moscow and books our tickets.  Our transportation to the station was very late and as we rushed onto the platform we learned that the train we selected was one of the very few trains that does not leave from the station known as the Station Where Trains to Moscow Depart From.  Since trains leave so often, we were able to find four spots on one that left a few hours later.  We grabbed a table and some beers and waited it out.  We were not able to get one compartment for all four of us, but Heather and Kevin were together with another couple, as were Ben and I, and we were in compartments next to each other.  I fell asleep before the woman even checked our tickets and overall enjoyed the overnight train.  It was a little warm in the car and the other couple with Ben and I were not the best roomies, but I would definitely travel this way again.

And then we were in Moscow!

Reminder: the photos are a mix of all of our photos, so big thanks to Ben, Heather, and Kevin for their contributions.  See below for the gallery!

до свидания!

St. Petersburg: Part Two

19 Jan

So. Many. Photos.   While this is definitely a good thing, it also means that it is going to take some time to sort through it all.  I have decided to share photos and stories from our vacation in pieces.  Hope you enjoy!

We toured the city on 26 December.  Led by an English-speaking guide that Heather and Kevin booked through easyRussia, we covered A LOT of ground in St. Petersburg.  This is a photo-heavy post (see gallery at the end), so rather than explaining too much detail/history I recommend that you use the links to learn more about the places we saw!

Our flat was pretty close to the Kazan Cathedral, which stands out due to its impressive colonnade.  Built in the early 1800’s, it was modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  We did not enter the cathedral, though, simply passed it while walking.

Kazan Cathedral

Kazan Cathedral

We then moved on to another cathedral, the St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral.  Our guide rushed us here so that we would arrive in time to see part of the service.  It is fairly small inside, but like all of the Russian Orthodox cathedrals that I have been in, it is covered top-to-bottom in ornate decorations and iconography.

St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral

St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral

As we walked back to the main street of St. Petersburg, we passed Moika Palace, the location where Rasputin’s assassination began with cyanide poisoning.  We opted out of the tour of the cellar room due to timing and expense.  While most palaces were converted to mundane use after the revolution, this one was given to the Education Commissariat and was preserved as a museum.  It is currently the Palace of Culture of Educators, hosting events and theater productions.  One of my favorite quotes from wikipedia about it is this: “The courtyard where Rasputin attempted to flee from his killers is now occupied by a kindergarten playground adjacent to the palace.”

We also past Nabokov House and quite a few palaces that were converted post-revolution.  We saw St. Isaac’s Square which includes St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the Hotel Astoria, and Mariinsky Palace, which now houses the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly.

Mariinsky Palace off St. Isaac's Square

Mariinsky Palace off St. Isaac’s Square

We stopped for lunch at Stolle.  They are a “pie” shop, with both savory and sweet pies.  They are AMAZING!  We were very excited to find they have locations in Moscow as well, so we will definitely check them out again.

We walked along the main street for a bit and then hopped on the metro to see the Peter and Paul Fortress.  We didn’t go into any of the museums or sites, but it was impressive to see.  I am also glad we were able to see it in winter because they frozen river covered in snow was impressive.  We also walked to the cabin of Peter the Great, which was a tiny little cabin that is preserved inside of another small building.  It was such a contrast to all of the palaces we passed throughout the day.

At the Peter and Paul Fortress

At the Peter and Paul Fortress

We passed many other sites along the way since the whole city is covered in historical locations and monuments.  It was about six hours of tour, most of which were walking, so we were exhausted by the time we made it back to the flat.  We managed to drag ourselves back out for dinner, though, and enjoyed a nice dinner at an Armenian restaurant called Kilikia.

As I mentioned before, the photos are a mix of all of our photos, so big thanks to Ben, Heather, and Kevin for their contributions.  See below for the gallery!

до свидания!

St. Petersburg: Part One

11 Jan

So. Many. Photos.   While this is definitely a good thing, it also means that it is going to take some time to sort through them all.  I have decided to share photos and stories from our vacation in pieces.  Hope you enjoy!

Ben and I took a late afternoon train to St. Petersburg on Christmas Eve.  Trains leave from Moscow for St. Petersburg, and vice-versa, close to every few minutes.  The specific length of time varies, but most are approximately four or eight hours.  We selected one of the four hour departures that would arrive after Heather and Kevin, giving them a chance to settle everything with the rental flat and rest a bit.  After we got in, we chatted and enjoyed a nice holiday toast of Havana Club rum.  Why not celebrate being out of the States with something you cannot have in the States?

On the train to St. Petersburg

On the train to St. Petersburg

Christmas day was spent at the Hermitage.  We visited the collection housed in the Winter Palace, which is part of Palace Square.  We spent probably five hours there and still only saw about one-third of the collection.  Ben and I have been saving many of these museums and sites, anticipating having family and friends visit.  The Hermitage is one that we can easily visit again and not feel like we are seeing the same thing over and over.  Not only was the artwork itself amazing, but since it is housed in the Winter Palace, the rooms themselves are artwork, rich in history.

Inside the courtyard of the Winter Palace

Inside the courtyard of the Winter Palace

We were all pretty exhausted by the end of the day and decided to find dinner on the walk back.  We ended up at Gogol and I don’t think we could have planned a better first dinner out in Russia.  Excellent food and atmosphere, with an English-friendly staff and menu.  Designed to be the flat of a writer in the 19th century, each room is themed.  We were seated in the Reception room.  We all enjoyed our soups and main courses, but the highlight was the vodka.  Heather tried to order the homemade spicy horseradish vodka only to be told it was not available.  A short time later another server came out to let her know that it was now available if she still wanted some.  At that point, we all ended up ordering it and not one of us regretted it.  Not my first horseradish vodka, and not even the only one of the vacation, but definitely the best I’ve had.

Reception Room at Gogol
(Photo from Restaurant’s Website)

We don’t have too many photos from these two days, but this is a pretty good place to stop for now.  The photos are a mix of all of our photos, so big thanks to Ben, Heather, and Kevin for their contributions.  See below for the gallery!

до свидания!

Happy New Year!

6 Jan

Midnight Kiss

С Новым Годом!

Happy New Year!

This is a week late since I spent the past two weeks enjoying a wonderful vacation with my sister and brother-in-law.  We tackled St. Petersburg and Moscow with many museums visited, sites seen, drinks drank, and food eaten.  Heather and Kevin left in the wee-hours of the morning today and they are already missed greatly.

I will soon begin sorting through the hundreds of photos we managed to take between the four of us and sharing our adventures over a series of posts.

I hope that the new year is off to a great start for all of you!

до свидания!