It was a very last minute invite, and totally unexpected, but I got the chance to travel to Saint Petersburg, Russia this month. Truthfully, Russia has never even been on my list of places to visit, for no valid reason other than I didn’t know that much about it, other than onion domes and vodka of course.
I got to spend five night in beautiful city of Saint Petersburg, and I can honestly say that it is now one of my absolute favourite places on the planet. There really are a thousand reasons why I fell in love with this city, but here are just a few:
1. Saint Petersburg’s architecture
A city that holds its history in its walls is just the most fascinating thing right? Russian architecture is so distinct and so detailed that it’s hard to believe that a lot of these buildings have been around for, and survived war and regime changes as well as they did. The buildings tell the story of the city, the country and its people. Sometimes it’s beautiful, and sometimes it’s just plain weird!
2. The streets at night
I live in suburbia, there is nothing to see at night here. But, my hotel in Saint Petersburg was slap-bang in the middle of Saint Petersburg’s historical city centre and the streets are alive with hustle after hours. The buildings are all brightly lit, there are people and buskers all over, the shops stay open late and running into a group of musicians belting out some Russian rock isn’t uncommon.
3. Vodka (obviously)
It’s expensive to be a wine drinker in Saint Petersburg, so I was forced to take the local tonic instead. Vodka is cheap, and great vodka is also cheap. I’ll talk more about vodka in a future post, but just know it is possible to drink a lot of it and stay relatively sober and feel aces the next day.
4. The parks in Summer
This is something I didn’t expect: gorgeous, green parks! And they’re everywhere. Traffic islands have been made into parks, there are unexpected parks alongside the canals and next to churches, and they’re all open, clean and have little benches waiting for your bottom. The only thing is, you can’t sit on the grass. Sadly, I learnt this the hard way and got told off by a grumpy moustached man in Russian.
5. The Neva River
Cutting through Saint Petersburg, the Neva River is no joke. It’s wide, is criss-crossed with bridges all along its course of the city, and is a major attraction for tourists with river cruises departing seemingly each minute. It’s the perfect way to catch a summer sunset here.
6. It’s so dramatic
Everything, and I mean everything, has a story for the ages behind it. Whether it’s love, war or jealousy, each attraction, building and statue has some enormous amount of detail behind it. There was a lot of struggle here, clearly.
7. The history
This relates to the point above really, but less about the building and statues and more to do with how much history and culture you can soak up in just a few days. The city centre is an eccentric mix of historical and contemporary. Strangely enough though, I saw very little graffiti.
8. Matryoshka Dolls
There are literal armies of these stacking dolls waiting around every corner. They range from cheap and cheerful, all the way through to incredibly detailed and (very) expensive. You can pick up a set with just three dolls, all the way through to about ten, with the smallest the size of a nail clipping, just about anywhere!
9. Rooftop bars
There are no skyscrapers in Saint Petersburg’s centre, but there are tons of flat roofs overlooking the mish-mash of the city and it’s sometimes confusing streets below. With summer weather in full swing, I made sure to take full advantage of the vantage point.
10. The Russian sense of humour
I can’t tell you how similar the Russian sense of humour is to that of South Africa! It’s dry and sarcastic most of the time, and I generally got on famously with everybody I met! The language barrier wasn’t too bad in most cases, and where it was a problem, hand signals usually did the trick.
My trip to Russia was courtesy of FollowMe2Russia. As with all my posts, editorial control remains firmly with me.