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Snowy St. Petersburg, Russia

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After a few days in Moscow, I was happy to jump in the Land Rover at 3:30 a.m. and start the long journey to St. Petersburg. In Moscow I often felt suffocated by the rushed crowds on the streets and metro stations. Everywhere it seemed people were in a hurry to push their way forward without ever saying "excuse me," a herd of humanity moving through life at a frantic pace. As soon as we arrived in St. Petersburg I knew things would be different. The city has a completely different vibe and is more relaxed, colorful and friendly. Ahhh - you can breathe here! So I knew immediately that St. Petersburg would better suit my personality and the city did not disappoint.

I don't need to go into a detailed explanation of St. Petersburg's history because it is the hometown for many of you. However, for my few American readers and family I will mention that it's Russia's second largest city, sitting on the Neva River and the Gulf of Finland. The city was founded by Peter the Great and previously served as the government center of Russia until the early 1900's when these functions moved to Moscow. A main focal point of the city is Palace Square, where the Winter Palace on the cover photo sits. The Palace is grand and stunning. It was built in the mid 1700's and was the main residence for Russian Tsars.

2. Palace Square also hosts the General Staff Building, which was constructed between 1819 - 1829. It served as the former home of the Imperial Army General Staff but now houses government offices. A mini blizzard decided to arrive when I was standing in the Square. I found it magical but fellow travel companions ran for cover. It would be an interesting contrast to stand here in summer, when I'm sure the Square is packed with tourists and much more active. Personally I like the solitude of the winter scene.


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3. A camera in the Square equals tourist bait! As soon as I started snapping pictures, these annoying characters attacked. This same phenomenon exists everywhere in the States at main tourist attractions. I don't know who thought of this idea but they should be punished.

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4. Endless snowy canals in St. Petersburg, but I especially liked this one because of the colorful buildings. I don't know if they're residential, commercial or government offices but the striking appearance left a big impression on me.

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5. In my initial post many users attacked me for saying most Muscovites are rude, but I stand by this statement. I would never describe Moscow as a friendly city on any level. But St. Petersburg renewed my faith in Russian people as I saw more smiles here, people taking the time to chat with one another on the streets, etc. Here, a beautiful lady and baby. I'm not sure why strollers are rarely used in the city but it's something I noticed. Perhaps it's too difficult to navigate the strollers on some of the snowy, narrow sidewalks. I saw many parents carrying their bundles of joy over their shoulders like a sack of potatoes.

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6. Older ladies sharing an afternoon chat.

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7.  This man - very amusing and intoxicated! I didn't even have my camera out but he stopped us while walking through the apartment courtyard and wanted to pose for a picture. So I took his photo.

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8. I call this the "Moscow look." :)

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9. I cannot imagine navigating the snowy, icy paths of Russia as an elderly person. I'm certain it's a learned skill and by this age they've grown accustomed to it. The whole trip I was worried about falling and breaking my leg, but I had only one wipe out. This is a true miracle as I'm very clumsy, usually falling on every trip (even in sunny weather).

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10. In addition to the colorful people, lots of festive art for sale on the streets of St. Petersburg. So many paintings of cats! Russians really seem to love this animal. I think most Americans, including me, prefer dogs but of course we have more space for them as our homes and apartments are typically much larger.

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11. Late one afternoon we climbed hundreds of steps to the top of St. Isaac's Cathedral for fabulous views of the city. I think I counted around 300 in total, but the views are amazing and worth the effort.

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12. On this day, there was actually a hint of blue in the sky against the golden dome.

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13. At the top of the cathedral we ran into some foreign tourists trying to find English speakers. Lovely older couple. It was their first trip to St. Petersburg and they also were enchanted by the city.

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14. I mentioned before that I love Russian cakes and sweets and we stopped at a Soviet style place on Malaya Konyushennava Street to eat some type of powdered sugar doughnut treat. Delicious! And, a cat running around in the kitchen. I will never forget this place because the napkins there were literally squares of paper. Danger of paper cuts if you try to wipe your mouth! The street itself is very charming with its perfectly aligned light fixtures. Again, no sky here. I missed the blue sky and clouds while in Russia.

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15. The last day we spent walking around Rabbit Island. Honestly I was so sick and exhausted on this day that I could barely walk because it was the "day after" the squirrel vodka incident. This animal - pure evil! In Russia, squirrels are some type of fairy-tale like animal, appearing on candies and other treats. However, in the States they are aggressive beasts. Rednecks skin and eat them and in the DC area (where I live) they will literally jump on your lap like a dog if you're holding food because they're so used to being fed by tourists.

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16. On this Saturday afternoon an elaborate wedding was taking place, with a Rolls Royce carrying the bridal party.

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17. Snowy romance. Young love. The best, no matter where in the world.

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18. A very special thanks to Mitya, our constant companion in St. Petersburg. A true gentleman helping me through the snowy streets, always with a friendly smile. I hope we all meet again soon!

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19. Perhaps you've noticed by now that I like hats. I wear them all winter and try to collect them from every country I visit. One night we attended a party at the apartment of one of Mitya's friends. Probably about eight Russians there, all of which were strangers to me and Sasha. One of the lovely girls there gave me this hat, joking that it was made from a squirrel because I mentioned my strong dislike for this animal. I promised to send her one from America. A sort of "cultural hat exchange" program. :)

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You see I met with and spoke to many native Russians during this trip, not just one.

What else can I say about St. Petersburg? Well it was here that I renewed my love for Georgian cuisine and discovered a new poison called "chacha." I did so many shots of this with three Russian men and at the end of the night I was the only sober one. I think my body must have some type of chacha immunity. After a night of drinking, an American woman the only sober person in a sea of Russian men. I probably deserve some type of medal for this. :)

I'll never forget my five days in St. Petersburg, or the car journey there and back. Many great memories, interesting conversations and warm feelings. I feel at home here more than any Russian city I visited and I'll definitely return.

I'll write a few more posts about the city in the future.



 

Comments

( 166 comments — Leave a comment )
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(Deleted comment)
peacetraveler22
Mar. 26th, 2013 02:20 pm (UTC)
My pleasure, thanks for reading. The locals I was with called it Rabbit Island and it's commonly referred to by this name on the Internet. So maybe it has multiple names?
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - moonrainbow - Mar. 27th, 2013 05:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - blazzer - Mar. 28th, 2013 11:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
solikama
Mar. 26th, 2013 05:04 am (UTC)
Good story, nice pictures
peacetraveler22
Mar. 26th, 2013 02:20 pm (UTC)
Many thanks!
abram
Mar. 26th, 2013 05:07 am (UTC)
Обожаю Питер.
peacetraveler22
Mar. 26th, 2013 01:37 pm (UTC)
Я тоже!
(no subject) - cybermania - Mar. 26th, 2013 05:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 26th, 2013 06:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
ypolozov
Mar. 26th, 2013 05:23 am (UTC)
Thank you for the story. What an irony, at first I found no Russian smiles in the post. But one may argue that lover and a drunk cyclist are smiling)) But generally "Moscow look" has some reasons in history and in harsh competition between people in Russia.
+1 to Hare island.
peacetraveler22
Mar. 26th, 2013 01:40 pm (UTC)
By Russian standards, the young couple, drunk cyclist and even the lady with the baby are definitely smiling. :) Yes, Hare Island very cool. But the locals I was with called it "Rabbit Island"...hmmm.
(no subject) - the_most_human - Mar. 26th, 2013 09:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ypolozov - Mar. 27th, 2013 03:11 am (UTC) - Expand
phlegmone
Mar. 26th, 2013 05:30 am (UTC)
Thank you for the great post!
peacetraveler22
Mar. 26th, 2013 01:40 pm (UTC)
My pleasure, glad you enjoyed.
prosto_popal
Mar. 26th, 2013 05:41 am (UTC)
most of Moscow's people (especially youth, of course) likes St.Petersburg and spend weekends there very often (almost a few times per month). Part of them moves to SPb for life).
igorbasic
Mar. 26th, 2013 06:10 am (UTC)
I think, minimum half of them dislikes St.Petersburg. Because it's Zenit, Putin and bad weather :-)
(no subject) - prosto_popal - Mar. 26th, 2013 06:30 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Алексей Смирнов - Mar. 30th, 2013 10:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 26th, 2013 01:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - prosto_popal - Mar. 26th, 2013 02:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - moonrainbow - Mar. 27th, 2013 05:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
Not every train but night train. - xpo_xpo_xpo - Mar. 29th, 2013 01:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
togliatt
Mar. 26th, 2013 05:52 am (UTC)
St. Petersburg is quite different than Moscow. And Moscow is quite different than all Russia. I can even say, that Moscow is not Russia.
St. Petersburg is beautiful city with rich history, but very dirty. It does not look like the cultural capital, unfortunately(

PS: photo № 16 - this is not Great Britan flag, but I think that Mitya told you about that)
peacetraveler22
Mar. 26th, 2013 06:14 am (UTC)
No, Mitya barely spoke English so there was no discussion about the flag. Sasha was our interpreter. Thanks for reading. :)
(no subject) - togliatt - Mar. 26th, 2013 06:35 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - togliatt - Mar. 26th, 2013 06:41 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 26th, 2013 01:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - 7greendog - Mar. 27th, 2013 08:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 27th, 2013 09:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - togliatt - Mar. 28th, 2013 05:57 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 28th, 2013 11:47 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - terwik - Mar. 26th, 2013 08:02 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 26th, 2013 01:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
my_coast
Mar. 26th, 2013 06:09 am (UTC)
Absolutely agree with such evaluation of Moscow's smile and rudeness. But this is only in Moscow, in other Russian cities people are not in a hurry and more friendly and polite.
peacetraveler22
Mar. 26th, 2013 01:43 pm (UTC)
Yes, this was my experience as well. People outside Moscow friendlier but still not as open with strangers as in America. It's just a cultural difference.
(no subject) - my_coast - Mar. 28th, 2013 06:56 am (UTC) - Expand
Phooey! - xpo_xpo_xpo - Mar. 29th, 2013 02:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
But if Russian smiles on you, - xpo_xpo_xpo - Mar. 29th, 2013 02:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: But if Russian smiles on you, - peacetraveler22 - Mar. 29th, 2013 02:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
tasha_kudryasha
Mar. 26th, 2013 06:22 am (UTC)
thanks for your post! Very interesting! Shannon, have you visited small provincial Russian cities?
peacetraveler22
Mar. 26th, 2013 01:49 pm (UTC)
I visited Novgorod, Vyborg, Kronstadt, Kresty, Torzhok and some other small villages. I'll write about some of these places in other posts.
mrsalp
Mar. 26th, 2013 06:24 am (UTC)
Thanks a lot for sharing your impressions about Russia. It is really interesting to learn how a foreigner feels here. I guess you are right that people in Moscow just forgot how to smile and say "thanks" or "excuse me". But outside of Moscow things differ completely.
peacetraveler22
Mar. 26th, 2013 01:50 pm (UTC)
You're welcome!
igorbasic
Mar. 26th, 2013 06:26 am (UTC)
You are internet troll!!)
There are two holy wars in this post:Moscow vs Piter and cats vs dogs :-)
peacetraveler22
Mar. 26th, 2013 01:52 pm (UTC)
Haha, and which sides would you choose in the battle? Clearly I'll fight for Peter and the dogs. :)
(no subject) - 7greendog - Mar. 27th, 2013 08:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
doctoralexxx
Mar. 26th, 2013 06:26 am (UTC)
Moscow look! You got it! I laughed a lot when I saw this pic. I'm from Moscow and I have to say you're right, sometimes I look like this man but only in the morning without coffe)
Thanks.

Edited at 2013-03-26 06:28 am (UTC)
peacetraveler22
Mar. 26th, 2013 01:55 pm (UTC)
It's the typical face I saw there, especially on crowded trains. I suppose we all wear this expression at various times. And, I agree, must have coffee first thing in the morning. :)
mishasavchenko
Mar. 26th, 2013 06:36 am (UTC)
Shannon, thank you!! "squirrel vodka incident", uhh! ))) You're very cheerful!
Don't drink too many, in Russia it's real problem... Interesting view and photo to beautiful city! Enjoy! :)
P.S. we're likes fun, laugh and rejoice here in Russia)
peacetraveler22
Mar. 26th, 2013 01:57 pm (UTC)
Squirrel vodka was only one night, and that's enough to last a lifetime! :)
(no subject) - mishasavchenko - Mar. 26th, 2013 05:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ydolgov - Apr. 1st, 2013 02:49 am (UTC) - Expand
igor_bon
Mar. 26th, 2013 06:38 am (UTC)
Come visit us in St. Petersburg in June. White Nights - for romantics and lovers!
peacetraveler22
Mar. 26th, 2013 01:58 pm (UTC)
I'm sure the city is completely different in summer. Maybe I'll make it back later this year.
ne_o_tom
Mar. 26th, 2013 07:16 am (UTC)
Thank you very much for your story about one of my favorite cities! I'm glad you liked it. My name is Natasha, I live in Stary Oskol, in southern Russia. True, I almost do not speak in English.))) And learn here in your blog.
peacetraveler22
Mar. 26th, 2013 01:59 pm (UTC)
Hi Natasha! Welcome to my blog and thanks for reading. If you have any questions about English, feel free to send me a message and I'll try to help.
(no subject) - ne_o_tom - Mar. 27th, 2013 09:44 am (UTC) - Expand
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