There are some things you should know about me.
1. My favourite book is The Bronze Horseman.
2. Subsequently my favourite author is Paullina Simons.
3. I automatically love anyone who loves The Bronze Horseman as much as me.
4. Our first trip to St Petersburg a couple of years ago was because I wanted to see the city she writes about.
5. Our trip to St Petersburg this time was because we loved it the first time.
6. St Petersburg is now one of our favourite cities in the World. I may be slightly blinded by my love for the book but I don’t care.
Arriving in St Petersburg in the afternoon was a bit exciting for us. It was the first time we had ever re-visited a city in Europe. We got to our room which was really bright and clean and because it was a part of a huge apartment it felt like it could easily be home for a while. For this reason we decided to go grocery shopping so that we could cook for a change, instead of eating out constantly. We bought enough food for breakfast everyday and some dinners. By the end of the day we felt like we had accomplished a lot – checked into our room, went grocery shopping, put on a load of washing and went out for a walk.
The first time we visited Russia was during winter so it was very cold and dark, this time however it is summer which means White Nights in St Petersburg. Because of St Petersburg’s geographical location, during summer the sun never really drops below the horizon which means that although the sun has ‘set’ it’s still light outside. There are always people out on the streets during summer and at 2am, although it’s quiet it’s not deserted by any means. It was nice knowing we had been to St Petersburg before because it meant we could spend more of our time outside, instead of inside museums and cathedrals. We checked out some of our favourites of course, but only from the outside. The Hermitage & the Winter Palace which never disappoint as well as The Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood and St Isaac’s Cathedral. We spent most of our time though walking around the Summer Garden, checking out the Bronze Horseman and pushing through crowds on Nevsky Prospect.
During this visit we did 2 things we didn’t do on our previous trip. The first was going to the Ballet. I’d always wanted to go to see the Russian Ballet in Russia but last time we just didn’t have the time, this time around, thinking we could book last minute tickets to the famous Bolshoi in Moscow we were told that everything was sold out! So we thought “not to worry we will just go here in St Petersburg”. “Sorry, everything is also sold out for the time you’re here” WHAT?! Turns out that wasn’t the case, it was just that new shows were opening a couple of days after we left and these were sold out. After being sent on a mission around St Petersburg we finally found one of the authorised sellers we were after and it was meant to be! There were 2 tickets left on the day we wanted, but for a different, smaller theatre. We bought them because there was no way I was going to Russia twice and not seeing the Ballet. The ballet culture in Russia is huge! Everyone gets dressed up, arrives early for drinks and canapés and then heads out for dinner after the show.
We got to the theatre super early and had some drinks and food while we waited, just before going into the show our waiter asked if we would like to pre-order some drinks for the intermission “Of course we would – 2 of the same please”. We walked into the theatre to look for our seats and were told we were at the end, so we walk all the way to the end until we can’t go any further and there is no entrance which is when we were given our our swipe card to a private room. Crazy I know. So we go through one door, into a small waiting room with private bathrooms, through another door into a private sitting room and then finally through another door onto a private balcony. We were shocked. And then, to top it all off, it looked like we had gate-crashed a small party, because the other 6 people all knew each other and had booked the entire balcony, or so they thought. We then discussed that they probably assumed no-one would buy 2 tickets, one in front of the other, but they didn’t count on us doing just that! They were lovely people who made us feel really welcome and I get the impression they were regulars at the ballet. So there we are in our fancy seats watching the ballet and then at intermission we walk out and think “Hmmm how do we get our drinks we ordered, we didn’t get a ticket or receipt” we didn’t even have to worry because as soon as we walked out, our waiter found us and took us over to our old table which was now reserved for us. Our entire experience of the ballet was a positive one, maybe because of our seats, maybe because of our reserved table, but mainly it was because of the formality and tradition behind the way everyone acted and the respect everyone had towards the art of ballet. We can’t wait to go again, although next time we will book well in advance so that we can go to the Bolshoi in Moscow!
The other thing we did this time was visit Peterhof which is the Summer Palace of Peter the Great. This place was ridiculous. It is called by some as the Fountain Capital of the World and once you’re there you can understand why. Everywhere you turn there is a fountain, either big or small, real or trick. The real fountains are quite obvious but the trick ones can get you, however you can usually spot them from a far by the crowds of kids running and squealing. The trick fountains just mean that the can shoot out water at anytime, and some that are hidden in the ground can catch you off guard completely. It was nice watching families running around these areas just enjoying the time outside. Sometimes we forget how much joy can arise from a water fountain or sprinkler. Besides the thousands of fountains at Peterhof, the gardens are simply breathtaking. My brother is a landscape gardener so pretty much the entire time we were walking around we kept saying “Chris would love this place” “Imagine what Chris would say if he was here” “We should take a photo and send it to Chris” “We should tell Chris to come here”.
We had been told to pack a lunch so we sat by the waters edge, looked out towards Kotlin Island, St Petersburg, ate chicken salad rolls and watched a newly married couple celebrate with what we imagine were 8 of their closest friends. It really was a nice way to end our time in St Petersburg.