June 9, 2017
After the events of a very long day of traveling, culminating in the Couchsurfing meeting which was also a blast – but late evening, I decided to start my first full day in Saint Petersburg off great. I slept in! Honestly though, it’s a great way to help combat fatigue and jet lag during traveling so I did not mind.
However, by 2 pm I finally decided to get up and get my butt moving. I made tentative plans with another Couchsurfer to meet up later for dinner, and then decided to head out and just explore the city center. I hopped a bus, after figuring out which one, and got off at the main plaza in front of the Winter Palace. Unfortunately, the weather was not the best – gloomy, overcast, and drizzling. As it was late in the afternoon, and because I had plans to visit the Hermitage Winter Palace another day, I simply walked around the area along the river.
FYI – it was a rather LONG walk! I walked along the entire Hermitage palace towards the main bridge crossing the river. I walked along that bridge, after snapping some photos of Peter & Paul Fortress across the way. From there, I meandered slightly away from the path to explore Saint Petersburg’s Mosque – which was beautiful from the outside. I continued my “little” excursion then around the entire island of the Peter & Paul Fortress – I planned to visit another day. By this time, I’ll admit that I was getting tired but I had to persist and make the entire circle back to The Hermitage.
By this point, my tentative dinner plans unfortunately fell through – however, we planned to meet up tomorrow to visit The Hermitage. As I had completed the first circle, I continued walking the other direction up the river as I knew there was a statue of Peter the I further along. While there, I noted again what I had seen earlier in front of The Hermitage – actors dressed in period costume. However, they were trying to sell the chance to take pictures with them. I declined as 1. I did not think it was worth what they were asking in price and 2. the costumes were not even that great! But alas, I do have a strong preference to historical authenticity!
As I continued through the park on my way back to the main plaza, I passed St. Isaac’s Cathedral. Figuring I had missed out going inside or up on the roof, I was almost ready to keep walking until I realized that they had evening hours! I quickly bought a ticket for both inside and on the roof.
Inside the cathedral was gorgeous! The amount of paintings and mosaics were beautifully crafted, and in classic Russian Orthodox style, the iconostasis was also a work of art itself. The other nice element was that they had a short display and video on how they constructed the Cathedral, including the raising of each of its heavy stone pillars on the outside.
After viewing the inside, it was time to head up top. Except climbing up over 150 stone spiral steps and then more metal steps to reach the actual roof viewpoint was not very well planned for after already walking halfway around the city! Once I reached that top step though, the view was entirely worth it! Saint Petersburg, built in a style very similar to other European cities, is rather low with most buildings only having a couple of stories. The church domes therefore stand above the city and dominate the skyline. Even though the sky was still gloomy, the view was beautiful.
Even though the sky was barely darkening, the time was actually quite late. I also realized that I was ravenous and needed some food! While walking along the main road back towards my hostel (which is much farther of a walk than it looks!), I stopped at a small cafeteria style restaurant. They served real Russian food, and it was quite cheap! I sampled some borsch along with a few other delicious dishes, before continuing my slow walk back to the hostel.
By the time I got back, it was nearly 11 pm! I decided that I would attempt to get some things done before crashing – however what I wanted to get done and what was actually done did not match. So I called it a night and went to bed.
BTW – no wonder my legs were tired. I traveled a total of 34,745 steps (equal to 15.28 miles) and mostly on paved stone sidewalks or roads. Oi!