Well I write this from Estonia – so I’m now out of Russia and in the EU. I originally thought I would spend about 2 months crossing Russia (and Mongolia) but in the end I spent 89 days out of the 90 days allowed by my visa.
Before leaving my last major stop was Saint Petersburg. It turned out to be a spectacular city and certainly the most “beautiful” of the big Russian cities I’ve been – I can see why it is the tourist icon it is.
When you get to St Petersburg you realise how different it is to Moscow – its an “old money” versus “new money feel”. St Petersburg has a continuous array of beautiful old buildings, virtually no new buildings (at least in the centre) and the people seem to have blended in – traffic is less, flash cars are minimal, the whole place whilst very busy seems more relaxed and enjoying itself rather than desperately making and spending money.
The prime Saint Petersburg tourist attraction has to be the Hermitage art gallery located in the Winter Palace. I knew this place was big – I hadn’t realised how big; I spent a full day, opening to closing time in it, and only saw half of the rooms and galleries. The Tsars (and later the Communist party) were serious art collectors – want to see a Rembrandt, a Titian, a Rubens, a Van Goch, a Da Vinci, a Monet, a Picasso etc etc – they are all there and usually half or dozen or more – also ancient Egyptian mummies, Greek sculpture, Scythian gold, Roman ornaments, the list is endless. It is dazzling in its enormity with the art works being only half the display because the palace itself is an extravaganza. You also get a chance to really appreciate it all because the crowds are huge and your allowed to just wander around freely, none of the art works are behind glass and only a few of the most valuable gold and jewel items have any form of intrusive security. I couldn’t imagine any major European museum or palace feeling as open – not feeling you expect to get in Russia. Any way here are a few of the mandatory photo’s to whet your appetite to visit yourselves.
Continuing on the cultural theme I also visited a few more churches.
And because I am who I am also spent a fair amount of time in a car and bike museum I found.
Also a military engineering museum;
And of course a ship;
Another museum was where they did a lot of the original rocket research;
And finally a few general street scenes.
Anyway it was finally time to move on to cross the border and Russia laid on one final present for me: