First look of Russia
What comes to your mind when I say RUSSIA?
Communist? Poverty? Military? Nuclear? Mafia? Conflict? Secretive? Cold? Such descriptions did flash across my mind before, but perhaps after reading this post, you may change your mindset towards one a more positive connotation… 🙂
Russia… the largest country in the world, occupying 1/8 of world’s inhabited land area. Sitting between Asia and Europe continent. The most militarized country and perhaps one of the “secretive” country ever. Big land, rich resources and tonnes of money come with a heavy price for it. Russia has come a long way with many years of history. From the grandeur of the Tsars (Monarchs in the history of Russia), the brutality of the Soviet regime, to the onion domes of cathedrals all captivated my imagination for this amazing country!
Crossing the border from Finland into Russia can be interesting. You basically need to be patience and do sufficient homework. This is a very busy border and if you are patience enough and be nice to the frontier guards, provide the right paperwork you will not have much problems. If you are bringing a laptop it is absolutely fine, and you don’t have to declare it or pay tax, but if you bring two laptops that can potentially cause a problem. The frontier guards may make you to pay a tax, thinking of possibility that you may wish to sell the item. This could be approximately 30% of the item’s cost. So, you need to be extra caution and think through what you carry into Russia with you. A friend of mine got this problem! So just be aware of it. 🙂
Once you crossed the border, I would say it was a feeling of organised chaos to define my first Russian experience. My journey to Russia turned up all of the stereotypes from onion domes, stacking cute little Russian dolls, and exasperating bureaucracy, I was really glad it went well beyond all thees clichés.
St Petersburg (Venice of the North)
Even being a well-traveled traveler, I would say I was a little concern or fearful of my travel to Russia. BUT today, I’ll proudly say that St Petersburg is one of my favourite city in the world! Russia amazed me in every different aspect. St Petersburg is a cultural heart of Russia. Splendid view with many ancient Europe civilisation architectural gems such as Hermitage Museum (Winter Palace), Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, Peterhof Garden and many more… You MUST give yourself ample time to browse through the world renowned collections at the Hermitage and takes some time to understand the sad history that St Petersburg went through from Leningrad to what St Petersburg is today! A feel of Rome, Italy or Vatican City to be exact, due to the Roman Catholicism of Russian history!
WARNING: This will be a long recommendation list for this AMAZING city, here are my 15 Things To Do In St Petersburg, Russia! Split into 2 separate posts! 🙂 Click here for Part 2!
1) Neva River (Legend & Sphinx)
Neva River was intended to be the “main street of the city”. In the 18th century, there were no bridge to cross the river and people were using the ferry or gondolas to cross between the banks. Peter the Great founded this beautiful city as the “Venice of the North” in that era. Today, Neva River remain an essential part of the city’s charm.
2) Neva River Cruise
I was really surprise the ferry cruised for about an hour or so. It took me to explore the enchanting St Peterburg through a little sightseeing boat. Cruise along the Neva River and admire the major sights that line up St Petersburg’s romantic waterway and passed by many beautiful architectural and cathedrals such as
- Church of the Savior on Blood
- Peter & Paul Fortress
- Mariinsky Theatre
- Hermitage and many more…
You will also be passing through countless beautiful bridges giving you a perfect Disney treat in reality world! 🙂
3) Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
One of the most amazing church I ever seen!!! A beautiful gold wrapped onion domed church on the Griboedova Waterway. A stone throw away from Kazan Cathedral and it was built on the place where Russian emperor/liberator, Alexander II was assassinated in 1881. A chapel to commemorate him was built inside the church!
An amazing real-life story about this church! During World War II, a Nazi’s bomb hit the church and did not blow up. It was only discovered 18 years later in the central cupola of the church.
To be honest, I was very very impressed by the exquisite architecture of the church! Both exterior and interior was stunning!!! You won’t believe it until you’ve seen it yourself. Every inch is covered in mosaics and if you miss this church, you never been to St Petersburg! 🙂 Outside the church there were some cute little Russian monkeys that caught my attention! haha
4) Peterhof Garden
Peterhof Garden gave me an idea of age of empire! Impressive master landscapers and designer who built the palace and garden to overcome the inclement conditions via an intellectual combination of greenery, flowers, and ornate architectural decorations.
I would strongly recommend the lower park with Fountains than the upper garden! This is the place where a formal garden was built for Peter the Great, filled with over 80 original marble statues and sculptures.
The huge elegant Peterhof garden if filled with gaudy and ornate glittering everywhere! With majestic gold-plated architectural and sparking fountain provides you an undeniable privilege experience at the Peterhof Garden!
5) Hermitage Museum (The Winter Palace)
The Winter Palace was built in 1732, an official residential palace of the Russian Monarchs! Sitting right in front of the Neva River!
Today, the winter palace is one of the most famous art museum in the world! If you are in Paris, you need to visit the Louvre, if you are in London, you need to go to British Museum! Same goes with Russia! Hermitage Museum boasts one of the biggest collections with more than 3 million exhibits! You seriously could spend days here in Hermitage! haha maybe I exaggerated a bit! 🙂
From jewelry to master piece of Van Gogh, great paintings of Picasso, Da Vinci to Russian Kandinsky, Rome to Egyptians, China to Middle East! I never seen any exhibitions as grand (apart from Louvre). Even I’m not a big fan of art, I was overwhelmed by the scale of it!
6) St. Peter’s Palace Square
The Palace Square sort of reminded me of St Peter’s Square in Vatican City! This place blew me off with the extraordinary architectures and HUGE open space!!! (Well, undeniably Russia is the biggest country with BIG lands! Unlike Singapore! haha) It’s within walking distance from the Hermitage (Winter Palace) and it’s definitely a must visit! It’s so huge that gave me an impression that I’m in the heart of Russia! Over here, you feel you are so tiny! haha
You used to see military celebration, filled with people, military generals and personnel, would say a place for Russians to be proud of and show off their “assets” on television. When I was in that massive square I felt, “finally I’m in the largest country of the world – The Russian Federation!” 🙂
When I was at the Palace Square, a few Russian teenagers asked me whether I’m an American? haha… I thought it was funny and I replied “nope! I’m from Zimbabwe!” haha… It was fun chatting and knowing them. One of them was learning English and she wished to practice it with me. It was fun interacting with the Russians! 🙂
7) Midnight Sun In St Petersburg
The Russians call the midnight sun as “White Nights”. It was an incredible natural phenomenal and experience for me to witness the luminous northern midnight sun in St Petersburg! Besides, I caught the Northern Lights in Iceland on a separate trip, so I am really fortunate! 🙂
The Russian absolutely loved the white nights aka midnight sun! During this time of the year, there will be heaps of festivals and celebrations. Basically, the night never sleeps! I strongly suggest you make sure your hotel room comes with thick curtains if you visit during this period! Just to ensure you have a good sleep. 🙂
Please Continue In Part 2 –> https://www.travelinspiration360.com/look-behind-wall-st-petersburg-russia-part-2
“If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.” – Anthony Bourdain