My Roaming Spirit
Whitter*......Wittier than your next door neighbor.
After having my visa application rejected by the American Embassy, Russia was the obvious choice for a holiday. Russian visa was not extremely hard to get! My obsession with Russia could not be contained any longer. First stop was going to be St. Petersburg, formerly known as Petrograd and Leningrad.
I landed at the Pulkovo airport in St. Petersburg, on a fine June afternoon. After clearing immigration, it was a long but scenic ride to Corinthia Hotel in the Nevsky Prospect.
The city was decorated and there was much pomp and show, the people were out on the streets. I checked into the hotel. On inquiring I was told that I got lucky as the city was celebrating Scarlet Sails, which happens to be the most massive and famous event at the end of school year.
Honestly, I had not done much research about the city. After changing into my party clothes. I stepped out to explore the city, on foot. Before that, it was a pit stop to one of the many cafes that line the streets of Nevsky Prospect. As I sat outside one of the cafes and absorbed the breath-taking view while sipping my vodka, I thought about how fascinated I had been about the glorious and bloody Russian history, its architecture, the Tzars and Tsarinas and all the powerplay that Russia has to offer. The architectural beauty of the city is breath-taking. You are surrounded by old European styled building, without any modern building in the heart of the city.
A unique way to admire the Russian Venice is to take a night boat ride through rivers/channels. You get a totally different perspective of the city, the monuments on the riverbanks are lit up and they take your breath away. It was around 9:30 pm and I was surprised to see the sun. That is how St. Petersburg gets another nickname “The City of White Nights”. It’s a natural phenomenon which arises due to its closeness to the polar region and ensures that in summer the nights do not get completely dark for a month (don’t forget to draw the curtains before you sleep) !
That night when I finally went to bed at around 3 am, I could not help but marvel at the beauty and the history of the city. Scarlet sails ended with spectacular fireworks and water show, which was preceded by music concerts and a whole lot of celebration.
Next morning began with a trip to the Peterhof Palace. As you move towards the outskirts, there is change in the scenery, modern architecture is now visible. Peterhof Palace is splendid. It has beautiful mesmerizing gardens. Its aptly called as The Capital of Fountains, with as many as 64 fountains; The Grand Cascade and Samson fountain being the biggest (do get splashed by the many fountains!). The Palace with its history about the painted roof, paintings, gardens and fountains is truly symbolic and a sight to behold.
The Winter Palace was next. The unique color combination of green and white makes the exterior of the palace an impressive sight. What is more impressive is that it houses the World-famous museum: The Hermitage. The Hermitage is the world’s second largest art museum, which houses a whopping 3 million items. You can learn a lot about the Russian history there. An hour a half was not enough to even cover half the museum. But do check out the famous Peacock Clock, which was a gift to Catherine The Great. A splendid example of 18th century robotics to have survived into the 21st century, unaltered.
As much as I would have liked to cover more of the city, I was short on time. I set out for a quick city tour, where I saw The Bronze Horseman (a monument to Peter The Great), the stunning dome of St. Isaac’s Cathedral, Kazan Cathedral (the biggest in the city) to name a few. From the bridges in the Nevsky Prospect you can see the iconic landmark, the colorful domes of The Saviour On The Spilled Blood Cathedral. It is a beauty at dusk. How could I miss seeing the famous drawbridges, it’s a show with lights and music. The bridges are drawn to let ships in and out.
My last day there started with a quick stop to the Catherine Palace, the summer residence of the tsars. From there it was on to Peter and Paul Fortress, the original citadel of the city. The museums inside throw light on the origin and history of the city. A little bit of shopping (Russian vodka and chocolates) and then I was on a train to my next destination- Moscow!