From Russia With Love (II)

SAINT PETERSBURG
Part I

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Throughout the night I toss and turn. The light from outside illuminating the large vaulted room. The dream still haunting my conscious. Restless, I wander over to the window and drawback the shear curtains. The snow outside lights up the night. Pushing the television back I climb up onto the desk and lean against the window. There was something magical about the serenity of a Saint Petersburg Sunday night.

Gazing across the street the neon glow of a shamrock illuminates the entrance of an Irish Pub. Funny. No matter where in the world I am, I’m always within a shot of an Irish Pub.

I still cannot shake this feeling. I can’t sleep, and yet it truly felt like home. lying back I watch the sun rise across the city. Dobroye utro Russia. Morning arrives, and with it… adventure.

***

This is my first time in Russia so I booked a tour to make the visa application process much more convenient. I don’t typically travel in tour groups, but over time I’ve warmed up to the idea.

After stuffing my bag with food from the continental breakfast (Hey, free food is free food) I meet up with my group. As a Canadian it’s quite mild outside. A mere -5 degrees Celsius. But for a majority of my fellow travelers, mostly Australians, it’s the coldest they have ever experienced. For some, it is the first time they have seen snow.  They bundle up for the short walk out the lobby door to the van parked five feet away. Its adorable really.

Barreling down Netsky Prospect we are given the brief but incredibly informative tour of each and every building. By the time we’ve been told the history of one building we are a mile ahead. Impossible to keep up, we turn and come to our first stop. The statue of Czar Nicholas I. Armed with cameras we all exit in typical tourist fashion as we march towards the square by Isaac’s Cathedral. We all have a bit of fun playing in the snow, then it’s back on the bus.

The radiant blue of St. Nicholas Cathedral stands out on the Semimostye. Known as the best view in the whole city. Seven bridges take you across the canal and in every direction you marvel at the incredible planning that went into Saint Petersburg’s design. Grand European baroque style of the west meets the winters of the north and the language of the East. It is impossible not to fall in love with the city as you cross from one bridge to the next. Ravens with Stark Winterfell coats dot the iron railings while water foul below dot between the ice and freezing waters.

From the canals to the river Saint Petersburg almost turns into a white out. Crossing the River Neva the pastel shades of the buildings begin to disappear as the clouds drift lower and the falling snow turns everything to white. Along the embankment of the river sits the most peculiar sight. Two Sphinx’s lay across the banks of the frozen river covered in a blanket of fresh snow.

The vantage point from the lighthouse is incredible. Across from the Stock Exchange if you stood in place of these red columns you could see the history of the city unfold. While the city is almost unrecognizable through the heavy clouds the spire of Saint Peter and Paul’s fortress rises from the mist of where the city was born on 27 of May in 1703 (Saint Petersburg is one of the few cities that can trace it’s founding back to a single date). Saint Peter founded the city in the marshlands to open the mysterious country to Europe, and the world. Centuries later when the Russian people grew tired of the monarchy, the Bolsheviks took comand and sailed the battleship cruiser Aurora down the Neva River starting the first acts of the October Revolution.  Across the ice caped river stately palaces line the shores to make up the Hermitage museum… the boldest of all the buildings in a deep shade of teal and gold sits the Winter Palace.

-rt

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