After a great day out at Peterhof Palace, we had dinner with our friend Anastasiia (who we previously met during our Trans-Siberian Railway journey). Saint Petersburg was her home, so it was great to spend the evening with a local and catch up.
We had heard that the city’s 342 bridges were famous, especially since the ones crossing the Neva River raised up between 1am and 5am to let big boats and ships through. You didn’t want to get caught out on the wrong side during a big night out…
As we waited along the riverfront behind the Hermitage Museum (along with many tourists and locals), we were treated to the iconic Palace Bridge opening then others in sequence, while a busker beside us played “My heart will go on” by Celine Dion. Romantic!
If the Hermitage Museum wasn’t enough, we visited the State Russian Museum too. Obviously focused on Russian art and history, this is a place not to be missed either.
The ornate rooms of this old palace building have some nice sculptures plus some very cool scene paintings on display. Emotive and captivating.
On a small island across the Neva River, Peter the Great established a fortress in 1703. It was built during the Northern War to protect his capital from the feared Swedish, although never attacked.
Now it is an open-air museum clustered around the Peter and Paul Cathedral; the burial place of all Russian Tsars from Peter I to Alexander III (except Peter II and Ivan IV). Plus a somewhat grotesque bronze statue of Peter the Great himself.
As day turned to night, we ventured out one last time for a truly Russian experience: watch Swan Lake at the traditional Mikhailovsky Theatre. Which, for anyone who didn’t know, is the famous ballet composed by the great Russian Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky (also of Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker fame).
Of course, we couldn’t take photos during the show. But it was great fun. And a fitting way to end our trip of Saint Petersburg and Russia itself. We had travelled nearly the whole length of the largest country in the world on our way into Europe for the first time.
Visited 12th September 2014.