We last left off at the conclusion of the first few days in Saint Petersburg. Many years ago my parents studied at St. Peter as two very young adults (teenagers maybe?) and they were both eager to see how the city of gold changed since. My dad is also an avid lover of sight-seeing, so we all knew we were in for hours upon hours of walking and exploring.
St. Peter is filled with hidden gems among the famous ones, and we really had to pick and choose with the limited time we had. Up first was perhaps the most famous sight of the bunch- The Hermitage.
Tucked away on the shores of the river among modern day homes and shops, this mint green beauty was the winter palace of the Tsars.
Stepping inside, you immediately understand the wealth and adornment that Russian royalty experienced.
Dripping in gold gold gold.
Most of the Hermitage’s interior is restored and the damage caused during the violence of WWII was reversed.
You wouldn’t know it while strolling down the adorned halls, though – everything looked clean and perfect.
The Hermitage is huge. One of the tour guides mentioned that if you spent 1 minute looking at every painting/statue/sight, it would take you 11 years to get through the entire museum. Insanity! Even with a map we got lost multiple times.
The aging walls are filled with paintings, some unknown and others famous:
DaVinci’s Madonna and Child
We also gazed upon famous statues:
Michelangelo’s Crouching Boy
We had a great time wandering through the maze of art and history.
My dad, a history fanatic, was in heaven:
Can’t you tell?
I could show you photos of the Hermitage all day, but this photo sums it up pretty well:
After hours upon hours of walking, we called it quits for the day and hobbled to our next destination.
Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
After our adventure at the Hermitage, we decided to finish off the long day with a quick visit to a beautiful church.
The church was built on the site were Tsar Alexander II was assassinated.
We spent an hour walking through the church/museum appreciating the incredible restoration that took place there. Our tour guide was Russian and spoke quickly, so I didn’t quite capture all the details/history (I still speak and understand Russian quite well though). And thus concludes our touristy day!
Despite spending hours on our feet the previous day, we set off to spend the day at the summer palace of the Tsars – Peterhof (sometimes known as Petergof). Two words come to mind when describing this golden and lusciously green palace – sheer beauty.
Peterhof is known for its extraordinary lower garden and incredible fountains. The weather was perfect for exploring these palace gardens.
Beautiful! Peterhof is sometimes known as the Russian Versailles due to its striking similarity to the French palace. In fact, Peter the Great purposely built his summer home in the French style.
We spent a few hours walking from fountain to fountain, enjoying the warm weather and fresh air.
(trick fountains – the water goes off whenever someone steps near the bench)
(sun fountain – drunk on sunshine and water)
One of the only family photos we took the entire trip! Sunglasses overload…
Although most of the Peterhof fountains have been restored, it’s still incredible to think how advanced these unique fountains were during their time (1700 & 1800s).
(family bonding time)
After our stroll in the park, we headed into the actual palace for a tour. Unfortunately, photographs weren’t permitted but I did manage to sneak this photo thanks to my iPhone:
We had to wear little scrubs on our shoes to protect the floor.
The interior was even more ornate than the Hermitage. Gold gold gold everywhere! During the German invasion, the entire palace was burned to its core. The soldiers stripped the palace rooms of their treasures. It took many years to restore Peterhof, but the final results are breathtaking.
After the hour-long tour, we headed back outdoors to visit the (significantly smaller) upper garden.
(I’ve always wanted to take a photo like this!)
Eventually, we said our final goodbyes to the stunning summer palace and headed home. Thank goodness I wore my Converses because my feet were exhausted!
The trip home took a bit of time…
…since we took the metro.
(old-fashioned metro where the track is hidden – much safer!)
The metro in Saint Petersburg is very deep underground and it literally takes a few minutes to get down!
(Sasha happily carrying a box of desserts for dinner)
It was a busy day but one that will remain in my memories forever. I spent much of the day feeling immensely proud of my Russian roots. My country is beautiful and resilient, and my heart swells with joy.
St. Isaac’s Cathedral
Thanks to our sore feet and aching muscles, we unanimously decided to take it easy the next day and visit local churches/sights. We had two goals to accomplish that day: visit the small gold & diamond museum in the Hermitage and go to the top of St. Isaac’s Cathedral.
After a quick tour through both the gold and the diamond museums (no photos were allowed!), we set off to St. Isaac’s Cathedral.
The interior was quite pretty…
…but the peak was where the real fun was at! Our climb to the top was tiring, but oh so worth it!
Check out the sights!
We had a 360º view of the golden tops of the city.
Funny story – we (read: I) thought our mom had already gone back down and so we followed suite. After waiting for 30 minutes (we weren’t allowed to go back up), the people had to make an announcement to everyone searching for my mom. Ha! A good end to the night nonetheless.
Bus Tour & Catherine Palace
By the time the second-to-last day in Saint Petersburg rolled around, we were absolutely exhausted. However, my dad insisted on seeing one last site – the Amber Room at Catherine Palace. My sister felt congested and decided to skip out on the hour-long commute to the palace, but the ladies of the family did partake in a quick bus tour of the city beforehand. It was nice not walking around for once. The comforts of the bus were a good break for my feet! The tour did have a few stops at noteworthy sites such as this Bolshevik ship:
Here, my sis and I both bought these antique-looking necklaces:
After the bus tour, my sister headed home while my mom and I set out to Catherine Palace (my dad had already made it there before us).
More gold everywhere!
(we once again had to wear scrubs to protect the floors)
We took a quick tour of the interior, where my mom proclaimed that this was her favorite palace because of its incredible decorations.
Can’t you totally picture Catherine the Great standing there among the walls saturated in gold? Amazing.
(I love elaborately painted ceilings)
The Amber Room – aka my dad’s dream – was stunning! No photos/videos were permitted though. A quick history: the Amber Room is literally a room whose walls are made with real amber. During the war, the amber panels were all stolen, never to be seen again. Eventually, the room was restored based on old blueprints and photos. The original wall panels have yet to be found – their disappearance is still a mystery!
And so the first week of our vacation came to a close as quickly as it started. I walked along historic paths, visited ancient buildings, and experienced Saint Petersburg through the eyes of a true Russian. It was time to put the “touristy” part of our vacation to rest and continue on to friends and family.