Now that you’ve read an introduction to St.Petersburg, including tips for pre-departure, acquiring a tourist visa, transportation, first impressions and a recommendation of where not to stay, let’s move on to the actual itinerary of my 3-day adventure in Mother Russia. Question: why is it Mother Russia when countries like Germany are referred to as the Fatherland? Anyways, here goes.
As we left our hotel and made our way along the embankment, the first thing of interest we stumbled upon (after getting accustomed to the fact that nearly every building looks like a palace from the outside) was the Bronze Horseman and St.Isaac’s Cathedral. The statue depicts Peter the Great and was a gift from Catherine the Great who inscribed it with the words “From Catherine the 2nd, to Peter the 1st, 1782”. The statue was also the inspiration for Pushkin’s poem “The Bronze Horseman” written in 1833.
привет! That’s hello in Russian – and honestly, I had to Google it. I don’t speak a word of Russian and with no particular desire to start, I relied on a great big smile and hand gestures to get me through a week in Russia. The hand gestures worked – the smile, not so much.
How Russia landed on my travel map
Admittedly, I never had a pressing desire to visit Russia. For me, Russia was an even colder part of the world (remember, I’m Canadian) that came alive, now and then, via movies like Enemy at the Gates, an amazing film featuring Jude Law as the fictitious hero of the Battle of Stalingrad. Then, as I worked my way through university, taking courses like Eastern European Politics, and History (before and after 1945), I found that my interest in visiting Russia had finally been piqued.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to places with a troublesome pasts (and sometimes presents) but the rise and decline of the great Russian empire is so complex and so full of drama (father murdering sons, wives murdering husbands etc.), romance (Catherine the Great had a long list of lovers after her husband died), mystery (including subversion, spy games and espionage), and social and political turmoil (from the October Revolution through to the Cold War and the rise of the oligarchs) that I couldn’t help but want to see it with my very own eyes.