After a bumpy night we pulled into St. Petersburg Station around 8:30am. Being the seasoned travelers we are we decided to take the metro to our hotel instead of hailing a taxi. This was totally fine for some of the people in our group who had packed light, but was a bit of a challenge for CL and I who had rather large suitcases. That said, it was a great workout, and you really haven’t lived until you’ve lugged your LL Bean Extra Large Roller over a snowbank!

Even though we got to our hotel, the Courtyard Marriott Vasilievsky, quite early, our rooms were ready. So after a much needed shower and power nap we headed out into the City Formerly Known As Leningrad. Our first stop was Stolle (which translates to awesome Russian meat pie). We ordered a variety of stuffed breads. I got a mushroom, other got beef, chicken, salmon, herring and even “barberry” which pretty much tastes like cranberry. A perfect lunch, the bread itself is slightly sweet, which really goes well with either sweet or savory fillings.

Our next stop was Nevsky Prospeckt, St. P’s version of say Newbury Street or Fifth Avenue, but on the way we crossed the River Neva, and checked out the Hermitage, the former home of the Tsars after Peter the Great got tired of Moscow and decided to move the capital here. The city consists of over 42 islands, hence many bridges, some of which are drawbridges in the summer. But right now, in March, the rivah is frozen solid!

As we approached the water we spotted the Winter Palace of the Hermitage. This home of the Tsars was built in 1754 by an Italian architect, and remodeled in 1837 to the way it is today, by Catherine the great, but more on that later.

Once we got to Nevsky Prospeckt our first stop was Kazan Cathedral, it looked more Roman than Russian (and it was indeed influenced by St. Peter’s in Rome), and luckily the Reds did not destroy this one.

Next, since we clearly were not tired if churches we went to The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood (awesome name). This church was built from 1883 and 1907 on the spot where Alexander II (the Tsar who freed the serfs, remember sophomore year of HS history?), was killed by the People’s Will Terrorist Group in 1881, hence the name. It was modeled after St. Basil’s in Moscow and really spectacular inside and out.

It also underwent a 27 year restoration, ending in 1997, and what makes it doubly awesome is that the interior is all mosaics.

Yeah that’s not paint, it’s mosaic, I like small colored stones in the shape of Jesus and the Saints, whatevs.

After all that I decided to walk back across the Neva River to visit the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, per the recc of MZ. It was the city’s first museum, founded in 1714 by Peter himself and is infamous for it’s collection of super weird things, like embryo’s with no legs, conjoined fetuses (is that plural or what?) and a two headed fox. Totes weird, I was too grossed out to take any pictures, see MZ’s blog for a few of them.

That night we met up with the rest of the group, who had arrived from the US and went over to the Marinsky Theater for the Ballet. Our show for that night was Анна Каренина (Anna Karenina for those of you who don’t read Cyrillic, gawd). This theater is where Tchaikovsky premiered such ballets as the Nutcracker and Swan Lake, no big deal.

We admired the theater lobby as well as the Tsar’s box, where him and his peeps got to sit when they felt like going to the ballet.

His Box, heehee.

Curtain Call

After a long day, and the death of poor Anna it was time for bed. Tomorrow we’re off to visit some sites of St.P.