It was a few years ago when I went to Russia, so it may be a little difficult to remember some of my experiences and places I visited. A few things have stuck in my head over the years, and some of these photos definitely brought back old memories. Hopefully I remember enough to make it interesting for those of you who enjoy my travel diaries.
Getting to Saint Petersburg was quite the experience and something I will never forget. I started my journey from Moscow, where I was staying for a month while my mother and I were visiting my Baba. Moscow and Saint Petersburg are not close enough to each other were we could just hop on a subway (unfortunately). We had to take an overnight train where we stayed in little train cabins and slept on tiny beds attached to the wall. I’ve travel by overnight train before but that was when I was much younger and smaller. I’m sure you can tell where this is going. Since I was the youngest of us, I was assigned to sleep on the top bunk. I didn’t really mind at first and sleeping on a train was kinda cool…until it was time for bed. The top bunk was so close to the ceiling I would have to roll (yes, ROLL) off because I didn’t have enough space to sit up or crawl to the ladder. My claustrophobia got the best of me that night. I spent the journey unable to fall asleep and having panic attacks. I’m one of those people who NEEDS her beauty sleep, so it wasn’t a good way to start off the trip.
We arrived to Saint Petersburg around 8am and quickly jumped into a cab. If you’re a tourist arriving by train, it can be a bit intimidating how forward the cab drivers are. They basically see you, grab your bags, put them inside the car and before you know it you’re in the cab telling them what hotel to take you to. It’s not very pleasant to have this happen to you when they didn’t give you any time to discuss the cost or let you check if buses or uber are cheaper.
Since we only had 5 days in Saint Petersburg, we had to make the most of every second. Even though I was exhausted from not sleeping, we left our bags in the hotel and went straight to exploring. This was one of those trips where I sat back and let everyone else figure out what we were doing. I was with two Moscow women; they knew a lot more about this city than I did. I was just along for the ride.
We walked out of the hotel and the sky was still as gray as it was when we got off the train. It was the dead of Summer, but looked and felt like the dead of Winter. I was freezing. So now, not only was I tired from not sleeping on the train, I was also cold. I was not in the mood to deal with anything or go anywhere but I still followed behind my mother and Baba down Nevsky Prospect like a tired, cold puppy that just wanted to go home. To top it off, it would sprinkle and rain throughout our trip.
Make sure to bring very warm clothing when visiting Saint Petersburg. I would not recommend a leather jacket unless it’s a warm leather jacket. I wore one when it was cold and rainy but the wind hitting the leather made me MORE cold.
There were a few times during our trip when the sun would be out which was nice. It was also warm and sunny when we went to the Peterhof Palace. So basically, be prepared for summer and winter weather when going to Saint Petersburg in July.
Peterhof Palace is a bit outside Saint Petersburg but it’s so worth the trip. A lot of tour groups go everyday so you shouldn’t have a problem finding one that can take you there and back. Our tour guide was only with us inside the palace and showed us around the gardens for a bit before letting us go off on our own for two hours.
State Hermitage Museum is the second largest art museums in the world! I didn’t know this before hand but I quickly realized it’s impossible to see everything inside this museum in just a single day. My Baba was spending a few minutes looking at every piece of art in some sections of the museum. We would probably still be inside the Hermitage to this day if my mom and I weren’t telling her we were starving.
When I travel, I have to try the local cuisine. I highly recommend the Stolovaya if you’re interested in traditional Russian food at an affordable price. What I loved about it is it’s set up like a buffet/cafeteria. It’s kinda common to see restaurants like this is Russia. It’s really nice because you can see exactly what you are getting before you put it on your plate and grab as much or as little as you want before paying at the register. The two we went to were right on Nevsky Prospect making it super accessible as a tourist. Other than that, most of my meals came from cafes and grocery stores. My mom and Baba are traditional and anti-restaurants. They basically believe all meals should be made at home, but luckily they were cool about Stolovaya and really enjoyed the Russian comfort food.
Something really different that we did in Saint Petersburg was an all night tour. The tour started at a meeting point after dark and from there we got on a coach bus and did some sightseeing on our way to the Neva River cruise. While on the cruise we got to see all the famous buildings along the river and bridges (like The Palace Bridge). It was a little chilly on the boat and none of us got good pictures. You really need a professional camera when doing photography at night on a boat. My little handheld and my mom’s phone wasn’t doing the beautifully lit up builds any justice.
After the river cruise, we got back on the bus and did more sightseeing until sunset. We got off the bus a few times and stopped at cafes and stores to get some snacks and coffee throughout the night. By the end, I was exhausted and trying to fall asleep on the seats. And after such an exhausting night, we still had to take two city buses back to our hotel. One of which didn’t run until after 7am so we were stuck waiting for almost an hour at a bus stop. Why didn’t we take a taxi? I don’t remember. Save money? No way to call one?
And after such an exhausting night, we still had to pack up and go on the claustrophobic train where I would spend another night unable to sleep. Whoever said vacations are relaxing must not leave their hotel.