Author: Yellow Duckie
Communism and the Palace of the Tsars was all I know of St Petersburg or as a matter of fact, of Russia. Being pre-warned by various travellers about the gloom that is writen all over the Russians' face, I pre-empted myself not be greeted with warm smiles. After all, I came from Riga, so I can expect something like Riga. I was totally wrong (now I seriously think Riga is a far lot better, at least the people are friendlier).

As much as I would like to talk something good about my visit to St Petersburg, I find it hard to recall apart from the granduer of The Hermitage. I blame it to the weather. The only time we saw the sun was the first half of our first day. The gloomy sky above our head is reflected in the attitude of the people here.

Vladimir, our airport transfer driver, happened to be the first easy going Russian I have met during my entire trip to St Petersburg. Along the way to our apartment, I can't help but to feel that this town feels like being in Vietnam...big square with large statues of Clothed Human ( in this case it was Lenin whom we saw instead of Ho Chin Minh) either in the entrance of the square or right in the middle.

An uneasy feeling settled upon me when we arrived at the apartment. The entrance to the apartmet was really old. The entire apartment reminds of those you've seen in the classic movies. The stair case leading to our apartment was so old that I felt as though I have traveled back in time. Standing in front of the leather door (yes, a leather dooe), Vladimir draws out a bunch of keys which I have only seen in the museum! I was so glad that the interior of the apartment was nothing like the ancient case which it is in.

The main street or the posh street of St Petersburg, Nevsky Prospekt, is busy with tonnes of people trampling on it. Those that are rushing to work and those that are eager to make their way to visit the much boasted landmark of St Pertersburg. A network of wires hangs aboves the street, catering for the electric busses gives the city a messy look. However, the buildings around it is really a head-turner. The Russian pays great details in designing the outlook of their buildings. I must say it is really impressive. It is however obvious that the French and Italy has alot of influence on the artwork in Russia. These artistic buildings arelurking at every corner waiting to be discover, walk around, you'll see them.

If is was not because for the rich treasure left behind with its rich history, I would not choose to visit this place at all. Clearly this place is not that ready to embrace a bunch of independent travellers as English signboards and menu is scarce.

I am not quite sure why the Russian behave so cold. Perhaps it's the history of the dictatorship of their past leaders that has shaped a society that finds it hard to express their emotions. I find it hard to comprehend. Buying a pair of socks over the counter may seems like you are asking for a human kidney. Service with a smile is definitely not preached here. The funniest incident, which we think was funny after the event, was at the restaurant. Located on the main street, this is clearly to be a tourist-friendly restaurant, instead, it took me some silly stunts before I could get a table. Walking into the restaurant, we were completely ignored by the waiters so I took the liberty to break the ice and walk up to one. Before I could say anything, i was left alone, standing completely like an idiot. Then I decided to tap the arms of one of the waitress and to my surprise, that was ignored too! We did eventually get a table. This restaurant was recommended to us by one of the local ( the second friendly Russian we met).

Russian food, what can I say about Russian food as the only Russian food that we have possibly tried is the blini, the famous pan cake, which looks alot like crepe and is served wrapped around savoury meat or fruits. I suspect this is not a Russian food but I'd considered it one. Apart from that, what we ate for dinner tasted pretty much like a normal western food ( grill meat with potatoes). The following night, being so tired of wandering around with not much help from anyone we decided to settled down with something familiar, McDonalds.


Doing some justice to St P, it is in fact one of the city which you should have in your list of countries you intend to visit. Perhaps is it just me and the gloomy weather that makes me feels so un-adventurous. The Hermitage and the Church of Spill Blood was the only reason I was here.

The Hermitage was extremely impressive that I have to admit, it is indeed like nothing I've seen. I felt disgusted at myself for marveling at the poverty of the people in the past as the richness of this palace reflects the poverty the people then! However, this is definitely not to be missed. Buy your ticket online to save yourself from the ever ending line.

Enter the Church of Spill Blood and be impressed by the Mosaic work(covers the entire interior) in the interior of the church which depicts the story of the life of Jesus. The exterior of this church is so much publiscised that I believe I do not have to elaborate further.

Shopping in Russia is not cheap, however, due to the rain, we spent most of our time inside Gostinyy Dvor, the longest shopping mall I've ever been too! Word of advice is that if you are intersted in getting the Matryoshka Doll, get it here at Gostinyy Dvor (this is not a famous tourist shop, however walking along the Nevksy toward the Hermitage, you can't miss this huge building complex) The prices here are not that far off from the vendors across the street from the Church of Spill Bloob but I can assure you that at least your Matryoshka Doll will not changes its look one from other and the quality is definetly better. Also, buying ice cream or drinks here is much cheaper than getting it outside from the street vendor, a peculair fact indeed.

After 3 days, I was so glad to be heading home where water does not smell like steel and to a land where people treat each other with a smile. I have to admit that I was slightly shocked when the bus driver greeted us friendly when we board the bus in Stockholm, after 3 days in Russia, I almost forgot how to smile.
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