Everyone: Meet my roommate Alex. She is from Cleveland and her favorite color is red. She is a wonderful young women who enjoys traveling and she is very excited for the World Series. Similar to a Washington sports fan, she understands the long term love and patience that one needs for her beloved sports teams.
The past two days I have been busy touring Saint Petersburg. Alex was in Saint Petersburg last year so she has been a wonderful guide. Below are some pictures of our touring!
Yesterday, Alex was the lovely tour guide. We successfully bought Alex a metro card and didn’t get lost on our way to the city square.
Last year, Alex was brought to a little cafe by a friend and she fell in love. With our love for good and new food, this, of course, was the first thing on our list. This rocket themed, 60’s-music-playing diner served the most incredible donuts. The front counter was covered with enlarged real Soviet newspapers about Yuri Gagarin and his space travels. The donut reminded me of a Krispie Kreme donut but was a little lighter, not glazed and had a little more flavor to it. Alex and I agreed that there will be many more stops into this lovely blast-from-the-past cafe.
After our morning snack we took on the weather for some pictures. Both of these are located in Palace Square and at the center, not pictured is a large statue of Alexander The I., Catherine the Great’s grandson. The green building is part of a much larger complex, but is the Winter Palace and the main Hermitage Museum. We are not sure what the historical significance of the arch way, but we are sure it is something.
When I left Virginia, I was leaving 80 degree and entering 30 degree weather. Needless to say, I was very sad about missing fall. Alex and I were walking to a palace and found a perfect park to fill that fall season need of mine.
Next Alex and I went to the Faberge Egg Museum. These eggs were gifts for each other and given to the Romanov Family during their 304 year reign. This maroon egg below was the first one ever given and easily my favorite. It is a simple maroon egg with a smaller white egg inside of it (not shown) and inside the white egg is a rooster. The eggs were given to each other in times of celebration and at momentous events. They, of course, get a lot more extravagant than this simple maroon one just like this crazy green tree one.
Our final stop for the day was The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. This church is absolutely stunning from every angle. Walking to the Church we found a perfect picture spot with the church in the back. We asked a nice Asian tourist to take our picture and we would take his. Well there was some sort of English misunderstanding because we took his picture with his phone on the selfie stick and then he decided he wanted to take a picture with us on his selfie stick. Needless to say, we booked it into that church. UNTIL! Alex ran into a man walking around with a raccoon. Living with someone for 4 days and spending all of our time together, I have learned a lot about Alex. What I did not know is that she has a soft spot for raccoons, so much so that she follows multiple raccoon accounts on Instagram. She successfully haggled a man and got to hang out with and feed a raccoon. And I quote, “This is the happiest day of my life.” Well, after that life changing moment we entered this incredible church that was covered head to toe in tile mosaic in depictions of the New Testament.
After we slept a very good night sleep, we woke up early for another fun filled adventure. We of course went to the cafe and had our classic omelet, hot dog and tea breakfast. We had a wonderful women, Vika, pick us up and take us to The Catherine Palace. On the way there she told us many fun facts about Saint Petersburg including that there are over 90 bridges and canals in the city.
We also saw a statue of a guy who Vika said contributed as much to Russian culture as Peter the Great. A statue of Dimitri Mendeleev stands tall on the side of the round on a college campus. Now, many people know about Dimitri from his standardizing the periodic table. But, according to Vika he also helped standardize the 40% strength of vodka as we know it. The other very important fact that we learned about this Dimitri statue is that is located on a college campus. Similar to Testudo, the terrapin at University of Maryland, Dimitri’s nose is very shiny since people rub it for good luck.
Now, upon writing this blog post, Alex and I did a little fact check on this. With the help of Russian Google, we learned that the 40% standardization of vodka occurred when Dimitri was 9 years old. Therefore this fact check is a myth.
We began our completely factual tour with Vika at The Catherine Palace. This is from the main white room used for balls back in the day. Mirrors and, back then, candle sticks like these ones, were placed all around the room. When it was first lit for the night it took 700 candles to fully light.
Here are 4 other very interesting pictures from the Palace. This first one is that there was a bedroom that was decorated with images of fertility and tools because well, there were 10 children born there. Ironically, this was just a show bedroom and was never used, so who knows where the real magic happened. There were two rooms with these colored columns in them. One room with red columns and another room with green. These columns are very deceptive because they are actually silver painted with green glass. The picture in the middle on the right is of the Hermitage which had a moat around it! This was my first ever moat and I was very very excited. The final picture at the bottom right was the view from Catherine’s gardens. Lets be honest, I wouldn’t mind dealing with all of the being-a-Queen problems if I had a view like this to wake up to every morning! We saw multiple couples taking wedding pictures around the garden grounds and it was stunning.
To end our Vika tour we went to Catherine’s sons place, Paul the I. His place was a couple of minutes down the road and much smaller and compact than Catherine’s. Paul did not like his mother and wanted to stay away as much as possible. When Catherine died, Paul conveniently visited and long term ‘borrowed’ a lot of her tableware. The other nice thing that we learned is that there were only 8 days between the the second world war and when Germany invaded Saint Petersburg. With all of the men at the war, similarly to the USA, all of the women went to work. There was one woman in particular who took as many relics as she could find buried them into the ground and hid them in hidden walls she and others built within the palace. While this heroic act saved a couple thousand pieces of art, many many more are still missing or destroyed. This chandelier is an original and was saved during the war.
Our dinner tonight was Georgian and it was delicious. It was a new style for me, but Alex picked some wonderful things out to eat. Tomorrow begins our first day of helping out, so stay tuned for less touristy pictures!