I will also be having some awards for the last 1/3 of my trip as well as some overall awards – these will follow this post tomorrow.
The second day I was in Saint Petersburg I headed over to Peterhof by train, this train worked OK, but it did have the worlds dirtiest windows as it probably hadn’t had them cleaned since it was built or something! Anyhow after getting to Peterhof station I caught the bus to the castle itself and had a look around. It wasn’t busy at all when I was there (it was a Friday after all!) and the gardens and canal to the sea were snow covered – and so OK, but not amazing to look at. The fountains were also not working. What was incredible was the palace itself, which was absolutely gorgeous and sickeningly decadent with every room having more gold leaf and over the top decoration than the last – the house even has a full sized theatre!
Afterwards I tried to find some lunch onsite, but being Russia there didn’t seem to be any options so I made my way back to St Petersburg via a mothering bus conductor and an hour long wait for the train (as one train was cancelled) while my feet slowly froze. Then after getting back to St Petersburg I managed to quickly locate a McDonalds so I could blow my RDA of fat and sodium and protein by ordering a large McTasty, I got some ketchup with it, though unfortunately they decided I wanted two and I felt this was getting a little OTT. So I reduced the number to one as you had to pay for the ketchup. Clearly the Russians like getting the best possible value as the ketchup isn’t free. McDonalds isn’t the only one though. Pizza Hut also did it with the Garlic bread which you could practically order by the slice.
After this I then headed to St Isaac’s cathedral as I just had time to fit that in. St Issac’s cathedral is the main cathedral in St Petersburg and is absolutely massive and very beautiful – jaw-dropping at every opportunity. I also took in the great view from the rooftop of the surrounding city which was well worth seeing. After that I returned to the hostel to sleep. Fortunately the Russian smoker had left, unfortunately some French who wanted to stay up all night arrived. They weren’t that bad, but they did talk all night which given the paper walls in the hostel was pretty annoying.
The next day I was woken up bright and early by the French and so I got out and headed to the Hermitage, it wasn’t yet open so I went to a nearby branch of McDonalds to have some Blinis (traditional Russian breakfast) and use their free WiFi (the Russians seem to love the stuff) before the museum opened.
At 10:20 I then headed back to the museum. There was a queue and there also appeared to be lots of people standing around at the end of the queue with large gaps between them and the queue itself. So I “pushed” past them and joined the queue into the museum itself. Inside the museum I also picked up another photo taking ticket (£4 – though I’m sure you can get away without paying it if you aren’t too bothered about taking photos.) and the audio guide (£6). The audio guide was excellent however.
The museum itself was amazing and kept me entertained from 10:30am until 4:30pm, the building itself is also stunning in many places. Highlights included Rembrant, Monet, Picasso, a couple of Da Vinci’s and more. Obviously though as the museum was absolutely massive – having 400 rooms – not everything inside was amazing. The Hermitage also owns a few other buildings with art in them around town – including the General Staff building opposite the main museum which is housed in the Winter Palace. I didn’t have time to see this though.
After this I went to have an early pizza supper before briefly returning to my hostel to drop off my bag. At this point I only had 50 minutes before the ballet performance I’d booked to see at out the Mariinsky theatre. So I tried to catch a bus to the theatre. Unfortunately the first bus I saw with the right number didn’t seem to be going there and I couldn’t see one for a while so I ran down into the metro system and got a metro train for one stop. Unfortunately at that point I came up a different exit from before so I was a little lost until I asked at a stall where it was. So I then ran off through the streets to the ballet (as I didn’t trust the taxis) and arrived with about 1 minute to spare. After arriving I left my coat and got some opera glasses (crap – a waste of money unless your eyesight is really bad) and settled into my seat high above the action in a decently priced seat. Unfortunately I’d picked my seat too well – it was right in the centre but there was some theatre decoration straight in front of me, so I stood up before it started which amused the people behind me who *really* had to stand to see. Its a learnt lesson that generally you have to sit a little away from the centre if you’re sitting in bad seats in case there is some moulding right in the middle!
Then I sat down and the ballet started. The ballet itself was really good and was the first performance I’ve ever seen as well as being the first performance in the 9th international ballet festival at the theatre. There was a break in the middle and I got a cup of tea, surprisingly this was reasonably priced and I needed it as I hadn’t slept much. After this I saw the second half. As its ballet there is no spoken content but I could still understand a definite story – here is a link to the synopsis (I have to admit I didn’t pick up all of the plot though :p).
After this I returned to the hostel and on the way in I met up with some other people from the hostel and we went to my favourite restaurant again, followed by a pub for a “cheap beer” and followed by a Russian club inside a half finished building near the hostel – it was a really cool club inside however.