From Russia with love (Part 1)

September 26th

Postcard actually bought in Russia
My husband and I took a sneaky four day trip with friends to St Petersburg earlier this month.  Somewhere I have wanted to visit since A level history days, a few decades ago now...

I was not to be disappointed and in fact wish to return. On arriving at the hotel, we were all upgraded to suites and the week end just went from strength to strength, along with my tolerance for huge quantities of vodka!

So why St Petersburg, well our good friend decided to research and see what we should pop over there and find for ourselves, his top 10, not Lonely Planets was...
After much research..

  1. Vodka - well derrr..
  2. Metro - yep - trains and stuff - great.. oh and the architecture..
  3. Egg - Fab's one not scrambled
  4. Icon - the goldie painted bits of wood not Beckham
  5. Icepick - the last thing to go through Trotsky's mind - though I think it's in Mexico not St Petes - shame
  6. Caviar - with chips & ketchup of course
  7. DOLL-in-DOLL-in-DOLL-in-DOLL   -  this only works if this email type font is received correctly..
  8. Kandinsky - Silly Wassily.. some good ones though
  9. Bear - preferably dancing in chains but I'm not fussy
  10. Pavlova - the ballerina who performed 37 turns on top of a Pavlova.. it's true - Wikipedia says so... ah.. no.. it actually says ...on top of a moving elephant.. well that's obviously more sensible

I think this set the tone for the city break well! We managed all (to a greater or lesser extent) bar number 5.
Getting into the vodka spirit of Russia
on the flight to St Petersburg

Russian writing made no sense to me at all, this spells Astoria
Procuring the Russian visa was a story in itself and cost a fortune, I admit to glowing profusely at arrivals and passport control.  All was very serious and as I had previously been in Russia at the end of the cold war without a visa and was detained for two days (don't ask) , I was worried they would remember me; thankfully I was allowed in and the Russian hospitality knew no bounds.  Without exception everyone was warm and welcoming.  

St Petersburg was founded by Peter the Great in 1703 who was out searching for a new spot to build a city when it is said he saw an eagle soaring up ahead whilst boating on the Neva Delta, which was seen as a good omen and so began building.  Having been to Europe he was keen to build himself a majestic city and so the foundations of St Petersburg began with the famous Peter Paul fortress built on an island in the river.  This was a brilliant strategic place as it allowed blocking of the entrance to incoming enemies.

St Petersburg is a much larger version of Venice, it has canals and rivers running all across it and you are never more than a few feet from water.  The buildings are vast and majestic and there is a definite feeling of pride here both imagined from years gone by and now as still a show case for Russia.

We stayed at the Astoria hotel, in itself a historic building having played a part and witnessed much of the last 100 years history of Russia.  Opened on 23rd December 1912 it quickly became the place to be seen and socialise.  The Tsar and his family dined here and Rasputin brought his married lovers here.    Two years later in 1914, St Petersburg was renamed Petrograd and by 1917 the Russian revolution began with much blood spilled on the square in front of the hotel.  In 1929, the city was once again renamed to Leningrad and indeed Lenin himself gave a speech from the balcony of the hotel to his trusted supporters below in the square.  

Between 1941-43 the city was besieged by the Germans and the hotel became a hospital.

As recently as 1991 the hotel was amidst the failed coup against Gorbachev but it has now been restored to its former glory and has welcomed many minor and major celebrities through it's doors...

View from St Isaac's cathedral over the square and our hotel on the left

The most beautiful elevator

Spent many a time in here

Afternoon tea Russian style was available every afternoon

Not my photo, as I forgot to take one!  The
magnificent Winter Garden room at the hotel,
many a Tsar, Rasputin  and Lenin to name but a few have dined here

Even our bathroom had a nod to Bond,
which we thought somewhat ironic

We had to sample different types
of vodka to get into the 'spirit' of it all, drunk
neat and very chilled, this is Russian style

'Nostrovia' is cheers in Russian

Our hotel right next door to St Isaac
Our first stop was to the largest orthodox basilica in the world and the fourth largest cathedral in the world; that of St Issac, named as such as he was the patron saint to Peter the Great who was born on the feast day of St Isaac.

Our last day, the weather began to become
more St Petersburg like
The columns and sheer size was colossal

Climbing the 250 plus step in a spiral to the colonnade at the top so we could walk around the drum of the dome was quite a puff but so worthwhile.  I quickly dashed off from the others in the pretense to take photos when indeed I really needed to get my breath back, but what a 360 degree view.  The blue skies and sun shining on all the gold domes and spires of St Petersburg made the city bright and light and magical.  The photos as often is the case just do not do it justice.

Detail just everywhere

Winter palace in the background (green building)

Inside, St Isaac's was built to allow up to 14,000 worshipers to stand, as with all the buildings in St Petersburg we were to learn that everything was huge.  They do not know how to do things on a small scale.  Sadly the architect died just 24 days before final completion of the cathedral and despite his wish to be buried here was not allowed as he was not himself Orthodox.  Being of French origin he was taken back to France to be buried. Finally in 1858 on  the anniversary of the death of Peter the Great, St Isaac's was opened to the world.

The green columns are made out of malachite and the blue from lapis.

For me the green column were just so different and stunning,
the height at 17 meters is overpowering and each one weighs 114 tons!

We ended the day back at the hotel for a Russian dinner where we were able to tick off a few more on our list...

More vodka, the Russians always have
nibbles with each shot, this is
supposed to ensure they do not
get drunk so quickly!

Borscht, beetroot soup

Dumplings Russian style

Napoleon cake, very Russian
but similar to the Norwegian version

Having arrived early afternoon to St Petersburg, we felt we had accomplished a lot on the first day...


  1. Wow! Especially to your pictures of St Isaac's. And to the vodka, obviously.

    Now I'm trying not to Google St Petersburg breaks whilst I should be working...

  2. Wow, lucky you, a very extravagant short break! X

  3. Oh wow! You must have had a fabulous time. Thanks for sharing your photographs. I'm looking forward to part two now. X

  4. How wonderful, looks amazing. Looking forward to the next bit. x

    1. Finally part 2 is up Karen. Sorry for the wait!

  5. What an incredible visit!!! I am so glad they let you back in and back out again! It looks as though you packed loads in and did some amazing things. So glad for you! xx

    1. Amy you have no idea how relieved I was. Phew is all I can say ;)

  6. Such a lovely getaway! Really enjoyed seeing your amazing photos! It all looks wonderful. xx

  7. Wow, looks like a great break away. Looks amazing it is on my list of places to visit.

    1. Go Lorraine. You won't regret it. We went through BA holidays. Worked out quite reasonable surprisingly enough

  8. You've sold it to me... I want to go there now! What a fabulous hotel, it looks like the height of luxury and St Isaacs is exquisite. Looking forward to part two.

    1. It doesn't need much selling though does it. It sells itself. Try and get there Fiona. You won't be disappointed

  9. IT looks like a wonderful place to visit.

    1. It so is wonderful Meredith. I'd love to go back in Winter too

  10. This is one city I've always wanted to visit. Looks beautiful.

    1. It really is Amalia. Hope you can get there x

  11. Wonderful photos and I loved reading about the history of this magnificent city. It's on my list of places to see. You had a fabulous trip. Hugs, Pat

    1. Hope you can get there Pat. It's worth it


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