Undoubtedly, Russia is one of the coldest places in the world and it was a crazy idea to visit the country in December. Just like us, the temperature refused to be positive 😛 Anyhow, we spent the last week of 2015 in the chilly city of Saint Petersburg and it turned out to be an unforgettable experience.
Russia : The coldest country in the world
Firstly, it is a given that I love to travel. And I enjoy the journey to my destination as much as the place itself. We took a flight to Moscow and met our family at the airport at 3 a.m. It was colder than we expected and getting to our hotel without freezing was THE ultimate aim at that point! Thankfully, our uncle had booked a traveller in advance and we crashed on our beds as soon as we reached the hotel.
Our first destination in the largest country of the world was Moscow, the capital city. We stayed at Azimut, the Olympic Hotel. The Olympic Sports Complex and picturesque Yekaterininsky Park are located next door to the hotel.
On the first morning, I woke up to a beautiful snow shower and a city covered in a white blanket. As we drank Indian Masala Tea from the Indian restaurant inside the hotel while watching ice pellets pouring out of the window, the joy of the family vacation increased by a great extent.
For having a look at other accommodations available in the city, you can visit TripAdvisor.in
1. On the first day, we packed ourselves up to face the chilly winter breeze and hopped on the traveller to visit The Moscow Kremlin. It is a fortified complex in the heart of Moscow which is also the official residence of the President of Russian federation. It includes five palaces and four cathedrals. It overlooks the Moskva River, Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Red Square and the Alexander Garden. The little shops in the complex add to the liveliness of the place and the adjacent shopping mall, GUM is a delight for shopaholics! The colourful Saint Basil’s Cathedral increases the beauty quotient of the Kremlin.
Remember to pack yourself up in a scarf, winter caps, gloves and warm jackets if you are visiting in winters since the chilly winter breeze is hard to bear! It was a task to convince myself to take out my hand from the gloves and click pictures of the complex.
In the evening, you can go to various places to capture the beautifully lighted city in a panorama.
2. The next day, we went for a city tour before we headed to Saint Petersburg. During the tour, we covered places like Bolshoi Theatre, State Duma, KGB Headquarters, Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and Russian National Library.
Interesting fact ! – Many European cities have laws and regulations restricting the size of new buildings in order to preserve historic skylines. This is the reason why European countries have a lesser number of skyscrapers as compared to Hong Kong, New York, etc. Whenever plans to build skyscrapers in Moscow/ St. Petersburg were made public, the press started a campaign against it and usually the argument was preservation of the historical view of the city. In recent years, Russian president Putin used his presidential power to remove the barriers and skyscrapers are finally being built in Moscow. Though, the Stalin skyscrapers are a part of Russian heritage since years, the new Moskva City has upped the architectural quotient of Moscow.
St Petersburg is a Russian port city on the Baltic Sea. It is the second largest city in the largest country of the world and home to more than two hundred museums, many of them hosted in historic buildings.
We stayed at the Staybridge Suites. The apartment style living was a great opportunity for the whole family to spend time together!
1. The imperial estate of Peterhof : The real highlight of Peterhof is the Grand Cascade – a series of more than 140 fountains and canals cascading down a hill behind the Grand Palace. The interiors are as beautiful as the gardens surrounding the palace. The palace has gold plated doors, authentic silk-layered walls decorated with fabric brought from across the world- China, France and Russia. Also, every room is decorated by portraits and amazing paintings on the walls which depict war scenes thus adding to the grandeur of the magnificent palace.
Suggestion- Visit the place in summers, the greenery of the hills and the fountains are more beautiful during that season. Though the entry tickets are much more expensive at that time, I suggest you should book the passes in advance. Also, in summers you can reach the Grand Peterhof Palace by a hydrofoil boat from a pier opposite the Winter palace making the journey to Peterhof memorable in itself.
2. Hermitage museum : The popular museum of art and culture has a collection of paintings that are sure to mesmerise anyone! It is huge inside and has a collection of more than 3 million items from across the world.
3. The palace square : At night, the lights from the buildings surrounding the main square of the city shine bright and add to the picturesque beauty of the place. Across the square, on the southern side, stands the classical yellow-and-white building of the former Imperial Army General Staff. On the eastern side the building of the former Royal Guards’ General Staff closes the panorama of Palace Square, while on the West the square borders with the Admiralty and the Admiralty Garden.
4. St Isaac’s Cathedral : The cathedral boasts of an impressive interior. The church’s facades are decorated with sculptures and massive granite columns, while the interior is adorned with incredible icons and paintings.
On new year’s eve, we left our hotel at 12 am for a tour of the city and got down at the frozen river Neva which looked like it froze while an oncoming wave was still in motion. What a sight it was !! The best time was when a gathering of drunk Indian men and their wives and children set foot on the roads of Russia to boast Punjabi music and dance till they dropped ! That was the best time a family could’ve spent together for new year’s celebration!
Apart from this, I spent a lot of time exploring the city by foot and travelling by the metro to visit different cafes and eating joints with my brother and cousins. My cousin brother’s friends lived in the city and it was pleasure to get to know them and wander around the city with them.
Overall, I was glad to survive the chilly weather and have a blast during my vacations !