St. Petersburg in a weekend

From Friday to Monday I joined Marius and his colleagues (and their wives/significants) to St. Petersburg (Russia). We had a tour guide the whole weekend who was a cute, little Russian woman in her early 70's. She had never been to Norway, nor had any connections to Norway, but she learned the language to give tours.

FRIDAY: I was a little anxious to see how it would be as an American going through customs, but surprisingly it didn't take any longer for me to get through than the Norwegians. We stayed at the Park Inn in central St. Petersburg, near the central station, and very close to the main shopping street. Evidence of the communist history was on countless buildings and there were several monuments dedicated to WWII.

[Liquid nitrogen introducing our cranberry sorbet at Palkin]
We got changed into dress clothes before a 4-course meal at Restaurant Palkin - specializing in outrageous prices for a plate of raspberries and sturgeon caviar (which I did NOT have)...a plate of raspberries, called "Special raspberry platter" cost roughly 400 NOK, and the caviar was around 800 NOK. For my starter I had goat cheese that was fried in honey and served with some greens and tomato slices; later followed by a scoop of cranberry sorbet. The main was oven baked buttery halibut with homemade pasta (SO GOOD!). And the dessert was Russian rum cake - Marius and several others chose to have the ice cream "made right before your very eyes!" The waiters really made a show of it and described what they were doing - there was even some liquid nitrogen accompanying our cranberry sorbet to add to the pizazz!

SATURDAY: It was a 10 AM start to get into the winter palace that was originally built for Katherine the Great. The building was gorgeous, and you had to be sure to remember to look at the ceiling of every room. Elaborations were everywhere! The palace is only a museum now, but the collections are amazing - renaissance, van Gogh, Picasso, etc. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to really see the other things in the museum besides for all of the paintings. And the other down side to it, was that there was very little air flow as well as closed windows, so the slow museum shuffle started to make me feel a bit light headed and ill. I would highly recommend spending 4-5 hours at the winter palace if you want to see everything! I wish we had more time in there.
["Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood"]

After lunch we were free to explore on our own, so Marius and I sought out as many sights as we could before dinner - including an iconic church, but the line was way too long to stand in to go inside. 

Dinner was another 4-course meal with entertainment at Restaurant Demidoff along the canal that runs through the city (I am horrible and forgot the name of it; I think Nevisky?). We all had the same thing for the meal, and I did not find out what the dishes were called. The two starters were a sort of meat salad thing and potato pancake with sour cream; the main was pork and potatoes; and the dinner was concluded with cranberry sorbet and espresso. The entertainment was Russian gypsy song and dance - not really what you would expect.

[Russian a capella singers at the summer palace]
SUNDAY: We started the day at 9 to get into the summer palace, which was located outside of the city by about 20 minutes. The palace was destroyed during WWII, and took 15 years to rebuild and try to bring it back to its original condition. It contained over 72,000 pieces of art, many of which were saved before the war hit St. Petersburg. We did not get to see much of the gardens, but we were treated to a traditional Russian song a capella in a building by the pond (possibly the bath house?) - the acoustics of the building really brought out each of the voices and echoed at the end. It was very cool!
[Summer palace]

[View of the winter palace from the boat tour]
After lunch we were free to do as we liked, and Marius and I went on a boat tour of the buildings of the city with two other couples. It was a great way to get another perspective of the city. Highly recommended!

Russia was never very high on my list of places to visit, but after this trip to St. Petersburg, I am curious about Moscow. The culture in Russia is VERY different, not as many people spoke English as expected, and the history of Russia is very interesting! If you are in Europe and need an idea of where to go for 4 days - St. Petersburg is the place to be!

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