King for a day. Day 50
Sunshine this morning, dapples the frosted window, light streaming through the semi open curtains. We awake with full tummies following last nights feastings, the day is upon us and once again Russia calls. The streets seem busier than yesterday and despite the sunshine the friendly breeze whistling by still has a somewhat icy stare that cuts to the bones.
We are on the metro, the deepest metro in the world, the escalator actually drops off the edge of a cliff swooping down into the abyss that is the Russian underground. Demons in long coats and fur hats duck and weave past us at ferocious speed whilst we crane our necks feeling a lot like Dante falling into the inferno. The trains lie concealed behind a border of thick steel, sliding back like the doors to some spaceship ready to hurtle us to worlds unknown. Also the language is in some alien scribbled character that Jess and I struggle to make out.
Our train somehow arrives in the right spot and we are on the Nevsky Prospekt. The Champs Elysées of St Petersburg. The busy street is filled with locals and tourists alike peering in shop windows at the multitude of items on offer. Expensive furs hang for obscene prices and Jess and I quickly realise that this place may become a serious budget breaker. However there are some great things to do for free here along the Prospekt. The metro stop drops you just outside the wonderful Kazan Cathedral. The giant bronze horseman guards the entrance to the Winter Palace stood proud on a vast pillar of stone, the horseman is an impressive sight to behold and even in the grips of autumnal frosts the gardens prove a delight to wander among.
The Winter Palace stands alone as one of the most hideously, beautiful things I have ever seen. I know this is such a contradiction in terms but it is truly the only thing I can think of to accurately describe this palace. On the inside it holds a radiating presence that captures the very essence of Mother Russia, from the outside…it’s frickin green. Not a soft forest green that softens in the light, rather a green that looks like a lime plucked from the branch before it’s time, before the sun has transformed it into something wonderful. I suppose though if the building were a perfect green you would struggle to notice the amount of gold fixtures that deck the walls and smother the windows with their presence.
Welcome to a place of royalty. Now a museum of cultural history, this “Louvre” of St Petersburg houses artworks from across the globe, but the main attraction is the palace itself. It’s stunning fixtures, jaw dropping chandeliers and marvellous marble. Walking through the space is walking through history. Red carpet rolls underfoot, soft sunlight beams through priceless crystal hung overhead and the scent of mahogany causes the senses to stray. The Winter Palace is completely awe inspiring, it was not until we arrived here that we’d ever seen something so magnificent. For you Russian travellers this is a free exhibit for students of all nationalities, its been a while since I was at Uni but the student card still holds weight. If not it’s a short 250 Rubles and I promise it is well worth any expense.
The summer gardens are a delight to walk through, the leaves on trees softening into golds and orange before floating down from above onto the damp lawns below. We walk the grounds staring at the sun spotted trees weathered with age before we walk upon the great church. The Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood. The glorious holy space brings a gasp to Jess and I as we climb the steps and heave our weight against the enormous carved wooden doors. Inside is even more incredible than outside. Giant pillars of emerald green marble, frescos of saints cover the walls and pink and copper porphyry glistens along the alter. This is the church where Alexander II was assassinated during the Russian revolution. Blood was spilt on this holy space and it has left its mark both on the building and on the Russian people. An amazing place to visit when in St Petersburg.
With the history of Russia running through our brains I’ve almost completely forgotten my stomach. Almost. The humble potato, a comforting companion to all foodies, whether they be crisp, roasted in duck fat or whipped and smothered in butter, the potato is friend to all. Here in Russia this is no exception, it is a friend to pickled mushrooms, sauerkraut, or for me a lightly spiced concoction of beans and fresh tomato. Now it may look like somebody has vomited into a babies nappy but I assure you it is delicious.
With dinner done it is time to head home, tomorrow we take the train to Moscow.
Time to make tracks.
Josh and Jess