Our time in Saint Petersburg was a bit of a recovery period for us. We outdid ourselves exploring gorgeous Moscow and the constant snow coupled with the frigid 12 degree weather took its toll. I’m not ashamed to admit it, Russia kicked our asses. Well, it kicked my ass I should say. Brad as always, was fine. We rallied during our exceptional train ride from Moscow to Saint Petersburg however, and managed to get ourselves up and moving for an evening of sight seeing and a wonderful birthday dinner celebration.
After running around the snow covered bridges/canals, and hitting a few major sights, we went for a fabulous birthday dinner at Katyusha, a traditional Russian restaurant off Nevsky Prospect.
Designed to look like a 19th century cossack house, dining at Katyusha felt like being welcomed into the home of a Russian babushka in the mountains surrounding Saint Petersburg. Think – lace dollies, chintz , floral motif, and waitresses dressed in traditional garb. I am enamoured with Russian folklore and history, and felt transported. I ordered rosemary chicken with potato pancakes, mushroom cream sauce and sour cream. Note – everything is served with sour cream in Russia and I 100% support this practice. Afterwards, we sampled homemade Russian liqueurs – cherry, cranberry and black currant, that were so surprisingly tasty we ordered two rounds!
Over the next few days, we spent a fair amount of time relaxing in our luxurious hotel room, reading books, watching movies, drinking fruit tea and eating Milka chocolate. We also managed to fit in some beautiful sights and wonderful bakeries.
Favorites Places And Must See Sights:
The location of bloody Sunday, which some historians say was a key event that led to the Russian revolution, Palace Square is a sight to behold. Stroll the grounds and let your imagination run wild with thoughts of Andrei courting Natasha in the grand palaces, a fur clad Anna Karenina on a troika ride or Seyit & Sura strolling through the endlessly falling snow.
Catherine’s Winter Palace & The Hermitage:
The Hermitage is fantastic – what an unexpected gem of art and splendor. Catherine’s Winter Palace houses the second largest art museum in the world featuring Da Vinci’s, Monets, Vermeers, Van Goghs, Renoirs, the list goes on and on. Also – Catherine’s rule and rise to Empress was legit fascinating. Coups! Betrayal! Murder!
Saint Isaac and Kazan
I am deeply obsessed with b;day cake eg: I dream about my birthday cake year around. As this was my birthday week, and I knew I would not be able to find my favorite chocolate and buttercream frosting cake, we made it our personal mission to find delicious cakes around Saint Petersburg. We had so much luck with bakeries in Moscow, that I was super gung ho to try them in Saint Petersburg. I was not disappointed.
Our fav: Bushe Bakery
After the bakeries, we decided to head out for some birthday drinks. Our waitress from Katyusha had suggested a cozy cocktail bar. Filled with Russian professionals, one of whom helped us order, it felt very local. The bar served innovative drinks w/ fresh ingredients. Brad ordered one of the best basil martini’s I have had in my life, second only to Lupe’s martinis, from St. Orres. You could smell the tangy scent of basil on the air, as the waiter carried us our cocktails.
Train from Moscow to Saint Petersburg:
Russian trains are insanely, next level excellent. They offer complimentary food and drinks, plenty of leg room, coat racks, and announcements in Russian and English. Our train also included a very jovial (albeit intimidating looking) conductor who at one point offered to hold Brad’s coffee for him, showed us how to adjust our seats and even wished me happy birthday! The train was warm, spotless and offered gorgeous winter wonderland scenery – snow encrusted forests, and tiny Russian villages blanketed with snow. Top sights: we passed a frozen lake with a lone child sledding (pretty sobering experience) until we spied his dogs frolicking joyfully and wildly around him. Brad even spotted a fox!
Where to stay:
The Domina Hotel. Luxurious canal side hotel.
How to pack for Russia:
ALL YOUR WARM CLOTHES. Seriously. REI is my favorite store for cold weather clothes, and I bought the coat at a North Face in Germany. Merino wool base layer, Smart Wool socks, Uggs or other winter boots. Snow gloves. Fleece lined hat with a pom because they are the cutest, Arctic parka. There are times in your trip when you will still not be warm enough, but the experience is worth it. Trust me. And this is coming from a woman who was chilly in South Africa. In summer.
Next blog post – Road Tripping through the Scottish Highlands!