St. Petersburg, Russia
Let me first start by saying I was excited for Russia because of my sophomore year history class. But nothing prepared me for what I saw. We met our tour guide, this sassy short woman who is one of the most intelligible person I have ever met.
Our first stop was just a scenic view of a winter palace on the water and a quick drive around the city. It was such a stark contrast seeing the communist buildings and apartments next door to palaces and churches literally made out of gold and precious jewels.
Then, we went to the Church on the Spilled Blood. The entire thing, inside and out, was covered with hang made mosaic. It is the only church in the world to be designed as such. I honestly almost got emotional when I stood inside the Church. There are no words to describe its beauty. And while this was where Emperor Alexander II was blown up in 1881, it was still mesmerizing.
Then, we were allowed a nap. Thank god. After not sleeping for even 15 minutes last night, I needed to try to get at least 5 minutes of sleep if I were going to appreciate the rest of the tour. We drove an hour into the countryside. It was lush and green and yet still somewhat impoverished. We stopped and ate at a traditional Russian restraint that was inside of a log cabin. I shared the potato pancakes with sour cream and got the beef stroganoff. It was delicious. I’m determined to find a Russian restraint in LA when I get back so I can eat that all the time.
Then, we went to Catherine’s Palace, started by Catherine I (Peter the Great’s second wife aka the laundress). I, personally, think it was more stunning than Versailles. While the gardens of Versailles were undoubtedly better, the exterior and interior style of baroque design of Catherine’s Palace was remarkable. The blue was so bright and vibrant. The insides were covered with gold and marble and 3-D flooring. The amber room was remarkable. While it was stuffy and I thought I was going to pass out from the lack of air, I wouldn’t have minded passing out there. Unfortunately, the only original part of the castle that was left was the exterior. The Nazis destroyed the entire interior. They took the furniture and burned it for fire. They stole the precious jewels and the gold and the amber. They even stripped and took the floors and ceilings. So while the inside is not the original, it is an exact replica.