Today, May 14th, our first day getting to know Saint Petersburg and Russia in general. We have begun at 7:30 with a delicious breakfast delivered by our wonderful study trip committee. With bread, ham, yogurt, cheese, Nutella, and fruits we became prepared for the day ahead.
At 8:30, we started our way to meet with Sasha, our tour guide for the day. As a born and raised St. Petersburger she knows all about the city, the main spots and how to avoid crowded touristic places/times.
First, we visited the Palace Square in front of the Winter Palace, which is, in fact, larger than the Red Square in Moscow. (Also, we heard the residents from St. Petersburg are more ‘relaxed’ than the Moscow residents, which are apparently more stressed and more socially awkward because of their hurry. It could be that this is a myth created by St. Petersburgernes, however, we will check it out in one week when we are in Moscow). We could see from this square the outside of the buildings that form the Hermitage complex, which is famously known for its size. Afterward, we went to a stroll in the city center, walking by the Neva river, and having a look at the other side of it, where we could see the fortress and the old port while having we got information about the history and importance of these buildings for the city.
We walked until one of the main spots in the city: the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. The building nowadays functions as a museum and is very crowded, so tourists need to be aware of pickpocketers, which were observed by most of the study trip group. The building itself and its mosaics which represent the life of Christ are very well conserved.
Afterward, we walked by a few souvenirs street shops, with a lot of matryoshkas and Putin images, until we arrived at Kazam, which is an Orthodox Church, which architecture remembers a Greek temple (huge dimensions and columns).
We needed to feed ourselves and went to a Russian buffet, where we could try really good sourkrout soup and beetroots salad.
After lunch we continued our day with a different type of tour: we went to visit a Green Building owned by Gazprom, which has won the Leed Gold Certificate in 2018. It was very interesting to learn about how the building was built (in 2013) and maintained. We had a presentation given by the main engineer of the project and a tour through the building facilities.
After we visited the Gazprom building, we went to the hostel before we were having dinner together. This dinner took place in a vegan restaurant named Jiva, which was specialized in making vegan burgers. After the group was settled on the third floor of the building, the waiter (with of course the obligatory knot on his head) took down our food needs and then the waiting started. Because we were with 20 people in this tiny restaurant, it was expected that some time was needed to prepare 20 vegan burgers, however, due to the time constraints to go to our next activity, we were in a hurry. The food came just in time, a bit cold, so, fortunately, we made it in time for the cultural activity of the evening: watching the Swan Lake ballet performance at the Alexandrinsky Theather (very very fancy).
The ballet was very nice and the classical Tchaikovsky concert was amazing. Some of us hadn’t had the best spots to see all dancers, but the ambiance in the theatre and the music which was played (which was very good hearable because of the fine acoustics in this theatre) were reason enough to have an enjoyable time. After the ballet, the group had free time to go to bars try out the Russian nightlife and drinks.
– Written by Cristiane & Bram –