Select Page
Day 2 St Petersburg Russia

Day 2 St Petersburg Russia

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series St Petersburg Russia

by Ruth Murdoch  |  October 2018  | St Petersburg, Russia

Oooh it’s so exciting waking up in a new place, especially one as foreign as Russia.

Keen to see what today offers, we opt for a quick bite to eat at a local French patisserie, Garcon, around the corner and then head on our way.

The plan for today is The Hermitage Museum, followed by the ballet, Swan Lake this evening and then viewing the night lights of St Petersburg on an extended journey back to the hotel.

 

The Hermitage Museum

The Hermitage Museum is the second biggest art museum in the world, behind Paris’ Louvre.  With it’s more than 1,000 rooms and over three million items, they say it would take eight years to see everything if viewing each item for just one minute.

Our guide tells us that the palace was built for Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great, although she never actually occupied it.  Catherine the Great, Peter’s wife became the first owner.

The museum is made up of six individual buildings, five of which are open to the public.  These include the stunning Winter Palace, Small Hermitage, Old Hermitage, New Hermitage, and Hermitage Theatre.

The Hermitage Museum was founded in 1764 when Empress Catherine the Great acquired an impressive collection of paintings from the Berlin merchant Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky. The museum celebrates the anniversary of its founding each year on 7 December, Saint Catherine’s Day.  It has been open to the public since 1852 and boasts the largest collection of paintings in the world.

The fact that we lost five hours wandering around the museum, and only scratched the surface of what there is to see, is a testament to not only its size but also to the sheer volume of interesting and varied artefacts keeping us entertained.  In fact, as you will see from the photos we were hugely impressed with the buildings, each room boasting fabulous architecture that we had to survey, before then turning our attention to what was actually on display.

Five hours was not enough time, however with tired feet, and brains full to overflowing, it was time to leave.  If we were staying in St Petersburg for longer there is no doubt the Hermitage would have received our patronage for at least a second day.

With our cameras fill with amazing photos, this is just a very small sample of what we saw here.  Enjoy these and click on each image to enlarge.

The Hermitage Museum

Famous Russian Ballet – Swan Lake

A trip to Russia without seeing the ballet would be verging on criminal.  What better place is there to experience my first ever ballet and what better ballet to enjoy than the famous Swan Lake?  I read up about the ballet beforehand so I could at least follow what was happening, and thankful I did because there was no interpretation forthcoming.

The ballet was showcased in The Alexandrinsky Theater to a full house.  We were in the third row from the front with a close-up view of the dancers, their expressions, their costumes and their dedication to their performance.

As expected, their costumes were beautiful as were the stage props.  There was no expense spared to bring the story to light and entertain the punters.  Unfortunately, but understandable, there were no photos allowed during the performance, however, I managed to click a couple at the end.

The Beautiful Alexandrinsky Theater Lit Up at Night

A Sneak Preview Inside the Alexandrinsky Theater

Finale of Swan Lake

The Fairy Lights of St Petersburg at Night

“A city of lights” is how I’d describe this spectacular city when driving around at night.  We asked the taxi driver for a guided city lights tour on our way back to the hotel and he gladly obliged for a few more roubles.

St Petersburg by night is lit up like 10,000 candles with nearly every building in the central area liberally doused with coloured illumination.  The bright, dancing lights perfectly compliment the vibrant night life that spills out of the restaurants and clubs and crowds the footpath with tourists, buskers, street performers and locals.

Here is some of what we captured on our tour.

The Hermitage by Night

Other Blogs in this Series on St Petersburg, Russia

Follow my series of blogs below to find out how we filled in our three days in St Petersburg and more…

Introduction To St Petersburg, Russia includes how we arrived into St Petersburg and from where, about the 72 hour visa-free visit, motorhome parking in Helsinki, Finland, Currency, Internet, Water, Our Expectations and Top Attractions

Day 1 St Petersburg includes the Ancient Sphinx, Rostral Columns, St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral, Isaakievskaya Square, Kazan Cathedral, Church of the Savior on Blood 

Day 2 St Petersburg is what you are reading now and includes The Hermitage Museum, Swan Lake Ballet, and photos of St Petersburg by Night 

Day 3 St Petersburg includes Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, Peterhof Gardens, Kronstadt Naval Cathedral

Summary: Hiring a Guide, History and Interesting Facts, and Costs

Why not Pin this for later?

Introduction To St Petersburg, Russia

Introduction To St Petersburg, Russia

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series St Petersburg Russia
by Ruth Murdoch  |  October 2018  | St Petersburg, Russia

Welcome to St Petersburg, Russia

Have you ever wanted to visit St Petersburg but thought it was too hard, too scary, or that the visa requirements are too onerous.  Then think again.

If you are planning a trip to St Petersburg or are thinking about visiting this wonderful city, you probably have a few questions that I hope I can answer in this series of five blogs about our recent trip (August/September 2018).

Here’s what you can expect to learn by reading these blogs:
✅ What’s the deal with visas
✅ Where did we park our motorhome
✅ What’s the currency and how to exchange money
✅ Are there any health concerns we should know about
✅ How to get the internet
✅ What to see and do
✅ Hiring a Guide
✅ How much it cost us, plus much more…

 

Introduction

From a young age, I remember seeing St Petersburg at night in pictures and thinking that this place has been taken directly from a fairy tale.

I now know that was an underestimation!

Not only were the lights beautiful at night, but during the day the colours of the buildings and the majesty of the architecture blew me away.  Putting into words how to describe this stunning city is difficult so I will allow the pictures to show you later instead.

Welcome to the St. Petersburg Series.  In this string of blogs I will share how to get to St Petersburg, Russia from Helsinki, the Top Tourist Attractions in St Petersburg and in particular a day by day account of what you can visit in three days (based on our experience).

I will also provide a glimpse into the history of St Petersburg from what we gleaned over our short stay.

For more detailed information there is a wealth of knowledge contained in a handy online guide called St Petersburg In Your Pocket.  You can also pick up the physical guide from your hotel, just ask.

Tune into my Summary Blog where I give a wrap up of St Petersburg, why and how to book a guide, some interesting facts and history, links on where to book the ferry, hotel, ballet, and more, plus I share all of the costs for our three-day visit.

Arriving into St Petersburg Russia

We are traveling around Europe in a motorhome and taking this to St Petersburg from Helsinki just wasn’t possible without a considerable amount of planning and documentation.  That’s not to say it can’t be done, and in fact, I hope that after reading this series you will, like us, give this some serious consideration.

On this occasion we took a ferry and booked our passage on the St Peter Line ferry, leaving Helsinki at 7pm on a Wednesday evening at the end of August 2018, which traveled overnight to arrive in St Petersburg the following morning at 9am.  Then we returned on a lovely evening cruise at 7pm Saturday, arriving back into a still sleepy Helsinki on 8am on the Sunday.

For details about costs please see our summary blog.  The added bonus about being on the ferry was that it was like having a night out, with some great entertainment and live music.

72-hour Visa-Free Visit into St Petersburg from Helsinki

The visa-free visit means we didn’t have the hassle of sending our passports away, paying for a visa, and waiting for the passports to be sent somewhere for collection (given we don’t have a home address).  

The criteria for the 72-hour visa-free visit states:

1.  You must enter by ferry (St Peter Line seems to be only one acceptable) or a cruise ship*~.
2.  You must book a “city tour”, which in this case is just the shuttle taking you from the ship to your hotel (and return).  You don’t actually need to go on this as just booking it fulfils the ‘visa-free’ requirements.
3.  You must have a hotel booking, also known as a ‘registration’, and be able to present evidence of this.  I understand that Air BnB bookings are not valid however this needs further confirmation.

* When you take a cruise ship you stay overnight on board.  This would have been expensive and would have made it more difficult to see the wonderful lights of St Petersburg by night.  Therefore we choose to take the ferry and book hotel accommodation in the city centre instead.  This turned out to be the right decision for us.

~There has been talk of allowing visa-free visits for passengers on the Allegro train from Helsinki, but to date, train passengers still need to get a visa.

In past times all visitors were required to also book a guide and were chaperoned during their entire stay.  Many people we spoke with still opted to hire a guide, as did we, for convenience and to glean the most out of the time.

If you are planning a longer trip to Russia, then there are a number of visa considerations.  I could state them all here, or you can download this up to date Guide that steps you through the Visa requirements from the UK (plus the US, Australia and NZ) and shows you how to complete the documentation.

If you plan on going further afield after Russia, China perhaps, then here’s the information for UK residents (and US, Australia and NZ residents) to apply for a visa.

Motorhome Parking In Helsinki

If you have a motorhome, you might be wondering what we did with our Betsy.

In order to park her legally and safely we drove her to the only motorhome camping ground, Rastila Camping Helsinki which is a council run camping ground about 30 minutes drive out of Helsinki.  At €17 per night for parking only it was a bit steep although worth every penny to have our home safe and sound upon returning.

Details on this camping ground including how to book can be found in the post about costs.

Public transport directly to the ferry terminal was easy and cheap (€2.80 each) via the Metro Station outside Rastila Camping.

Currency

Russia’s currency is the Ruble (RUB) (dollars) and kopeks (cents).  It is illegal to pay with Euros or Dollars so please don’t expect or ask this of any retailer.

It was easy enough for us to exchange our Euros for Rubles on the ferry, however, this will not give you the best exchange rates or lowest commissions.  You can also find ATMs at most metro stations and exchange your money at the banks and in large hotels (although in my past experience hotels often sting you on exchange rates).

In August 2018 we exchanged €50 for $3,954 RUB and paid a commission of $204 RUB.  The exchange rate was €1 = 79,080 RUB.

Over the course of three days, we found this amount was adequate for our needs.  We used our Mastercard credit card for most attractions and meals, and for every other purchase, other than the street vendors or market stallholders.  However, you may need more because we are not big shoppers or spenders!

Internet

Thankfully my internet provider is FREE Mobile, from France and their services extend to Russia.  Alan’s Italian Vodafone, however, wasn’t so accommodating.

There is always the option of purchasing a local SIM or waiting until you are back on the hotel‘s premises as they provide free internet.

Don’t expect the local eating establishments to offer WiFi, as that’s a rarity.  In order to purchase a local SIM you need to show your registration (hotel booking information) and your passport including the document that would have been inserted into it by the Russian passport control (don’t lose this as it is removed at departure).

Water

We were advised against drinking the local tap water and later found out that it is highly chlorinated due to parasites and contains heavy metals.  Our hotel provided free bottled drinking water every day and also provided filtered water for our drink bottle refilling before we left each morning.  Brushing teeth using the water is fine, just avoid swallowing too much.

Our Expectations

With just three days to see the large city of St Petersburg one has to be cognisant of realistic expectations.  I doubt we would have successfully absorbed all of this city’s gems in three weeks!   I definitely overestimated what we could see and underestimated the time that it takes to see it all! 

Top Attractions

I made a list of the top tourist attractions and then plotted them on a Google Map (below).  Given our limited time, we opted for quality over quantity.  One example of this is the five hours we spent in The Hermitage Museum compared with the two-hour guided tour option.  Even then, five hours wasn’t enough, except for my feet, which thanked me later!

Click on the interactive map below to see the tourist attractions I had planned for us to see.  Then you can compare these to what we actually saw during our three-day stay.

To find the list of destinations, click on the window looking button with an arrow on the far left in the top grey bar.  You can zoom in on the map to see the proximity of every attraction.  That’s how we chose our accommodation, as we didn’t want to spend time walking for miles and miles.

In my post-visit research, I stumbled across a travel guide on Russia, which is very well laid out. I am seldom impressed with guides to the extent I am with this one.  Please, if you are planning a trip to Russia then do yourself a favour and check out this Russian Tour Guide to save you time and money (and potentially a lot of headaches).

Other Blogs in this Series on St Petersburg, Russia

Follow my series of blogs below to find out how we filled in our three days in St Petersburg and more…
Day 1 St Petersburg includes the Ancient Sphinx, Rostral Columns, St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral, Isaakievskaya Square, Kazan Cathedral, Church of the Savior on Blood 
Day 2 St Petersburg includes The Hermitage Museum, Swan Lake Ballet, and photos of St Petersburg by Night 
Day 3 St Petersburg includes Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, Peterhof Gardens, Kronstadt Naval Cathedral
Summary: Hiring a Guide, History and Interesting Facts, and Costs

FEEL FREE TO PIN IT FOR LATER

Day 3 St Petersburg Russia

Day 3 St Petersburg Russia

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series St Petersburg Russia
by Ruth Murdoch  |  October 2018  | St Petersburg, Russia

Last Day

Our last day has come along quicker than I’d hoped.  However, we are lucky to have a full day here before the ferry heads back to Helsinki, Finland, at 7pm tonight.

We opted for a guide on our last day.  We had met a lovely sailing couple from the UK while touring through the Åland Islands and they gave us the name of a guide they used.  They said his prices were reasonable and his knowledge extensive.

Vladimir collected us from the hotel for a civilised 11am start to our day.  He delighted us for the next five hours with his insights, including sharing his experience of the Soviet regime, before dropping us to the ferry.

The first stop today was still in the city center, at Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, as we had run out of time to visit here over the previous two days.  Vladimir came into the Cathedral with us and shared his knowledge.  In times gone past it was a requirement to have a guide as part of your stay in St Petersburg, but not anymore.  I highly recommend a guide as you will learn things that make the experience more fulfilling.

Many people we spoke with hired guides, however when comparing costs Vladimir was by far the best value for money, very likable, and most flexible.  Nothing was a problem for him, even when I changed times on him.  Plus his communication was prompt and efficient.  If you want the name of our guide please send me an email and I will happily send you his details privately.  We don’t want to swamp the lovely chap.

Saint Isaac’s Cathedral

Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, also known as Isaakievskiy Sobor, is the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city.  It is the largest orthodox basilica and the fourth largest cathedral in the world.  This cathedral is dedicated to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, a patron Saint of Peter the Great, who had been born on the first day of that saint.

When checking these facts, as I often do, I came to realise that you won’t find Saint Isaac’s Cathedral on the list of largest churches in the world because it doesn’t offer weekly worship meetings, the criteria for which to be called a ‘church’.  Saint Isaac’s is more of a museum today and boy what a beauty she is.

Boasting fifteen, yes fifteen, different shades of granite this church/museum appears to have been built with little regard to cost or expense.  The sheer opulence is to be marvelled at.

Building commenced in 1818 and during its 40 year construction, some 40,000 people died The reasons behind the 40,000 deaths was a mystery until the culprit was finally discovered – mercury evaporation poisoning.  Over half a million people had a hand to play in her building, possibly by slave labour, which wasn’t abolished in Russia until the 19th century.

During the many wars Russia battled, this cathedral, as well as others of significance, was covered with camouflage nets to hide it from the air.  Although ground forces did in fact damage one side, which is still obvious today, the building remained relatively unscathed.

With an area of 4000 square meters, the cathedral can accommodate up to 12,000 people. St. Isaac’s Cathedral, as well as almost all Orthodox churches, is five-domed. On the porticoes of the drum of the dome there 72 solid granite columns installed weighing from 64 to 114 tons. For the first time in the construction practice the columns of this size were raised to a height of 40 meters. Inside the church there is a video showing this ground-breaking system. It took over 45 kilos of pure gold for gilding of all the domes of the cathedral.

Vladimir tells us that each of the marble columns comes from one piece of rock.  I have never seen so many vivid coloured marbles in one place in all my life; let alone in a church, for which I’ve lost count of the number we’ve frequented throughout our travels.

St Isaac’s Cathedral

Vivid Colours of The Marble

Interior Showing Its Opulence

Tall Ceilings With Incredible Detail

Peterhof Gardens

After Saint Issac’s we head 34 kilometers out of the city and an hour later arrive at Peterhof Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

This place has stunning grounds of 4,000 hectares that are beautifully manicured, right down to the last blade of grass.   Guests to the grounds can also visit the Palace, although we didn’t enter due mainly to the cost (€16, after the entry fee of €15), and time being against us.   We will save this for next time.

The lower park, Vladimir’s favourite spot, has approximately 150 fountains and four cascades.  It takes us at least an hour or so at a fairly brisk walking pace just to make our way around and take in the surrounds.  By this time my phone battery, aka camera, was running low which forced me to take essential photos only.  That was a blessing later with fewer photos to sort out.

Looking Up Towards The Castle

Stunning Gardens!

Kronstadt Naval Cathedral

With time closing in, we head back towards the city and happened across Kronstadt Naval Cathedral. Given I had set the itinerary with my extensive research, this was an unexpected, albeit welcomed, addition to our day.

This cathedral, built between 1903 and 1913 is a temple for the fallen sailors of the Baltic Fleet.  The dome above is impressive with its 27 meters in diameter.  Inside the church Vladimir tells us that its design was based on the Hague Sophia from Turkey.  It was obvious to us the moment we stepped inside and it took us right back to our recent visit to Istanbul where this style is commonly seen in the Turkish construction.

As a child, Vladimir recounts, he would come here to enjoy the cinema.  In the Soviet days the stunning mosaics were boarded up and it wasn’t until the collapse of this regime that Vladimir appreciated what had been hidden for so many years.

During the 1917 Revolution, this church also doubled as an officers club and also a Navy Museum in 1980.

We are incredibly thankful, when reflecting on our own childhood memories, to have not encountered this level of complication and the ensuing propaganda that we were hearing for the first time from our guide.

From Outside The Kronstadt Naval Cathedral Looks Splendid

Inside This Cathedral Is Also Stunning And So Well Preserved

Imagine Being Here Seeing This In Person. The Mosiacs Are Wonderful.

With time up, we sadly head back for the ferry and talk about the political history of this interesting country.  I then realise how little I actually know about Russia and how much more there is to learn.

We enquire as to a return trip when Vladimir advises he can help us with a longer visa to extend our stay for up to one year.  Excited, I tuck this gem into my memory bank and vow to return here.

Whilst I am incredibly grateful to have an opportunity of a 72-hour visa-free stay in St Petersburg it becomes obvious that this is just the beginning.  In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger …. I’ll be back!

Other Blogs in this Series on St Petersburg, Russia

Follow my series of blogs below to find out how we filled in our three days in St Petersburg and more…

Introduction To St Petersburg, Russia includes how we arrived into St Petersburg and from where, about the 72-hour visa-free visit, motorhome parking in Helsinki, Finland, Currency, Internet, Water, Our Expectations and Top Attractions

Day 1 St Petersburg includes the Ancient Sphinx, Rostral Columns, St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral, Isaakievskaya Square, Kazan Cathedral, Church of the Savior on Blood

Day 2 St Petersburg –  includes The Hermitage Museum, Swan Lake Ballet, and photos of St Petersburg by Night

Day 3 St Petersburg – you are reading now, includes Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, Peterhof Gardens, Kronstadt Naval Cathedral

Summary: Hiring a Guide, History and Interesting Facts, and Costs

Summary: Guides, History and Costs

Summary: Guides, History and Costs

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series St Petersburg Russia

by Ruth Murdoch  |  October 2018  | St Petersburg, Russia

The final blog in the series about St Petersburg is where you will find about hiring a guide, how much they cost, if it’s compulsory and what a guide will do for you.

You will also learn some facts about St Petersburg, the history and a little about the sad and interesting past of this beautiful city.

Then to the nitty-gritty of how much our three-day trip cost, including links to booking agencies, mistakes we made in buying advanced tickets, and how much each of the tourist attractions cost.

To Hire A Guide or Not

As you may have already read, if you’ve been following this series, is that hiring a guide in St Petersburg used to be compulsory.  The requirement to be chaperoned these days has been made redundant and you are free to wander the streets by yourself.  However, with a short 72-hours or three days to visit such a vast and full city, if you wish to gain the most from your limited time then my recommendation would be to find and pay for a guide.

Why A Guide?

I had chosen a guide on the last day for two reasons, one, because I wanted to venture further out of the main city centre and would need to navigate public transport or find a guide with a car, two, because we could be dropped off at the ferry without the hassle of finding the shuttle bus somewhere in the city that the ferry line makes available.

I also have an inquisitive mind and tend to ask lots of questions.  So having a guide on the last day gave me a chance to sort out what I wanted to know and make the most of his knowledge and expertise.

How Much Do Tour Guides Charge?

As you would expect, the prices for guides vary and can start from as little as US$15 per hour upwards.  I expect that the Russians are expecting Americans to visit, hence quoting in US dollars.  One American family I spoke with on the ferry told me they paid €500 for a guide for three days.  I found this to be a little excessive.

Not all guides have a car, so think about what you want from your guide before investing in one and choosing the right person who is best for you and your circumstances.

Some guides will just drive you around, and not give much of a commentary like we experienced for the night light tour (we had a taxi driver who drove around the city at night).

Then you can pay for an agency guide, someone who is registered with the various attractions and is given priority over things like skip the line benefits.  With these guides you will be paying for the agency as well as the guide, so obviously expect them to be more expensive.

Then there is the type of guide we hired.  He is a private guide without any of the extra agency costs.  Be prepared when hiring a guide like this to pay for his entrance ticket also (however at local prices, not tourist prices).  Our guide had an identity card to prove he had residency.  We paid our guide €25 per hour which included his car (a new Mercedes ML350 4WD) and his fuel costs.

What Will A Guide Do For Me?

There are different options and different types of guides depending on if you are in a group, are a couple, or a family.  If you want someone to set your itinerary, collect you from your hotel each day, show you the sights, and deliver you back safe and sound then that can certainly be arranged.  You would possibly be best to use an agency guide for this purpose.

Or you can ask a guide for suggestions if you don’t have the time or inclination to do the research yourself.

Then there’s the option we chose.  Given I had extensively researched and set our itinerary for what we wanted to see and do, I didn’t think it was necessary to have a guide for the first two days because everything was in close walking distance to our hotel.  On the last day, however, the attractions were further out of town and I didn’t want to negotiate with local transport, purely for the fact that we had limited time.  Plus we wanted to be dropped back to the ferry terminal rather than having to lug our bags around the city to find a shuttle bus that had been pre-arranged.

Our guide was very knowledgeable and had been previously recommended to me by others who had used his services.  For me, a guide will give you much more information than you could possibly get yourself and make the short timeframe and investment of a three day visit even more enjoyable.  Plus you can ask questions and if you are anything like us, you will have about a million of them.

I suggest you Google the options and see what type of guide suits your circumstances and budget.  There is a lot of information available online.

Or else, I’m happy to share our Guide’s details if you like the sound of him.  Just email me here and I will be in touch.

Interesting and Historical Facts of St Petersburg, Russia

Saint Petersburg has changed its name throughout history more than most.   Originally known as St Petersburg, Nicholas II decided on 31 August 1914 to rename the city Petrograd as he felt that the name sounded too German like.

Then on 26 January 1924 Petrograd was renamed Leningrad after Lenin’s death.

It remained Leningrad until communism ceased in Russia on 6th September 1991, when the name changed back to its original St Petersburg.

There is also a St Petersburg is Florida, USA, so when booking your ticket just make sure you have chosen the right country!

St Petersburg was founded upon a swamp in the 17th Century.  With little sunlight, which hasn’t changed today, it was said only cabbages and turnips would grow there. It was forbidden to fell trees for fuel, so hot water was permitted just once a week.

As we drive around the guide is giving us lots of facts and figures about St Petersburg that I find rather interesting.  Here’s what I recall:

  • St Petersburg is just 315 years young (by European standards that is apparently young).
  • St Petersburg is named after St. Peter, not as many assume by Peter the Great who founded this city and who also founded the Russian navy.
  • Peter the Great studied shipbuilding in Amsterdam and wanted to model St Petersburg on the city of Amsterdam.
  • There are 65 rivers in St Petersburg with 500 bridges, 12 of which are drawbridges and go up every evening (between 1.30am and 5am) to allow for ships to pass underneath.
  • The Trinity Bridge, which spans across the Neva river, was built by the builders of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
  • This city used to be the capital, until 1712 or 1718 (depending on which source you read or hear) when the capital then changed to Moscow.
  • The population is somewhere between 5.5 and 6.5 million (official stats are difficult to come by apparently).
  • In 1862 Russia sold Alaska for $7.2M because it needed the money after the war against Turkey.  Russia only later discovered Alaska was rich with oil.
  • During the second world war every second person living here died, mainly due to starvation. We learnt that sadly people were supplementing their meager food rations by boiling up wallpaper and leather into their soups and were making bread from sawdust and cardboard.
  • The average life expectancy for a male in Russia is 60 years of age. (Many factors are involved in this including war and the hard physical work undertaken by many men who work in the countryside, even today).
  • Russian slavery was only abolished in 19th century.
  • The mainstay of St. Petersburg is shipbuilding, nuclear icebreakers, and of course tourism.
  • St Petersburg is also called the ‘Venice of the North’ due to its many man-made rivers (or canals).

How so many buildings survived the bombing of the Germans is a testament to the creativity of the citizens who camouflaged important buildings with nets to prevent them becoming targets.

I for one am grateful for this foresight so that I can stand here today looking at the marvelous architecture that makes this city incredibly unique.

 

Our Costs for a Three-Day Visit to St Petersburg Russia

Before looking at our expenses you must know that we are traveling full time in our motorhome so every cent we spend is considered carefully.  You may not need to be so cost conscious.

Below are our costs, including related expenses, eg parking our motorhome safe and securely for the time we were away.

Everyone, including us now, raves about the food in St Petersburg which is AMAZING and oh so cheap, so make sure you dine out regularly.  We didn’t have time to stop for lunch (breakfast kept us going) and we packed our evening meal (some sandwiches) on the first night on the ferry to help reduce costs.

We also didn’t purchase a lot of souvenirs simply because we don’t have the capacity for such luxuries.

You can get further information on each expense in the notes table below.

Here are our costs…

NotesExpense CategoriesCosts
*(unrelated expenses, see notes below)
1Camping Ground for Motorhome Storage68.00
2Food211.12
3Alcohol39.98
4Haircuts *34.00
5Pharmacy *24.92
6Souvenirs17.99
7Attractions & Entertainment (incl. guide & taxi)519.90
8Ferry382.00
9Accommodation Puskha Inn Hotel328.87
Totals€ 1,626.78
1Rastila Camping,
GPS coordinates are N 60º12'24'' E 25º7'16''. The cost was €17 per night x 4 nights
Book here
2Three dinners average price €48, dearest [and least impressive] was on the ship @ €65. We took sandwiches for the first night on the ship to reduce costs.

Three breakfasts, average €22, dearest was on Ship €30, hotel €20.40

Note we didn’t eat lunch at all (didn't have time and breakfast was ample)
3Drinking out twice €29.60 [average €14.80]

€24.10 on ship on trip over was expensive
4Cheap for two haircuts on the ship (male €14 and female €20)
5Cheap place for prescription medicine (we had the script with us)
6Scarf €4.50 and small Russian Doll set €13.49 (called Matryoshkas). These dolls are the most recognised symbol of Russian tourism.
They are a set of traditional dolls (its origin dates back to 1890) that are hollow, and in each doll there is another and another, typically five is a common number but they have been made up to 75.
7Church of Spilled Blood €6.38 (250 RUB)

Hermitage Museum US$34.90 (€30.05). Here is where we made a mistake. We ordered the tickets online (because the research suggested this was how we could avoid huge queues). However at the end of August there were not any queues and we could have purchased tickets inside the gate from electronic kiosks. We suggest you think about the time of year you are visiting and if it’s the height of summer (July and beginning of August) then this might be worthwhile, however outside of these times we suspect it’s not necessary to pay extra. The Hermitage Museum has a number of separate entries and we didn’t ever see people lining up to go inside.

St Isaac Cathedral €9.56 including Guide's entry (at local rates)

Peterhof Gardens €26.14 including Guide's entry (at local rates)

Seaman's Church FOC – great value

St Nicholas Cathedral – FOC – we like this price

Swan Lake Ballet €279.92 To book go here http://www.GetYourGuide.com

Taxi to and from Ballet and night lights sightseeing €17.85

Guide €150 (paid in Euros, €25 per hour including vehicle)

One of the best guides I’ve come across that helps you buy tickets and to learn about the schedule is here. I wish I’d come across this before our trip.
Also if you need an extended visa, the process is here in simple to understand language.
Visa and other Resources
8Shuttle €25ea (mandatory), 3 hour bus tour €45ea (optional), Ferry €121ea includes ‘pet’ (standard) cabin 98m2 (small but adequate). To book your tickets from Helsinki Visit here
9Pushka Inn Hotel is located at Moyka river embankment, 14, Tsentralny District
We booked two nights in standard room and were given the only room with a bath (oh what a luxury). Great location, very central to the city and attractions. Would definitely stay here again. We booked using Booking.com
Or book direct here

A Work Of Art

Faberge Eggs

Matryoshkas (Russian Dolls)

Other Blogs in this Series on St Petersburg, Russia

Follow my series of blogs below to find out how we filled in our three days in St Petersburg and more…

Introduction To St Petersburg, Russia includes how we arrived into St Petersburg and from where, about the 72-hour visa-free visit, motorhome parking in Helsinki, Finland, Currency, Internet, Water, Our Expectations and Top Attractions

Day 1 St Petersburg includes the Ancient Sphinx, Rostral Columns, St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral, Isaakievskaya Square, Kazan Cathedral, Church of the Savior on Blood

Day 2 St Petersburg –  includes The Hermitage Museum, Swan Lake Ballet, and photos of St Petersburg by Night

Day 3 St Petersburg – you are reading now, includes Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, Peterhof Gardens, Kronstadt Naval Cathedral

Summary: Hiring a Guide, History and Interesting Facts, and Costs – you are reading this now.

Why not Pin this for later?

From Glorious Sun to Snow Storm in One Day

From Glorious Sun to Snow Storm in One Day

by Ruth Murdoch  |  1st October 2018  | Norway
The first day of October dawned bright and clear and pretended to be just like any other day, only it wasn’t.  This was a sheep in wolf’s clothing day.

Today was a day of firsts, not only as in the date but in many things that happened along the way.  We woke in Ulsvag, Norway and by 9am were on the road.  That was the first ‘first’ as we don’t usually move too early in the morning.

We had no set destination today, again a first.  We typically make a point of plotting our destination but today was different, we just hopped on the road and started driving, south. Hmmm.

The extent of our planning, however, was to not use the coastal route due mainly to the high costs of taking ferries.  That decision was to save us €100.  In hindsight, which is a wonderful thing, we are now thinking that perhaps it wasn’t worth it.  Or maybe it was, otherwise I wouldn’t have a story to tell.

We are making our way south to leave Norway hopefully before the winter snow set in.  The surrounding hilltops have been sprinkled with snow that looks like icing sugar (powdered sugar) and makes for amazing photos, particularly in the reflective waters that can be found everywhere we look.

We don’t go far before Betsy, our motorhome, is stopped on the roadside for us to jump out and take some photos.  A two-hour trip usually turns into three or four depending upon the landscape and photographic opportunities. On route we stop at a place called Drag for this photo.

Snowcapped Mountains in Drag

Half an hour later at Innhavet, we come across the camping ground where we had expected to stop the previous night.  It was closed.  That seems to be the common thing around here after the summer season.  This one however offered a wonderful photo opportunity so we wandered over for a closer look.  The row of cabins were mirrored perfectly in the reflective water.  The golden hues of the autumn trees were resplendent in the foreground reflections of the snowcapped mountains behind.

It’s really not difficult to take wonderful shots here when the scenery is so spectacular.

Camping Ground Hut Reflections

Not a breath of wind!

By this point we continue south, to where we don’t yet know but it doesn’t matter.  We are just enjoying the ride and there is only one road south.

The opportunity for more photos presented itself, however it was more of the same, albeit still stunningly beautiful.  I made the decision that we would only stop again for different scenery and forty-five minutes later this arrived.

Engan gave us rocks of greys, blues, browns diving into the again reflective waters.  When I first saw this sight my brain couldn’t comprehend what my eyes were seeing.  The scene in front of us was one of seamless rocks in an unusual shape, until I realised it was the water playing tricks on my eyes.

We asked [the universe] for different landscapes, and Norway provided these for us unlike anything I had ever seen before.  The colours had been carefully chosen from nature’s palette by the most experienced of artists.  Should anyone care to paint this scene, it would simply look too contrived.

But here in Engan we stood with jaws dropped and eyes wide, trying our best to take it all in.  It was still morning, just, and there was not a ripple of wind on the water, and the clouds above are soft and fluffy.  The day is stunning, there’s nothing to worry about here, yet.

Engan’s Rock Formations Repeated In the Still Waters Below

After a lunch stop we are on the road again and at about 4.30pm it only took ten minutes to come across more of nature’s glory, this time a roaring waterfall.  It was as though someone had turned on a fireman’s hose, the sound was deafening and the water rushing in a hurry to find the end, wherever that may be.

Another hour or so later the surrounds had changed and changed dramatically.  We knew we were heading through Saltfjellet National Park and had been climbing for a while.  However there was nothing, and I mean nothing, to give us any warning of what was to come.

We’re in the snowline, says Alan, excited to see the white around us.  We pulled over to frolic in the snow (okay we’re from the other end of the world where snow isn’t common).  We take photos of Betsy surrounded by the snow.  Gosh it’s cold outside.  About 1 degree showing on the dashboard.  It was a quick stop.  That was 5.59pm.

We continue climbing and drinking in the sights of the beautiful white snow and the barren mountain slopes.  The beautiful autumn colours were left far behind us and it was just black on white.  What a picturesque scene before us.  Until…

Six minutes later at 6.05pm we are still climbing and then it starts to snow.  Gently at first and we are pleased to have just replaced our dashcam with a better one now so we can capture the stunning scenery here in Norway.  I also capture a video on my iPhone, and the delight of seeing snow is clearly obvious in my voice.  The roads are clear and there’s no concern about driving, yet.

The next video is taken at 6.08pm when the snow is coming in heavy and just starting to land on the roads and is staying there.  The sound in my voice has a little more concern than the previous one and I say “I hope we don’t get snowed in”.

The third video is just one minute later at 6.09pm.  We are in Rokland.  My voice is quiet and I state the obvious ‘we’ve really been caught out here today’.   The road is white, Besty has slowed right down and we’re in trouble.  We don’t have winter tyres on, nor do we have chains.  We have snow ‘socks’ but there is nowhere to pull off the road to fit them.  I look at the other vehicles on the road, what few of them there are, and notice they also haven’t put on any chains.  Phew, that’s a relief.

Driving in horizontal snow is another first for us.

The weather is really closing in now, the visibility low and I am feeling concerned.  We don’t know how far we are to safety, or how long this is likely to last.  We don’t understand the weather in Norway and we’re miles from anywhere.

It defies belief that the weather conditions in 90 seconds could deteriorate so dramatically.

Watch the dash cam video to check it out for yourself then consider putting yourself in our driving seats.  For those from Europe reading this, it’s probably second nature.  But for those from Australia, or NZ, this situation is far from normal.  In particular look at the colour of the road surface at the beginning of this video then see how quickly it changes.

I have an out of body moment and hear my quivering voice saying “I’m out Alan, I’ve had enough, I can’t do this any longer”.  Then I have the thought, what do you want him to do about it Ruth?  There’s nowhere to pull over, he’s driving slowly, and there are no options right now other than to go straight ahead.  To say I’m not feeling particularly comfortable at this point in time is somewhat of an understatement.

We continue for another ten minutes.  We see a sign for a parking area.  Upon approaching this we could see it’s a steep slope of snow down to a snow-covered carpark.  We bailed on that idea, realising that if we got Betsy down there, there was no guarantee we could get her out again.

We continue forward, now travelling at just 50km/hr.  A van passes us and Alan opts to drive in his tracks giving us a smidgen more traction, or so we hope. Ahead we can see a sign saying we’ve just crossed the Arctic Circle.  We hope there are some buildings or structures and a welcoming rest area to stop.  There is a sign pointing to something but the side road is covered with virgin white snow and we are not about to turn down there.

So we plod on forward with Besty still occasionally losing traction as her feet find it difficult to hold onto the ground through the thickening snow.  Thankfully the road is straight, it’s relatively flat and Betsy holds her line as she connects again with the road and Alan keeps her pointing forward.  Again she slips and slews a little sideways.

Keeping a 3.5-ton vehicle moving forward in these conditions is no small feat.  Alan does a sterling job of man-handling Betsy and keeping her pointing straight ahead.  He also tries to keep me calm, but I know him all too well and realise he’s managing his own concerns for our safety in these conditions.

The snow has now well and truly settled on the road and it’s not going anywhere.  The temperature has dropped from 1 degree earlier to zero and the indicator on the dashboard is flashing, which means that there is a risk of ice – no kidding Sherlock!

We often talk about how the sun follows us around, how we are lucky with the weather, and whenever we ask the universe for something, like different scenery, it delivers.   Well, today it’s delivering and I make a mental note to be more specific in my future requests.

Up ahead we spied some lights.  What was it?  Is there a village there, or some sort of life?  We nudge slowly and carefully towards the lights and see a parking spot.  By now the snow is hammering into our windscreen, the wipers are on high speed, and the snow is caking where the wipers don’t reach, making an unobscured outlook for the passenger rather difficult.  I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing by this stage.

My heart is in my throat, and I don’t mind saying that I’m more than a tad scared by now. It’s made worse by the fact that I have run out of data on my internet plan.  However, that wouldn’t help in any case because we have very little mobile service up here.  No-one knows where we are and there’s no way we can call for help. Great.

I calm myself looking at our position rationally, which isn’t easy when faced with a new situation like this.  My rational mind says that we have lots of food, we had just filled with LPG at lunchtime, meaning we have heating and can cook, we have plenty of diesel, we are safe inside Betsy and we have each other.  Plus I don’t think there are Polar Bears in this part of the world.

We turn into the lit parking lot at Storforshei, especially grateful that the entry is flat and notice a building with lights on.  It’s a toilet block and the toilets in this part of the world are always heated.  Now I know why.

I look outside and can’t help but see the beauty in the scenery.  The bare sticks in front of me have snow clinging on one side from the now horizontal snow that’s hammering them.  They stand staunchly, teaching me a lesson in humility.  If they can brave it outside, then I can toughen up inside.

We park up and decide we’re not going anywhere tonight.  On the side of the road stands tall skinny red pegs that mark where the road used to be before the snows arrived.  The odd truck continues to drive on in the snow and I figure they, the Norwegians, are used to this stuff.  We, on the other hand, are not.

Heading into Betsy’s garage Alan retrieves the snow socks that we purchased in Sweden.  They are our insurance policy should we get unexpectedly caught out.  I think this situation qualifies for the inaugural snow socks outing.  Snow socks are lighter than chains, are made of a fibrous type material, and can be used to gain traction in the snow, providing one drives at no more than fifty kilometres per hour.  According to the marketing material on the outside of the packaging, these socks are designed to ‘get you home’.  I am now thankful for the €86 investment we made during the searing 31-degree summer heat.

Alan comes back into Betsy looking like a giant snowflake.  He’s covered in snow, it’s in his hair, on his shoulders, and all over his clothing.  He is also looking rather cold.  By this time the temperature had dropped to minus one and it doesn’t look like it’s about to let up any time soon.

Alan takes a wander over to the toilet block to suss it out and I start to set up the cabin to bunker down.  The heating is turned on, the blinds are lifted to cover the windows, and the front screen covers put in place.

We check out the forecasted temperatures for tomorrow and OMG!!!!  Have a guess what it says?  Go on, you can give it a guess.  Well, we are expecting to wake to a balmy minus five, tomorrow morning.  What on earth?  Minus five, do people really live in these conditions?  And what’s more, it’s due to ‘warm up’ to minus three by mid-afternoon.

My mind runs back to an earlier conversation we had with a local chap just a few days ago who said that the snow sometimes doesn’t come in until December.  December!  Not October!  Did I really hear him correctly?  Didn’t anyone tell the weatherman this news?

Then another conversation comes to mind from not one but two locals on two different occasions.  ‘We don’t mind minus ten, it’s when it gets to minus twenty or thirty that it becomes too cold.’  Really?

By now the snow has turned to rain, which possibly means that it’s warmed up outside.  If you can call it ‘warm’!

The amount of snow on the roads has visibly decreased with the help of the rain.  Alan returns from his reconnaissance trip to the bathroom and strongly suggests that we should continue driving tonight, now!  He recommends that we’re not to stay here because with the minus five conditions tomorrow, then minus six the next day, the wet snow is likely to turn to far more treacherous black ice and the roads could be closed.  The black ice is more dangerous to drive in than the option we have now.  Black ice is the name we give it when water on the road has frozen clear and becomes invisible to see.  It acts like a skating rink for cars and I don’t think Betsy would like that. 

My mind races back a couple of years ago when my sister, travelling during winter in the South Island of New Zealand, had a head-on accident with someone who skidded on black ice and wrote off their motorhome.

Local Weather Forecast For The Next Two Days!!!

I look outside and am thankful that we can actually see the tarmac on the road again.  The couple of inches of snow that had previously been hiding the road have now melted.  It’s now or never!

I agree with Alan and we make a run for it.

So the cabin gets prepared for moving, the blinds go down, the TV is put back into place, and we are bravely on the road once more. Betsy’s feet firmly connect with the now wet tarmac and she’s much happier.

Before long a truck comes up behind us, so Alan pulls over to let him go by.  Ah, following a vehicle lit up like a Christmas tree makes for much easier driving.  Although just trying to keep pace with him proves a challenge.  He’s honking.  Before long the truck is just a distant blur ahead and we’re on our own again.

The Norwegians are prolific road builders and they are constructing a new one alongside us.  Kilometre after kilometre of workmen, excavators, and dump trucks are still working away in the pitch darkness and freezing cold.  Road barriers, temporary traffic lights, diversions, and dug up roads all try to slow our progress but after coping with the snow earlier, these are mere trifles. The snow has stopped and between the roadworks, the road is actually reasonable. The seal is in good condition and the roads provide a comfortable enough width when meeting trucks coming towards us.

We slowly and safely make our way down the mountain and arrive, relieved and happy, an hour later at the small settlement of Storforshei.

We find a cheeky parking spot outside an abandoned building and gain some shelter from the elements for the night.

It’s now the following morning as I write this and we awake to the most glorious of days, the snow is now more than just a sprinkle on the hills around us.  The beauty of Mother Nature again takes our breath away as the clear blue sky shows off the fully covered mountains with her clean crispy white snow blanket.

Our day of firsts yesterday will make for a good story in our future.

In the words of a friend ‘we know we are alive’ and are happy (now) to have had this experience.

Our lesson with this new knowledge is to never attempt driving over a high mountain range in the late afternoon if there is a risk of snowfall.  We just need to be a little more mindful of the elements and how vulnerable we can be.