I have managed to strike a nice balance between uni and traveling while I have been in Oulu, and last weekend I was able to add Russia to the list of places I have been to! It was a 5 day trip organised by the Erasmus Student Network, and I will give a brief overview of what our trip entailed:
Day 1: We left on Thursday 3 October and the first part of our journey consisted of a bus ride to Helsinki. I was initially excited about the drive (despite it taking 9 hours with breaks); that excitement quickly dissipated though, as the countryside was beautiful but very monotonous after a while, and it’s always annoying having to sit in the one spot for too long. After finally arriving in Helsinki, we were quickly rushed onto the ship that was to take us to St Petersburg overnight. Much to my horror, the ship was perhaps worse than the bus. The cabins were tiny, so luckily we were asleep for most of the journey.
Day 2: After over 24 hours of travel we finally arrived in St Petersburg and I loved it from the minute I arrived. The city is just breathtaking- the colours and magnitude of the buildings are spectacular, and I was really not expecting this despite hearing how lovely St Petersburg is. We began with a bus tour of the city, which was great in that we got our bearings and could start to work out areas that we wanted to come back to. By the time we finished the tour and got to our hotel it was well into the afternoon, so we spent the rest of the day wandering the main street and just getting a feel for the place. We had dinner in this excellent little restaurant that seemed to be reasonably priced for the quality of food they were serving. I wanted to try traditional Russian food, so I had pickled herring and little lamb dumplings, which were absolutely delicious. We called it a night after that; we needed to be on our A-game for a busy day of sightseeing the next day!
Day 3: We began the day with a trip to Catherine Palace, which was about a 45 minute drive from the city centre. I was surprised to hear it was one of FIVE summer residences that the Russian royal family owned and used. It was a most beautiful palace, as the pictures below can attest to. We had a guided tour of the palace and then had the chance to wander around the gardens, which were equally as impressive. We returned to the city in the afternoon and grabbed an early dinner before heading to a performance of Swan Lake at the Hermitage Theatre. I don’t normally go to the ballet but I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to see a Russian ballet in the Hermitage, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Day 4: Our last day in St Petersburg began with a visit to the Winter Palace, which is also now the Hermitage Museum. The building is most impressive, which appropriately complements the astonishing collection that is housed in the museum. The collection is enormous and I felt like I barely covered it in the 2 hours that I spent there. It was extremely impressive. Once I was finished with the museum I went to another impressive building- the Church of Spilled Blood. It is so visually striking that I will not describe it in any more detail but simply let the photos below do the talking. We finished our excellent weekend with coffee and cake in the most divine food store on the main street. It was pointed out to us by our guide on the first day and I’m glad she did because it was just lovely. Definitely my idea of a nice afternoon! Unfortunately we had to return to the ship and begin the long journey home though…
Day 5: We arrived in Helsinki by ship at 8 am and then spent the whole day on the bus back to Oulu. I actually found it quite productive as I managed to squeeze in a bit of Finnish homework (well more than a bit, actually- 9 hours is a long time!). Although we spent the whole day on the bus, I was still very sleepy when I got back home and was definitely pleased to see my own bed again!
All in all I had a fabulous time in St Petersburg. I never really thought about traveling to Russia but when this opportunity came up was very excited to take it, and very pleased that I did on reflection.
Beautiful views of the city
The main square
Ballet at the Hermitage Theatre
Inside Catherine’s Palace
Gardens at Catherine’s Palace
The spectacular Church of Spilled Blood
Inside the Church of Spilled Blood
Insude the Hermitage
Not a bad spot for afternoon tea
The outside of the shop was as lovely as the inside