The initial perception on Russia was built over all those Hollywood movie visuals showcasing broad yet silent roads, longer cars, people in well-tailored long winter coats with the Ushanka, mystically diverse landscape and the strong political ideology. With all these structured in mind in bits and pieces, our travel to St. Petersburg began by cruise from Helsinki port. It was planned to be a one day round trip wherein the cruise drops you off at St. Petersburg in the morning and ferries you back to Helsinki the very evening. The cruise from Helsinki to St. Petersburg has a travel time of around 12 hours overnight. Experience of the cruise has lots to it right from breezy open decks to the various types of recreational events as in concerts, clubs and gambling. The performance on various dance forms of Europe and Russia easily stood out as the best event. Above all, travelling by the open deck, having the cold breeze to the face and the view of shoreline playing hide and seek in distance is indeed one experience worth going through.
The immigration procedure at St. Petersburg port was long, thanks to the difference in facial structure between the younger passport version and recent visa version of photographs. As I was strolling out of the port as the last person from the group, I was side-lined by one of the police officer (I suppose police) for a double check on identity kicking off the trip in grand style.
Though we got to stay in St. Petersburg only for around 5-6 hours, the whole of it was filled with sheer architectural grandeur. We spent most of our time along the Nevsky Prospect, which happened to be the main street of St. Petersburg. The wide roads, tall and broad buildings to all directions that meets the eye added to the grandeur of city planning. First place to visit was St. Isaac’s Cathedral, fourth largest cathedral in the world. The interior of cathedral is made of delicate yet grand architectural and artistic work. The lightings add a whole lot more to an already charming structure. The bird eye view from the top of the cathedral unfolds the city in its own right.
It is always surprising to find a person who easily connects with who we are by language, literature or art. We met a Mongolian, who spoke in Tamil and spoke of places in Tamil Nadu & Karnataka, commercial Tamil movies and actors in length. It was one of those experiences that takes you by surprise and testifies on how art can connect people beyond boundaries.
Following a leisurely walk across the park opposite Isaac’s cathedral, we decided to look for ‘Church of the Saviour on blood’ which was rated the top attraction in various travel sites. The walk along the wide roads was busy with people and tall buildings lining both the sides. As we walked down the road, absorbing the atmosphere, we encountered a distinguishable structure which we spent some time from the road side unaware of the building to be Kazan’s cathedral, one of the main attractions of the city.
Church of the Saviour on blood, stands along the Griboyedov Canal. It was constructed in the memory of Alexander II, fatally wounded by Nihilists (Nihilism, is one of existential ideas) and due to which he subsequently died. The church is different in structure compared to other structures that we witnessed in the city. It is said that the church underwent 27 years of restoration process for the damages it suffered during world war and subsequent turn of events. True to its word as the top attraction of St. Petersburg, the canal and the areas surrounding the church was more crowded with tourists and natives alike. The streets were buzzing with shops selling a variety of native craft and art works.
With the available time before the gates close for boarding the return cruise to Helsinki running out, we rushed through the active streets to reach Hermitage museum, largest museum in the world. With very limited time for such a humongous museum, we were left with a dilemma to either skip or try see through as much as we can. Two of us decided to give it a try to at the least get a glimpse of the largest museum in the world. We almost skimmed through fewest of few parts of the museum to witness the historic artefacts from different civilisations. Artefacts ranging from civilian to military advancement of various civilisation provided a free time travel backwards amidst the fast forwarded running out of time. The other section that we skimmed through in the museum was that of the astonishing paintings of different types and textures.
The Hermitage museum has the palace square to its foreground, which easily makes up to any of the large public rallying space. The square has also had its own share of part in historical turn of events of the past century.
With the grandeur of the city still calling on one side and the closing time of cruise on other side, we rushed through the streets of St. Petersburg to reach the shuttle pick up spot. There are times where intuition and faintest of human memory work better than any technology in navigation. The very intuition and memory traced us back to the pickup point almost in a semi running gait.
As we left to the port in the shuttle, the largeness of the city fell behind us as a large wardrobe made of lots of emotion and history to tell. We almost ran to get boarded as the last two passenger into the cruise.
St. Petersburg will remain in memory for its grandness and busy people we saw during our time in the streets. The people were receiving in lots of ways, yet with a busy life in a city full of constant inflow of travellers and scholars alike. As we sailed away from the St. Petersburg port, I couldn’t help my mind thinking about all those large churches, structures built in the times of monarchy and the use it would have catered to a common man running about in the same streets like a speck of light in this vast universe.
#StPetersburg – Wide and High