Monday, 3 June 2013

Russia - Land of the Tsars, Vodka and the Springtime Mosquito

   Once again we returned from another of our exotic adventures. This time it was Russia. We were pleasantly surprised at weather. The cool climate was nothing like the expected freezer. In fact, we had days which were pretty warm. We started our adventure in the capital - Moscow. First stop - Red Square; where St. Basil's Cathedral, the Kremlin and shopping centre Gum are located.
St. Basel's Cathedral 
We also toured the Moscow Metro. This network of underground stations were known as "The People's Palaces" You can see why.

Some other places of interest that we visited included churches within the Moscow Kremlin (pity didn't manage to see Putin), a vodka museum (where different shots of vodka was served), and one of the Moscow Circuses.

   On our way from Moscow to St. Petersburg, we stopped by the oldest city in Russia - Novgorod. This quaint town was once more powerful than Paris and larger than Moscow. It was once the capital of the Hanseatic League. Today it boasts the oldest Russian Orthodox Church in the country and other cultural monuments. It also boasts the largest swarms of mosquitos I have ever come across. Three-quarter pants was an absolutely wrong choice that day.

   Next stop, St. Petersburg; once known as Leningrad. This beautiful city once faced the fury of Hitler's army; sacrificing thousands of lives in the process.
St. Petersburg although constructed by Peter the Great, was actually named after the Apostle Peter. Situated on both banks of the Neva River, it was also designed as the "Venice of the North" with winding waterways and numerous bridges. We also had the chance to visit Peterhoff. Peter the Great was so impressed by the Palace of Versailles that he ordered a similar palace to be built on the outskirts of St. Petersburg, next to the Gulf of Finland. Here in St. Petersburg, we found more churches. The old Russians built a church or palace for every event they wanted to commemorate. The National Hermitage Museum comprises the former Winter Palace of the Tzar as well as other newer buildings. It is not to be missed. We rounded off our visit to St. Petersburg with a night at the Ballet. Admittedly, it wasn't up to standard we expected of Russian ballet but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

   I learnt a few things on this trip. There is no example of authentic Russian Palaces because the rulers lived in wooden cabins until Peter the Great decided to copy Western European style dressing and architecture. The Russian people are very pious (or at least they used to be) and numerous churches abound. Finally, I learnt how to read Russian. Yes, it's true. I can now read but I've a long way to go before understanding what I read...

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