This epically long post is all about my mum and her boyfriend's trip to Petersburg to visit me. They came from the 16th to the 20th of January and stayed just around the corner from my flat, in the Fifth Corner (Пятый угол) hotel, which wasn't bad for the money, and apparently served a very large and tasty breakfast.
Firstly, I went to meet them at the airport and we got a taxi back to the hotel, where my mum unpacked all of my amazing Christmas presents, which I swiftly opened. Amongst other things, I got lots of English chocolate (YUMMY!), a lovely Hello Kitty make up bag, a Hello Kitty mug, some Smirnoff vodka with a glass (a bit of a joke there), some nice socks, a sparkly belt, some very nice nail varnishes, and plenty more things I can't remember right now :) Quite a haul I think you'll agree! After all the unpacking and present-giving was over, we made our way to my flat so mum & Rod could meet Rosa, my landlady. Upon arrival, the traditional Russian aggressive hospitality was in full flow, and soon we had confectioneries coming out of our ears and were full of tea and champagne. I was chief translator, and was surprised that we managed to have a fairly in-depth conversation about all sorts of things together, and I think I only had to look in the dictionary once or twice the whole time! A lovely evening was had by all, and we got a fairly early night in preparation for the first proper touristy day...
On the first day, I decided to show my mum & Rod Nevsky Prospect, the main avenue in the centre of Saint Petersburg, which is very famous within Russian literature and culture as the hub of activity in the city. It was a bit cold and sleety, but nevertheless we marched on down Nevsky as I pointed out all of the places of interest. We went up to the Church on Spilled Blood (or whatever it's called - it has a longer, more complicated name I can never remember) and my mum asked what it was like inside. I replied saying I'd never actually been in, so my mum suggested we go inside. Inside it's absolutely stunning, perhaps even more so than on the outside... The walls were completely covered in paintings, the domes were all painted on the inside as well, and there was a lovely marble floor in the centre. There was also a small interesting exhibition about the restoration of the church, which was in a pretty bad state during most of the Soviet period. Here are some pictures of the church, inside and out:
(Top: Lots of paintings inside the Church on Spilled Blood; Bottom Left: The altar-y section in the church; Bottom Right: Me and my mum outside, looking a little chilly!)
After our trip to the church, we moved on to the Russian Museum. It's actually one of the less-frequented tourist places in Petersburg, as all of the art is Russian and foreigners don't generally know many Russian artists. This is a great shame, because it really is a lovely museum, featuring some truly underrated (at least internationally, anyway) Russian artists. It's also interesting as they have a section with a lot of Soviet art and portraits of Lenin and Stalin, which I find surprisingly eerie. My mum and Rod enjoyed the museum, even though they didn't recognise any of the paintings, and we also had a nice sit down in the museum cafe. Here are some pictures (stolen from my mum) of our museum trip:
(Top: Rod doing an impression of Pushkin, a popular photo pose with this statue; Bottom: The grand entrance inside the Russian Museum)
Despite already having walked several miles on the first day, we decided it was too early to call it a day and ventured to the massive city centre shopping centre, Galeria. Here we browsed all the shops and mum & Rod marvelled at the novelty of being able to smoke in Costa Coffee. After a couple of hours of shopping, our feet were too tired and Rod was too bored, so we made our way back to the hotel for dinner. The problem with eating out when mum & Rod were here was that I barely know any restaurants in the city. As a poor student, I always cook at home or eat in cheap and easy cafe-style places, so when asked where we should go for dinner, I didn't really have an answer! This meant we ate in the restaurant under the hotel a couple of times, but that was okay because it was a very nice restaurant with good food. Plus, we could wear normal shoes as you didn't need to go outside to reach it from the hotel. We ate there that evening and had a few drinks in the hotel room whilst my mum uploaded all of her photos on to Facebook (the wonder of technology!). I then walked home to get plenty of rest for our next touristy day.
We met up bright and early the next morning to walk through the sleet to the Hermitage. After my mum & Rod were so taken aback by the grand scale and decorativeness of the Russian Museum the day before, I don't think they were quite prepared for the Hermitage to just completely blow it out of the water... As we walked into Palace Square, there were several "Ooh"s and "Ahh"s at the sight of the Winter Palace, and we went inside. Despite the fact I studied Art History at university for a year, my mum knows a lot more about European art than I do, so I was sure she would love the Hermitage. I was not wrong, and she got rather excited upon seeing the sheer number of Picassos, Da Vincis, Mattisses and Monets on display. Since I forgot we should have bought a photo-taking pass at the beginning, we weren't really allowed to take photos inside the museum... This didn't stop my mum, though, who turned the situation into a good opportunity for some covert spy-style photo taking. We spent a good few hours exploring the museum, and I think we managed to see a good part of the full collection on show, though you never really know with the Hermitage as I always seem to discover new sections every time I visit! We had lunch inside the museum and browsed the gift shops, then went back out into the cold. Here are some pictures of our Hermitage visit:
(Top: Mum & Rod in front of the Hermitage; Middle Left: General Staff Building on Palace Square; Middle Right: Alexander's Column in Palace Square; Middle: One of the main staircases in the Hermitage; Bottom: Plaque in the Hermitage commemorating the storming of the Winter Palace during the October Russian revolution in 1917)
It was quite late when we got out of the Hermitage, so instead of going somewhere else, I just took mum & Rod on a walk around a couple of the other nearby sights. We went and saw the statue of the Bronze Horseman and St Isaac's Cathedral, then walked back towards Nevsky. It was still a little early to go back to the hotel, so we went into Gostiny Dvor, a huge department store-style building, where my mum decided she had to buy a Russian doll, then proceeded to spend what felt like hours trying to find the perfect one... Eventually she found one which met her inexplicably high standards and bought it :P She also got a set of really cute Russian doll salt & pepper pots, which I hadn't ever seen before. We then decided it was time to call it a day and headed back to the hotel for the evening.
For their last full day in Petersburg, I decided to take mum & Rod to the Cruiser Aurora, a Russian naval Cruiser moored on the river which now serves as a museum. It is the longest serving Russian naval ship ever, and played a key part in the October revolution, so I had wanted to visit it for ages, but hadn't. Rod is very interested in ships so I thought it would make up for dragging him around all the shops a couple of days earlier... It did not disappoint, and it was interesting looking around the ship and all the memorabilia inside. I really want to go back again when it's warm and sunny, to get some non-cloudy pictures. Here are some pictures from the Aurora:
(Top Left: The Cruiser Aurora; Top Right: Mast on Aurora; Bottom: Life ring featuring the name of the ship)
We then continued the naval theme and walked from the Aurora to the Naval Museum, passing by the Peter and Paul fortress. I still am yet to visit the fortress, but I really want to. I think it would probably be better to go when it's a bit warmer and sunnier, though... We then went into the Naval Museum, which was housed inside the beautiful old Stock Exchange building. The museum itself was pretty interesting, although there were hardly any signs at all in English so it was hard to tell what a lot of the things were in detail. A lot of the stuff was fairly self explanatory though, and there were lots of cool Soviet flags and banners dotted around. I hope someone pumps some money into the museum at some point, because I think it has the potential to be really good... It just needs some English signs and a lick of paint, I think.
After this we weren't sure what to do as it was too early to go back to the hotel. We decided to take a visit to Auchan, the supermarket, as me and my mum absolutely love browsing the supermarket at home (as sad as that sounds!) and foreign supermarkets are always interesting for tourists! Mum & Rod bought a surprising amount of stuff (they had plenty of room in the suitcase from where my Xmas presents had been!) and it was fun showing them all of the random products on offer here. We then popped back to my flat as it was on the way back to the hotel, and quickly had a cup of tea and a chat with Rosa. We ate in the hotel restaurant again on this night, which was yet again very tasty.
On the final day of their trip, we decided to stay fairly near the hotel as the taxi to the airport was booked for 2pm. We just had a little walk around the nearby area, including a shopping centre, and had a coffee, and then it was time to go already. I went with mum & Rod to the airport, where we had lunch in Costa Coffee before saying goodbye. It felt like their stay went so quickly, but it was really so lovely having them here and showing them the city I so love living in and I hope they enjoyed themselves as much as I did. I hope now it makes more sense to them why I find Russia so interesting!
I'm wondering if this post could be a contender for my longest so far, so I think I'm going to stop here! I have quite a lot else to update on since my mum & Rod's visit, but I think I'll save that for another (not so distant!) day. Time to go and do some homework!