Saint Petersburg [Санкт-Петербург], a city located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea has had a very interesting history. Founded in 1703 by the tsar, Peter I (Peter the Great), it was the capital of Imperial Russia for more than 200 years (approximately 1713 thru 1918). After the Russian revolution of 1917 the capital was moved to Moscow. It is the second largest city in Russia with approximately 4.6 million people within the city and approximately 6 million people in the surrounding area. The city has not always been known by its current name. Some of you may know it by one of its former names, Petrograd (1914 to 1924) or Leningrad (1924 to 1991).
The city, unlike in Moscow, has preserved the historical architecture of the city center, which is mostly designed in the Baroque and Neoclassic style of the 18th & 19th centuries. Walking around the streets of St. Petersburg is one of the most enjoyable things I had done during this trip. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Moscow. But the architecture and overall atmosphere in St. Petersburg was so much better. The people even seemed friendlier.
Church of the Spilled Blood
The Winter Palace (Hermitage)
Examining the Painting
Ok, enough learning — now on with the show. The most interesting point of St. Petersburg is the fact that it was the seat of power for Imperial Russia. With this, come many things associated with the tsars. Sitting about an hours drive (30 minutes by boat) lies one of the most beautiful palaces in this part of Europe, Peterhof Palace, a palace built by Peter the Great. It is often referred to as the Russian Versailles. As you walk up the path from the boat dock you are immediately in awe over the scale of the grounds and the palace itself. On either side of a small canal leading up to the foot of the palace are fountains, which terminate in the Grand Cascade. A series of fountains which were modeled after the fountain at the Chateau de Marly for King Louis XIV. Truly amazing and beautiful. Inside the Grand Palace you really get a feel for the opulence that the royalty cherished. The interior halls are decorated in gold gilded designs and everything from the furniture to the paintings to the china and beyond contains such exquisite detail, a testament to the time.
Detail of the Roof of the East Chapel of Peterhof Palace
On the Grounds of Peterhof Palace
Business Class Seating – Aeroflot Airbus 330-200 LED –SVO
Soon, as fast as it began, my quick trip to Russia was over. After receiving news from Aeroflot that not only had the aircraft been upgraded from an Airbus 320-200 (seating 150 people) to an Airbus 330-200 (seating 253 people) I was also to be upgraded to Business Class, or into the Aeroflot Presidents Class. It was definitely an experience. From the moment I stepped onto the plane I was treated with such respect, as if I was the president of the Land of Crazy. From a pre flight beverage (champagne, orange juice or water) to the inflight snack of caviar tart with smoked salmon and herring on a bed of greens to the bitter chocolate soufflé. Even though it was only a 70 minute flight, it was still better service than what I had received previously flying Business class internationally with Northwest / Delta and was on par with the service of Thai Airways International. My favorite touch, live cameras showing the landing and take off from the cameras mounted on the landing gear.
As I was flying home onboard KLM to Amsterdam I began to think about some of the things that didn’t happen and why my experience in Russia was a little disappointing . I had heard stories from people about police officers stopping them on the streets asking to see their ID with visa/registration cards. How even sometimes you get taken to the local police bureau and really can be scrutinized. But not once did that happen to me. I am a little angry with the Russian police as I had been expecting something along these lines…. Oh well, there is always the next time.
And the question I know you’re all dying to have answered…. Yes, it is true. You can see the United States from Russia…..
KLM Flying Me Home
Now the decision has to be made where I will go next and when. My current plans are to spend some time in Australia & New Zealand. But nothing is set in stone until I have purchased the ticket. Stay tuned for more information…