Tuesday, October 09, 2018

NORTHERN COUNTRY TOUR - ST. PETERSBURG

October 9, 2018

Here is a map of the whole tour and how it started.

After we had passed the Russian border control we made a first "comfort stop". I had expected old buildings half in ruins, bad streets etc, and was really surprised that it was not at all the case, in fact it looked exactly like on a European stop, or even more clean and the streets better than in other Western countries.



And the best thing was you could pay by bank card, I didn't even need roubels ! The toilet use was free which in Germany for example and a lot of other European countries is not !

They had a variety of excellent snacks and sandwiches.



The next stop was at the entrance of St. Petersburg. Again the streets were well kept and not full of potholes as here in Belgium. It was fun to walk around, some of my group bought souvenirs, and then we continued our way to the city.

From 1924 to 1991 St. Petersburg had been changed to  'Leningrad'.

During the Soviet's reign, housing was nationalised and residents forced to share communal apartments. The owners of Manor houses had also to take in residents.   Resettling residents of shared apartments is now on the way out, but are still not uncommon.




We drove along new apartments. The buildings were ugly as in all suburbs and looked the same like in western cities.

The new boroughs were built on the outskirts of St. Petersburg in the 1950s–1980s, over half a million low income families eventually received free apartments, and about an additional hundred thousand condos were purchased. While economic and social activity is concentrated in the historic city centre, the richest part of Saint Petersburg, most people live in commuter areas.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, St. Petersburg started to restore the  crumbling facades, potholed roads, and cultural landmarks. They accomplished an amazing work in such a short time when I compare with Belgium. 

I was impressed by the city’s harmonious mix of western European and Russian architecture. Many houses looked like the English Victorian houses. But what I missed at the end of my two and a half days journey in St. Petersburg was the lack of a city centre ! Besides boulevards with shops and huge squares with the historical buildings there was nothing. No city center with old houses and cafés but huge distances to walk from one attraction to the other.

The canals of the Neva River that stretch to the Baltic coast are inseparable from St. Petersburg’s panorama. Many of the city’s most famed architectural sites stretch along the Neva’s historic embankments as you can see on the collages below.






Because of  the many bridges and natural canals of the river St. Petersburg's nickname is “Venice of the North.”  (which made me laugh, because Bruges is also called "Venice of the North") The bridges spanning the Neva are raised to let boat traffic through. Unfortunately it didn't happen when we were there.









Beautiful old houses with their restored facades.  Everything looks clean and well kept.



The St. Isaac Square with the statue of Nicholas I of Russia a bronze equestrian monument. Unveiled on July 7th the six-meter statue was a technical wonder of its time.

All in all St. Petersburg is certainly worthwhile to see at least once. Not really the city but more the historical monuments, because I found the city a bit without any character or soul. 



Where finally I felt"at home" was our hotel, which must have been two mansions put together. Inside, the bar looked like an English Pub and the restaurant was also decorated in English style. We had a huge room with old parquet flooring very cosy. The personnel too was very friendly and helpful. Unfortunately I had to stay a day without walking, as my feet hurt and were swollen. I had walked too much ! For me very important the hotel had even a cat and a very friendly one. Maybe that is not well liked by other guests but I and also others were delighted !


Hotel cat in front of my door


The next posts shows you the tourist attractions of St. Petersburg




more participants here

10 comments:

Lady Fi said...

Such grand architecture!

William Kendall said...

The architecture, particularly at St. Isaac Square, is quite appealing, but can't possibly match that hotel cat.

Loree said...

I hate apartment blocks. They're building them all over the place here too. Yuck. St Petersburg looks hige.

Fun60 said...

I had expected to see an old city centre. I was surprised by the number of large apartment blocks but I'm keen to see what else you have in store for us.

Andrew said...

It's very interesting to get a personal slant on a great city. It may be very clean and beautiful, but large is not always good.

Photo Cache said...

Such a wonderful trip.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Very interesting history and I am surprised how modern and "shiny" it looks for the mos part. I wouldn't have expected that. You learned a lot from your guide or no, cross that out, from Mr Google (ha ha I read your earlier post0!!).... I know what you mean about not having to listen to the details now ... same with when we visited a scenic place I used to always take pictures of the explanatory signs but now I don't because if I need to know something about the elevation or the history or whatever I can just look it up.

diane b said...

Its good to hear that it is a clean city even if a soulless one.

Tanza Erlambang - Every Day Issues said...

I just know the city from books and newspaper.
Waw. a lot of great buildings

betty-NZ said...

Thanks for the tour of this lovely place.

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I love painting, writing, travelling and photography. My favorit models are my four cats which I observe with fun and humor. I am German, married to an Italian and we live in Waterloo (15 km from Brussels) / Belgium since many years. Waterloo is a famous place to many tourists, because Napoleon lost his battle here against Wellington and other European countries.

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