It is hard to believe that it was a whole month ago but on September 3rd we were up early to have breakfast and be ready for the St Petersburg City Tour by 8.00am. The coach tour was provided by Arctur Travel and our guide for the trip was a very pleasant young lady who had a detailed knowledge of her city, a fine command of English in a lovely local accent, a sense of humour and a fashion-conscious image including the big sunglasses so beloved of certain celebs because it enables them to avoid the full make-up treatment before the school run each morning.
Today we saw the exteriors of several churches and of many grand palaces, some of which are now museums or colleges. Clearly a great deal of restoration has taken place and still more continues. There were a few stops to let us out of the coach to take photographs and I took a few shots from the moving coach (like the one above) as well, always a bit hit and miss but worth a try. The parts of St Petersburg that we saw certainly support its reputation as a beautiful city. The architecture was very grand in both design and scale.
This city’s continuing reputation was built on the huge wealth of the excessively rich governing families of the past. It would have been interesting to have visited an ordinary area of the city – comparable with our home shopping environment – just to see how it compared. Our scope for shopping was limited to tourist souvenir shops – in locations which appeared to be well away from other shops – in which the main goods were Russian dolls, jade jewelry and various icons, all of variable quality and a major tourist shop that had a very much wider range of goods including fur hats, glass and ceramics, watches, paintings and decorated boxes.
I came away from St Petersburg feeling that I was little wiser about Russia as a whole than I had been on arrival there. Perhaps this was to have been expected, given the shortage of time, only two days, and the fact that Granny Anne and I had chosen, as first-time visitors, to stay with organised groups rather than obtain our own visas so that we could explore independently. I wonder how much independence we would have been allowed? It was certainly worth going there but I wouldn’t think it worth a second visit just to see grand architecture and a diet of over-decorated interiors.