The last day, we went back to the Hermitage (TIP: We bought two day tickets) and visited Peter the Great’s Winter Palace. TIP: Don't use the second day ticket to go to another one of the Hermitage’s seven buildings. Trust me!
St. Issac’s Cathedral was a stone’s throw from our hotel. St. Issac’s, built between 1818 and 1858, is the largest Russian Orthodox Church in St. Petersburg. It is spectacular, inside and out. Piercing green and blue malachite columns immediately grab your attention. The great dome honoring the Holy Spirit is a sight to behold. Large, brightly-colored stained glass windows shine light onto the massive floor, which at one point held 14,000 standing worshipers at a time. In 1930, this beautiful cathedral became a museum, but it still holds services during major ecclesiastical occasions.
After our visit to St. Issac’s, Sergi, our driver, returned for the drive to the airport and we traveled back roads through the communist era apartment buildings on the way. The St. Petersburg we enjoyed was gone and we were back in classic Russia – dirty, dangerous and downright unnerving.
TIP: During our trip, we realized that St. Petersburg has about a two square mile section that is impeccable. We never saw trash, gum, cigarette butts, etc. on the streets....they were washed every night! There was no graffiti. It was honestly the cleanest city we’ve ever seen. The majority of St. Petersburg and Russia aren’t like this. Don’t expect it everywhere. If you stay where we stayed, go to the major attractions and sights and stay on the beaten path. You’ll love the city. I can’t say that everyone will enjoy the “other Russia” as much as I do, but I can pretty much guarantee that you will enjoy the westernized St. Petersburg experience.
Enjoy Russia! I’m happy to tag along and show you the sights! Спасибо! до свидания!