When we are overwhelmed by our religious, political and socio political beliefs, we tend to undermine, prejudice and become bias towards the other aspects of the civilizations; which includes arts, culture, literature and heritage.
Russia was a non interest area for me and I only know Russia from Hollywood movies. But my trip to Saint Petersburg and Moscow turned out to be the most interesting travel experience of my travel history. Let me take you on this journey and shout loud “From Russia with love”.
The desire to go to Russia again and again specially to Moscow and St. Petersburg, is taking me back with my group of 34 enthusiastic and tireless travelers from Pakistan through cordial Turkish Airline. Now nothing is in between St. Petersburg, Moscow and our fairytale journey with open eyes. 5 days St. Petersburg and 3 days Moscow I wish I can have more.
Day 1: Arrival in St Petersburg
What a smooth immigration, and our “always happy to help” company representative, Ekaterina, Warm hand waving and welcome greeting, what a refresher. Our driver is taking us in a warm comfortable vehicle from the St. Petersburg airport. Speech less coach passengers indulged in mesmerizing view of countless canals and lush green parks, into the heart of city. What a city neat clean and pedestrian friendly, picturesque more European then European. Group is checking in hotel around 5:00pm with the utmost satisfaction and amusement about their choice of travel destination. Rest of the day is at leisure.
Day 2: Panoramic City Tour & Russian Folk Show
What a refreshing morning and warm and tasteful breakfast its now 11:30 am. Our tour guide Anna with her pleasant smile is at the hotel lobby. Today she is taking us for a three hour spell bounding city tour to show us the tourist attractions along with the classical and historical city’s captivating architecture. Anna is diligently allowing 10 to 20 minutes for each hotspot, and group is trying to freeze each moment in the cameras. The heart of city, Nevsky Avenue along with the bronze Horseman, Peter and Paul’s fortress, Blood of the Savior cathedral and the majestic Issac cathedral; I am drowning in history, Tsar, revolt, Stalin, World wars, cold war USSR and Russia, the magical mystery of the history is like virtual reality in front of me. Ah… The Palace Bridge, Mars field and heritage museum! What are you telling me about the people who lived here.
Now it’s evening around 7 pm the tireless travelers are set to leave for Nicholas Palace to experience the Russian Folk Show “Feel Yourself Russian”. Artists dressed in traditional, high energy, rhythmic dance, pulsating music and the ambiance, is making me to give standing ovation who suggested the shows title. What a night, calm a relaxing dinner and we are going back to hotel. “Sweet dreams” is a shallow expression for tonight.
Day 3: Peterhof – Hermitage Museum – Night Cruise
Its 10:30am. Anna, our guide is again punctual and fresh as ever, is at the hotel lobby. A fine morning is about to start. She is taking us to Peterhof. Anna is talking and her voice is echoing in the grand palace and I am deep down receiving these echoes and impressed by magnificence of the palace. The Park around the palace with fountains and greenery is sheer soul treatment. Surely it’s the fountain Capital of the world, telling the story of oldest summer residence of Russian Tsars built on the shore of Gulf of Finland. The story of majestic wealth and rare craftsmanship.
Rightly so, The hermitage ranks among the world’ major museums. The glory of past consists of nearly three million artifacts. Amber room; I want to come back.
Its 11 pm. Dinner, chandeliers, crockery, cutlery, waiters ambiance spot on for upcoming romance. It’s all set for St. Petersburg Rivers and Canal Cruise. Venice…no its not…Amsterdam… may be not…. It’s St. Petersburg. The tireless travelers are trying to freeze the moments for happy memorizes and I am embracing the serenity with my eyes. End of two hours cruise and end of beautiful night.
Day 4: St Catherine’s Palace & Mikhailovsky Theater, St Petersburg
We are going to Pushkin. Anna is telling us its about 45 minutes’ drive out of the City of St. Petersburg .Pushkin is the home of St. Catherine’s palace. In early 1700s this palace was originally built under the authority of peter the great for his wife Catherine, has undergone substantial damage during World war II. With each room uniquely designed to outdo the last, the gold covered architraves guide through the palace……Anna is speaking…. I am losing her voice…. I am hearing someone calling Catherine…..war plane roars….. Collapsing of roof….. Artisan and workmen shouting, restoring the buildings. Farrows, Mughals, Tsars, Peter, ancient or modern, what does buildings means…. Majestic, Power, Royalty, or love, emotions, feelings.
If there was one thing on my bucket list prior to visiting Russia, it was to see the Russian Ballet performance in St Petersburg. Magically, I am sitting stunned, Perched up high in the stands of Mikhailovsky Theater watching a live performance of Giselle.
Day 5: St Petersburg – Moscow by Bullet Train
Legacy to transformation… we are in high speed Sapsan Bullet train. Our destination is Moscow. The convenience and ease of travelling between St. Petersburg to Moscow is medal to Russian advancement in science and technology. The business class is having plenty of food and beverages. Group is partying and enjoying the landscape. I am relax and happy. It’s about four hours and we are at Moscow railway station. Our Guide Alexay is waiting and we are ready to embrace Moscow.
Day 6: Kremlin and Red Square – Russian Famous Circus
Our guide Alexay is waiting for us to take us to the kremlin-very heart of Moscow and know for symbol of power and might. All the Russian princes and emperors all are crowned and buried here.
St Basil Cathedral in Red Square
With its bright and twisted, beautifully decorated domes, St Basil’s Cathedral stands proud towards the Moscow River end of the Red Square. Myth has it that the architect who designed the Cathedral was then blinded by Ivan the Terrible to ensure no building more beautiful could ever be designed.
After dinner we are all set for The Nikulin Circus which is one of the oldest in Russia, and the traditional home of the world-famous Moscow State Circus. This 2 hour performance is memorable.
This is a must do in Moscow; with every single act leaving us amazed. Had a blast!
Day 7: Moscow City Tour – Arbaat Street – Metro Tour
Its 10:00 am. Alexy is here to take us to Moscow city tour. We are going to visit all the major monuments from outside: Moscow university, Moscow University, Ostankino Tower, Seven Sisters, Peters Statue, New Maiden Convent, The White House of the Russian Federation, Moscow’s boulevards, Sparrow Hills.
At Last but most important, Shopping, Shopping , Shopping …. Group is going for shopping so am I. Happy shopping.
We are at world’s oldest metro station. It is famous for being the most beautiful metro system in the world; each metro station has a story to tell. An entirely different design for each station, the Russian metro is a sight for sore eyes with the statues and chandeliers that line the ceilings!
Day 8: Moscow – Departure
Today is our last day in Moscow, Breakfast in hotel is making in love with Russia. Tireless travelers are ready for home.