NAT GEO NORTHERN ROUTE: From Russia, With Love

 

This is my second visit to Russia and St. Petersburg is even more beautiful than I remember it. Can’t say I can recommend the other city we visited: Irkutsk, the capital of Siberia. While intriguing to visit Siberia, it’s not a destination I will be returning to in the near future.

Highlights (and caveats) when visiting these two cities in Russia:

 St. Petersburg: More gorgeous than ever!

  • Filled with ornate golden palaces, churches, exquisite fountains, gardens and parks.
  • Very European vibe – in design and architecture as well as lifestyle.

Must-sees include:

Caveat:

  • Russia is a massive (11 time zones), complex country with a lot of tragedy and turmoil in its past that lives on in people’s memories into the present (from horrific wars to palace intrigue).
  • Even when staying in ultra-exclusive luxury (Four Seasons, St. Petersburg), there is an undercurrent of uncertainty and risk that can put you on edge
  • That said, it is a remarkable country that piques the interest of savvy travelers.

See below for additional highlights as well as pics and videos of the 5 palaces, churches and museums listed above.

Catherine Palace, St. Petersburg

 

Peterhof – Built by Peter The Great to rival Versailles

Get there by hydrofoil boat

 

Peter and Paul Fortress and Cathedral

 

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

 

The Hermitage – fantastic museum!!

  • Only downside: their exceptional Matisse collection has been moved to another building across the river that provides more space and is temperature controlled.
  • On the plus side, amazing Anselm Kiefer show just opened at the museum (runs thru September 3rd).
  • Also, loved hearing about the 130 cats that live in the basement and work hard to contain the mouse population!!

The Hermitage Cathedral

Thank you Susan for capturing me in art admiration mode!!

Kiefer

 

Lake Baikal district in Irkutsk – summer vacation spot for Siberians

Wooden houses

Russian cars

Artists living in the area: Retro Park

Boat ride selfie

Cherries at the bazaar

Checking out the Baikal Seals in the Baikal Aquarium. Weirdest thing ever!

 

130th District in downtown Irkutsk

  • Super fun area to stroll around and check out stores, restaurants and bars.
  • Cool, young vibe.
  • Not sure I can recommend any of the restaurants (there’s even one called The Bronx) but definitely the most happening area in the city.

Silliness with my seatmate, Pam, in the 130th District in Irkutsk on our way to dinner

 

Four Seasons Hotel, St. Petersburg – LOVE this hotel!!

 

Russian industrial/advisory signage – super cool aesthetic!!

 

AND FINALLY, BIG SHOUT OUT TO MY AWESOME FELLOW TRAVELERS!!

Setting off to St. Petersburg from Irkutsk

The Larsons

Ty Cobb (left) and Greg Boreham

The Palmers

Leigh Cobb (right)

Greg and Nancy

Our doctor!!

The New Yorkers

Pam and Elva

And finally, serving those Lake Baikal cherries to the my posse:

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