The last stop on my Russia trip was by far the most varied and interesting. I’ve been to St. Petersburg once or twice before when I was much younger, so this time around, It was almost as if I was seeing it for the very first time. The city itself is simply gorgeous. Situated at the head of the Gulf of Finland, and with the Neva river and many smaller canals meandering and crisscrossing the city, I could see why it’s called the “Venice of the north.” Unlike Moscow, St. Petersburg was built by Peter the Great to be used as the Capital, so it has a much more cohesive and orderly feel.
While there, I was able to do a fair amount of exploring, including spending an afternoon at the Versailles-inspired Petrodvorets (or Peterhof), which is a sprawling complex of mansions and expansive gardens situated just West of St. Petersburg on the bank of Neva Bay. While there, I managed to catch a group of teenagers trying their luck at beating one of the many trick fountains found within the gardens. In addition to spending some more time meeting with relatives and working on our family tree, as I was heading back to my hotel on the second day, I stumbled upon an interesting scene, which I later found out was part of “International Museum Day.” As I was walking along Nevsky Avenue, the main street in St. Petersburg, I saw several 1940-1950′s era cars drive up with costumed and extravagantly attired characters in the back seat. After some time to allow bystanders to take some photos of them, they got out and slowly made their way to an impromptu stage erected nearby, where they entertained the crowd for the 20-30 minutes with some questions about Russian arts & culture. All in all, I think I managed to fit into three days what would ordinarily take a week, making this a fantastic way to end my Russian trip.