Rushing to Russia for New Year

Top 5 Tips for travel to Russia

  1. Book direct with an airline, travel agent or double check your flights well before travel
  2. There are positives to travelling in winter including snow and less queues and crowds at major sights (you can stare at Leonardo Da Vinci in the Heritage Museum all day long if you want!)
  3. Don’t be afraid to try Borscht (beetroot) soup
  4. Don’t expect people to know English (worth knowing a Russian or sticking with a tour guide for translation – it makes all the difference!)
  5. If you’re a single male, get onto Tinder! There’s a much higher female population than male (thanks for the tip Ben)

Christmas Eve / Day 2015

Russia was amazing. But it didn’t start out that way…

On Christmas Eve 2015 we arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare, only to find they cancelled our flight months ago. And didn’t tell us.

Because of the situation between Ukraine and Russia, all flights were suspended between them in October. So there we were at London Gatwick around 10pm, wondering what to do. A quick look on SkyScanner showed no other flights any time soon and we couldn’t get in contact with our travel insurance or website we’d booked our flights through. And of course the trains had stopped for Christmas (yep – no public transport in London on Christmas day!) so it was an expensive taxi ride home for over an hour.

By 2am after feeling like this was the worse Christmas ever, we’d decided to take the risk and spend the money to book new flights that got us into St Petersburg the morning of the second day of our group tour. The process to get a Russian visa was lengthy and expensive so we really didn’t want to have to do that again for a different time window! In the meantime, we were lucky enough to spend Christmas day with some Aussie friends in London and their friends who were travelling to Russia the following day, one of which was Russian!

After stuffing our faces and enjoying a game of Cards Against Humanity and our first ever eggnog, it was time to get into another taxi and head to London Heathrow Airport. Thank you Aeroflot for finally getting us to St Petersburg!

26 December – Hermitage Museum and Christmas Markets

inside hermitage.jpg

Inside Hermitage Museum

It was dark in St Petersburg at 8:30am. Turns out the sun doesn’t come up until around 10am at this time of year! We’d had zero sleep on the plane so after a complimentary airport pick up by Travel Talk, we checked into our hotel and went straight to bed! First impressions of Russia were large impressive buildings and very clean.

We stayed at CityTel in which the room was comfortable but a bit old and too warm even despite working out how to turn off the radiator. We were due to meet Tatiana our tour guide at 3pm at Palace Square so slept as long as we could before making our way in that direction. There was a KFC along the way… do you think we could resist the opportunity to try KFC in Russia? No. But surprisingly we didn’t love it. KFC in Morocco is still the best!

Half an hour later we made it to Palace Square and spotted a group standing near Alexander’s column. It was ours! They were all very friendly and welcoming. We made our way to the Hermitage Museum and I don’t think at that point I realised what an amazing piece of history it was, both itself and all its contents. The Hermitage Museum is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great. There are different sections known as the old, the big and the new Hermitage and there is art there by Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt and Michaelangelo. The best part was almost no one else was there thanks to the winter season. Tatiana told us that only 45% of the original items are left after being stolen by Nazis in the war.

The cold hit our faces immediately on the way out but on the plus side, there were Christmas celebrations going on in Palace Square with performers and light projections onto nearby buildings. But it was time for dinner so some of us went to a restaurant they’d tried and tested a few nights ago. It was a place that came highly recommended by the hostel they’d stayed at before joining the tour. Mishka Bar. Quite possibly the best beef stroganoff I’ve ever had. Not to forget the delicious ceviche starter and wine, all for a mere 1100 Russian Rubles or around 11 pounds.

marketsThe group had booked to see a folk dancing show which we missed out on due to our late arrival, so we made our way to some Christmas markets! It was freezing (about -2) so we got some hot chocolate to warm up. It was very much a locals’ Christmas market and it was our first struggle with the language barrier. We were surrounded by stage performers, random jogging santa packs and ice skating! After a while, it was time to go back to our very warm room (grateful now)!

27 December – Catherine’s Palace, Peter and Paul Fortress, Church of Spilled Blood, overnight sleeper train to Moscow

We enjoyed an included breakfast at our hotel (eggs, toast and sausages) before getting on a bus to Pushkin to see Catherine’s Palace. Along the way, we went past the three protection lines from World War II and Tatiana explained that St Petersburg was the only place not to have been invaded by the Nazis. In fact, after attempting and failing to invade St Petersburg, the Nazis decided to starve them instead. It was known as the Siege of Leningrad.

inside Catherines PalaceCatherine’s Palace is another amazing part of history. It’s massive and covered in gold both inside and out. This is where Catherine the First and Peter the First (also the Great) spent many summers. The amber room is the most famous room. The Nazis stole the amber during the war and it is still missing today. There are lots of theories as to where it ended up including on a sunken boat. Some time between then and now, the Germans donated a large sum of money to Russia to replace the amber. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to fill the amber room, with the top part covered in wallpaper that looks like amber pieces.

peter and paul fortress

Peter and Paul Fortress

After walking alongside the beautiful garden outside the Palace, we went to lunch where we first tried Borscht (beetroot) soup. Surprisingly delicious! We also had chicken schnitzel and have to say that the mash was ‘on point’. It was time to visit and explore the Peter and Paul Fortress church where the Russian tsars, emperors and empresses are buried in tombs 2m below the ground. During our visit, part of the church was sectioned off with temporary screening as they’d dug up the body of Alexander the Third! Tatiana told us that they were conducting DNA tests to link Alexander the Third with the bodies of two potential grandchildren.

The church was founded by Peter the Great and was designed and built completely against the orthodox because he liked the western style. Peter the Great and Catherine the First are both buried here. Peter helped Catherine become ruler by introducing the ability to appoint the next leader instead of by blood as all of his male children had died. Catherine the Great who is the granddaughter-in-law of Catherine the First is also buried here. Peter died at age 52, after reigning as leader for 32 years.

Just next to the Peter and Paul Fortress is a prison. Well actually the fortress itself was a political prison in 1718 but then in 1872, a new prison, Trubetskoy Bastion Prison was constructed. Tatiana told us that while the rooms were actually bigger than expected, prisoners weren’t allowed to sit or lay on the bed during the day. Prisoners were kept there until around 1917.

church of spilled blood

The last sight to see for the day was the Church of Spilled Blood (otherwise known as the Church of the Savior on Blood). This is a must-see in St Petersburg. It is beautiful both inside and out. It was built on the site where Emperor Alexander II was fatally wounded in 1881. The church was built between 1883 and 1907. Tatiana didn’t join us inside and we missed her clear, interesting and engaging commentary so I’ve had to research this place more than the others. Weird finding – during the second world war when people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness.

church of spilled blood inside

On that note, time for dinner! We all split up as we had a few hours before meeting back at the hotel and heading to the overnight sleeper train to Moscow. Harry and I joined Ben at Marketplace which came highly recommended and the food is definitely why. Drinks on the other hand – they’d run out of vodka! Harry and I then walked up Nevsky Prospect (main road) to Rock Pub which is definitely an attempt to copy Hard Rock Cafe! With the same letter font and everything! I had my first White Russian cocktail and then of course had to have another one. They are tasty! We left on the search for another pub and came across the first gastro pub in Russia – Ivan and Maria.

Harry selected a tray of beers to try and I moved onto wine. The language barrier was evident when I got a red wine after pointing at what I thought was the white wine on the menu, but he still kindly changed it for me. We read a brochure that said they also owned a few other pubs nearby so we went on a search to find the closest one. Well. There was a cardboard girl cut-out out the front with no top on, holding two beer jugs in perfectly placed positions. I was unsure about this! But off we go. Down some stairs and my gut feeling kicked in even more. Pictures in a frame on the wall with topless ladies… no-one around. I was half expecting to end up like those people in the Hostel movies… disappearing without a trace!

those ones from uzbekistan

New friends from Uzbekistan

There was a young guy and girl sitting on the bench across from the cloak room and they instantly asked if we were foreigners and to join them. We walked with them through to the bar and there was not another soul there except the waitress. They told us they were from Uzbekistan and didn’t speak very good English. The guy was wearing a Christmas jumper and seemed friendly but every now and then with his accent he sounded slightly terrifying! A few times he said “speak Russian!” but we just kept smiling at him as if to say – we would if we could! Then they asked us what we thought about the political situation… heavy! They were very excited about the prospect of us drinking all night with them and doing karaoke together but it was 9:30pm and we had half an hour to start making our way back to the hotel or we would miss our overnight sleeper train. It was hard to explain to them that we couldn’t stay! We had one drink with them and I sang In The End by Linkin Park with the guy. I think he is their biggest fan. We actually sang it twice (though he was mostly rapping) and as we were leaving, we could hear him singing another Linkin Park song. Successful departure. That experience was definitely a mix of nerves and hair prickling fun!

sleeper train.jpgWe made it back to our hotel with our story and soon were walking with the group to the train. All of us were waiting on the platform to board the train which wasn’t actually departing until 11:40pm. Harry and I were split up into separate rooms, one for boys and one for girls. It felt like a sleepover party and I was sharing with some really cool Aussie and Kiwi girls. We had a nightcap delivery of two vodkas each (which after pouring out the contents of the jug equalled three vodkas each) and lemon Schweppes. Their lemon Schweppes is actually Indian tonic which I tried to enjoy but definitely did not. Cost 500 rubles each which is about 5 pounds. This of course meant that after turning off the light and climbing onto the top bunk, I instantly needed to pee. So I was the first one to break the ‘we don’t unlock the door after lights out’ rule but at least it was right at the start. You could lock the door two ways so that if one mechanism failed, the other was still in place. There was no shower on the train but thankfully we were given a set with toothbrush and paste, slippers, water and a snack. Let’s go to Moscow!

28 December – Red Square, Moscow

This morning started with a knock on our sleeper door at 7am and breakfast delivery which we’d selected the night before. I had porridge with milk and a coffee then started to get ready. We were arriving into Moscow at 8:15am and once the train arrived, we had 7 minutes to get off. Harder than it sounds! The sleeper cabins are small and it’s hard to manoeuvre everything out! And there’s no room for overtaking!

We met Eddie our Moscow tour guide and our bus took us to breakfast at a place next to the Moscow Circus. There was a very talented (and probably very bored) red squirrel in a cage near the entrance. He was doing all sorts of flips! This helped us decide not to join the others at the famous Moscow Circus that evening. I’m pretty sure we would not have been able to handle the animal acts!

xmas markets basils cathedralWe arrived at the Red Square and saw the changing of the guards which happens every hour. St Basil’s Cathedral was beautiful and we were excited when we discovered the Christmas markets right next to it.

Wikipedia: The Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed is commonly known as Saint Basil’s Cathedral. The building, now a museum, is officially known as the Cathedral of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat or Pokrovsky Cathedral. It was built from 1555–61 on orders from Ivan the Terrible and commemorates the capture of Kazanand Astrakhan

The original building, known as Trinity Church and later Trinity Cathedral, contained eight side churches arranged around the ninth, central church of Intercession; the tenth church was erected in 1588 over the grave of venerated local saint Vasily (Basil). 

st basils cathedral at night
Tatiana and Eddie led us into the shopping centre which requires a bag check by the security guards and walk through a metal detector. Our group had a quick brief and we were given an hour to explore and meet back at the same point. We filled the time with mulled wine drinking, market exploring and crepe eating. Then it was time to go inside St Basil’s Cathedral as a group. Eddie took us through the different churches inside and we saw some choir singers who were very magnetising. You can imagine their amazing sounds in the cathedral!

metro station.jpgThe next activity for the day was exploring the city train network – Moscow Metro. We were each given a travel card with 5 trips on it and as a group, went to a few different train stations. Sounds a bit boring doesn’t it? Well here’s the thing. The stations are actually an attraction in themselves. They’re super clean, have no advertising and have large religious, historic and political mosaics and statues. Very impressive! The city circle helps connect the outward lines which is handy, particularly with approximately 10 million travellers per day, of which 3 million are in the morning peak. It’s definitely worth making the effort to get around Moscow on the Metro at some point so you can check them out.

We checked into our hotel in Moscow (Holiday Inn Sokolniki) for a much needed shower and decided that we would get room service instead of braving the cold again. Plus it was cheap. We got a chicken kiev with sides (aka can’t remember exactly) and chicken teriyaki sticks with rice for a mere 12 pounds, and that included delivery fee! We’d had next to no sleep on the sleeper train so after food it was nap time. About 7pm we met our travel group in the lobby. We caught another train together to the restaurant of choice which we weren’t super fans of. It was called Eat and Talk and it was more westernised. I had a pepperoni pizza and Harry had some kind of Russian meatballs with an egg on top and a side of potato chips (as in crisps)! There were multiple pictures of the same overweight naked guy along the wall behind us and we were grateful we didn’t have to look at him during our meal.

christmas lights.jpgThe final excitement for the day was being dropped into the Red Square at night and exploring the many, many beautiful Christmas lights that Moscow has to offer! We walked and walked until we had seen all the lights we wanted to see, and caught the Metro back to the Holiday Inn.

29 December – Exploring the Kremlin

My wake up call this morning was hitting my head on the tv cabinet. How? By tripping over my bag in unfamiliar surroundings in the dark of course! Why? Following the sound of my alarm to shut it off! Weirdly I was having a dream about being in a cooking competition and my time was up. I won’t lie, I might have cried a little after my wake up procedure this morning which gave me a big fat headache!

We had a nice healthy breakfast at the hotel… omelette and fruit. I’m sure you all wanted to know. By 9:15am we were on a bus to the Red Square where we went into the Kremlin. The Kremlin is where Putin lives! We explored two churches, one in which the tsars were crowned and the other where Ivan the Third is buried. Before we went into the second church, there was a free concert children could go to inside one of the buildings. Their parents were in a circle outside near the large Christmas tree, waiting for them to come out.

inside kremlin

After exploring the first church, we walked past the Tsar Bell which is known to be the largest in the world however never used. In fact, the broken slab alone is nearly three times larger than the world’s largest bell hung for full circle ringing (according to Wikipedia). Also, (more Wikipedia), it was commissioned by Empress Anna Ivanovna, niece of Peter the Great.

tsar bell

Our next adventure was seeing Vladimir Lenin’s embalmed body in the Mausoleum. He was placed there not long after his death in 1924. It was a strange experience to see his body, especially after seeing his picture around the place. You walk in and there are guards everywhere of course, and you need to be as quiet as possible. It’s a dark room but the sealed case is lit and you can see his body clearly. It’s almost as if he could wake up at any point. Stalin is buried behind the Mausoleum.

On that morbid note, we were picked up by the bus and taken to Arbat Street, which is a main street about a kilometre long in the historical centre of Moscow. Harry and I found a viking place for lunch called Eric the Red. The food was amazing and cheap. One hundred rubles for borscht soup, 150 rubles for chicken schnitzel. To put it in perspective, that’s about $2 (AUD) for a starter and $3 for a main. We had a look around after lunch then it was time to meet the group back at the bus.

It was freezing and we were more than ready to get back on the bus but it was still being driven around the block. Brrrrr! We were taken to a spot where you get a good panoramic view of the city. Very nice. As we were leaving, there was a white car doing burn outs and skids around the roundabout. Eddie our tour guide told us they would have been practicing for street racing which happens in this area. The white car went around the roundabout at least 10 times and it was lucky he didn’t wipe out any other cars along the way.

After that excitement Harry and I were dropped off at the World War II museum as the others were on their way to the Moscow Circus. It was actually a very pretty area with snow on the ground so we had a snowball fight on the way to the entrance. It was a very interesting museum but difficult to understand and appreciate as most of it was not in English. The artefacts though were listed in English so that was helpful to know what you were looking at. I’m not sure I would recommend this as a place to visit for English only speakers.

first sign of snowOn our walk towards the Metro we experienced our first snow falling from the sky, as opposed to it magically appearing on the ground. It was so beautiful! And cold. The wind burn on your face and hands is painful. Definitely invest in fingerless gloves and a face warmer / wind protector. A balaclava is probably taking it a bit too far but I’m pretty sure in the circumstances I would have happily worn one! We saw a range of different ice sculptures being made along our walk and finally made it to the Metro.

The train doors in Russia do not close lightly. I had already noticed this but was reminded of it the hard way. As we were getting onto the train, Harry had managed to get in but the doors closed on me when I was half way in. Lucky Harry had a hold of me from the inside and somehow pulled me through!

It was time for dinner so we looked around for a while and settled on an Italian restaurant called Dvorik near the hotel. No english on the menu and no english speaking staff. We knew at this point it was going to get interesting! Harry asked for vino which she understood and there were two things on the menu that somehow (despite the lettering being completely different) looked like english words we knew – carbonara and margherita. So we ended up with a starter bowl of carbonara which we shared and a massive margherita pizza. Weirdly there were budgies in cages every few metres along the wall in shelving. As you do. At one point they did a big flutter and I’m pretty sure a few feathers made it onto our table. Lucky I love animals!

We went to the supermarket and bought a bottle of vodka for 220 rubles (yes equivalent to about $4.40 AUD) and started our party in the hotel while we waited for the others to get back from the circus. We found them in the lobby and had a few drinks and a chat with them until it was time to say goodbye! We had a really nice group, a mix of aussies and kiwis as per usual!

travel talk group

Travel Talk Highlights of Russia Tour December 2015!

30 December – Exploring on our own

After our last hotel breakfast, we caught the train to Red Square for a final visit. Somehow we were hungry again so when we arrived at the station, we tried a few pastries you could order through a small window. We pointed at a few without knowing what they were, and our lucky dip was successful with a mini pizza and cheese pastry. All for the bargain price of 150 rubles including a bottle of water.

On our way towards Red Square, I was mid way through taking a photo of Harry when a man put a bird on his head in time for the photo! We immediately said “net” (no in Russian) because last time it happened we ended up paying 5 euros in France!

It was cold today. Minus six or so. This was the day we filmed my first ever travel video (Vlog) in Red Square and poor Harry nearly lost his hand to frostbite with the amount of times we had to film it! Click here for my video tour of the Red Square

We checked out the Christmas markets again and there was plenty of tea and mulled wine but no coffee so we found some inside the shopping centre nearby. This was also a good defrosting opportunity. Again, food time according to our holiday bellies so we went back to the markets and got a sausage and sides which was chopped gherkin.

ice slide

The sun started to make its way to bed for the night and the area lit up with its Christmas lights, markets and ice activity! We followed some music and came across an ice skating show (kind of like Disney On Ice) surrounded by lots of cosy market stalls and even an ice slide! Sadly when we started to line up for the ice slide, we were told it was finishing so we missed out! It looked like so much fun as they came sliding down on a tyre!

jodie happy new year

It was freezing but it was snowing and beautiful. We wrote a few messages in the snow and then searched the market stands for the perfect nesting doll. In the end we settled on the classic Russian design though there are so many kinds including celebrities and animals to pick from.

harry and lepimivarimWe’d done some research earlier for good places to eat outside of the main central area. This is how we found Lepimivarim. A place for good pelmeni (dumplings). We had to catch the Metro to get there and realised at our destination station that we didn’t actually have the address and now no longer any wi-fi. So, we were looking at our printed map when a man standing nearby came over and tried to help us with no luck. He then took us inside the restaurant we were standing in front of, went to find someone and came back with a young lady who could speak English. It was nice of them to help but in the end naturally they were trying to convince us to stay there but we wanted to explore so we politely left.

It was then that Harry remembered he’d downloaded an app (Triposo) with a local map on it without the need for wi-fi. Technology these days! So we started to head towards Lepimivarim thanks to Triposo and had the loveliest walk through Hermitage Gardens! We saw an English and Scottish pub along the way and whilst initially we were thinking perhaps a pub crawl back past them later, there was a logo on the front door of the English pub that appeared to be homophobic so we decided against it!

As we got closer to the address for Lepimivarim, luckily Harry recognised the logo because its name was written in Russian! It looked very much like a cafe but serving only fresh dumplings and a few tasty beers in the fridge. The people working there were really friendly and despite the language barrier we managed to order successfully twice! Yes, we went back for more!

We wandered slowly back towards the Metro through a sea of christmas lights, markets, waffles, ice skating and snow.

31 December – New Year’s Eve in St Petersburg

Well the group tour was officially over from breakfast yesterday and that meant no more breakfast inclusion at our hotel today. So, we walked all of 50 metres to McDonalds in the snow.

Then it was time to check out, uber our way to the airport and fly to St Petersburg. Thankfully there were no issues with our S7 (Siberian Airlines) flight and we arrived back in St Petersburg in no time. Another uber later, we arrived at our hotel The Golden Triangle. This place has a very boutique feel to it. Also very clean, comfortable and the people working there are very friendly. Because it was New Year’s Eve, we were asked to draw a piece of paper tied in a red bow out of a bowl. Once we’d unwrapped it, we found that we’d won a bottle of sparkling wine! Good start to New Year’s!

It was lunch time so we headed to the Irish pub a few doors down. A good experience as almost always in an Irish pub! Good food, beer and cheer. We had a small window of shopping opportunity so went to find a few souvenirs. Luckily we knew where to look after discovering some good places when we were in St Petersburg a few days ago. Then we had to quickly get ready because Kat and Tom were coming over (who we met on Christmas day in London)!

I almost made the ridiculous choice of wearing no thermals in my quest to look somehow nice for New Year’s. Thankfully I spilt coffee on my top and jeans and this forced me to change so I went for warm and comfortable. We went back to Marketplace for dinner with Kat and Tom and tried something different. Still delicious. And cheap. You can see why it constantly gets recommended.

jodie and clintWe did a local shop for snacks to contribute to the party we were going to later this evening. It was nice having a Russian with us to translate! At this point it is probably worth mentioning that in Russia, New Years Eve is celebrated more than Christmas and with lots and lots of food! Even all the Christmas markets we had been visiting were really ‘New Year Markets’. We caught the Metro to Kat’s friend’s apartment where we met a furry friend whose name escapes me. Kat and the girls started putting together caviar and salmon tartlets. Looked pretty tasty! We also tried a Russian cheese that looks like it’s tied in a big knot and you just rip bits off.  Randomly, their friends had a frozen rabbit they needed to cut up in preparation for cooking. Tom got the job! Before we left, we were each given a Christmas gingerbread cookie made by Kat’s friend’s Mum. They were tried and tested back in London and were THE most mouthwatering gingerbread cookies I’ve ever tasted.

It was time for another train back towards the city. With the food prepared, we were making our way to another of Kat’s friends’ apartments for a New Year’s Eve party. When we arrived, their friends were in the loungeroom writing on sheets of paper. Kat explained that they were writing down 20 words they thought Putin would say in his midnight speech.

Everyone was really nice and I spoke for quite a while to a girl from Siberia who teaches english in St Petersburg. She didn’t convince me to visit Siberia with it’s plus and minus 35 temperature range and travel distance. Though I’m sure it would be very beautiful in its own right.

putins speech

Putin’s speech on TV

All of a sudden it was 11:55pm and Putin was on TV. We of course didn’t know what he was saying. The translated version by our new Russian friends was that it was mostly the same as previous years – prosperity for our country and so on. Terrorism got a mention too. As the clock struck midnight, we had to each light a sparkler, take a sip of newly poured champagne in our glass and someone had to eat a mandarin. This is a tradition going back to soviet times. Note: not much vodka being consumed, mostly champagne on New Year’s Eve.

Dancing time! They were playing YouTube clips with fun dances to copy and we were all trying to recreate the moves in the living room. Until! The Aussie boys had the great idea of playing You’re the Voice by John Farnham. With lyrics. With a few English speakers in the crowd, we soon had a circle of Russians singing and dancing to one of Australia’s greatest hits of all time! Love it!

new year hermitage fireworks

A few more hours flew by and we joined Kat and Tom to go and check out the 3am fireworks. I never thought I would make it to this time of night but the cold air snaps the tiredness right out of you! The fireworks were beautiful and it was pretty magical to see them going up over the Heritage Museum. A special way to see in the New Year.

palace squareKat and Tom kindly walked us back to our hotel and we crashed whilst listening to the people party on in the streets.

1 January – New Year’s Day

The fun at our beautiful boutique hotel kept on coming. There was champagne at breakfast though it was safe to say we were not interested. The breakfast was sooo good! A range of fresh and different breads, salmon, caviar and other hot and cold selections. All very fresh, well presented and delicious. I wanted to sit there for hours and just – keep – eating. Sadly, we had to check out (a day earlier than our original plans thanks to flight changes) so that we could so some final sightseeing before our journey home.

st isaacs and bronze horsemanIt was minus 15 degrees today, the coldest so far. All the rivers were frozen. We even saw some footprints on the frozen water. Perhaps a drunken stumble home on New Year’s Eve? Here’s hoping they didn’t fall through.

We finally saw St Isaac’s Cathedral that a few people on our tour had mentioned we must see. It’s the largest orthodox church in the city. It was quite stunning and definitely worth seeing. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go inside and explore but apparently there are amazing city views from the top. The Bronze Horseman statue is a short walk away towards the Neva river. This is to commemorate Peter the Great.

After a bit more exploring in the area, my thighs started to feel numb. I actually felt like the blood in my legs was frozen. Could I actually be freezing? We walked quickly to a shop so we could go inside and defrost. Literally!

frozen neva river

Frozen Neva River

Then back to our hotel where we met an older Aussie couple checking in for their stay so we passed on a few tips of what to see and do. I was secretly happy with our timing because I wasn’t sure I could handle another minus 15 day! I know that’s nothing compared to their minus 35 days! We collected our bags and waited patiently for our uber who arrived much more quickly than the estimated 1 hour wait time for normal taxis.

Back to London to start planning the rest of our travel for 2016! Enjoy my first ever travel Vlog! That’s video log for anyone wondering what I’m on about!