St. Petersburg, Venice of the North

The city of St. Petersburg is named after the Tsar Peter the Great who founded the city in the early 18th Century. The city is also known under two different other names in recent history: Petrograd (from 1914 on) and Leningrad (1924 – 1991). This place is full of history and culture. My stay of five days merely seemed enough to take in all the major sights.

Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad

The State Hermitage is one of the largest and oldest art museums in the world. Catherine the Great founded the museum in 1754. Even by today’s standards, the sheer size of the museum and its adjacent square is hard to beat.

Catherine Palace in Pushkin

As if there weren’t enough historical views in the city, the surrounding area of St. Petersburg features even more and bigger sites, such as the Peterhof palace and the famous Catherine Palace in Pushkin. The latter contains a replica of the Amber Room.

Inside the Catherine Palace in Pushkin

Although I am not really a museum addict, I spotted two particular museums of interest to me. One of them, the Museum of Cosmonautics and Rocket Technology is quite small, but it features unique memorabilia of the Soviet-era space age.

Here, the lovingly preserved and authentic artifacts tell the space exploration history from a different perspective. Being fed by NASA documentaries and other stock footage throughout my life, this museum provides the raw, hidden parts of that time period.

Wall painting inside the Arctic and Antarctic Museum

Another great find was the Arctic and Antarctic Museum. There aren’t many museums of that kind and like in the space museum, I felt like a small child staring at the small but informative collection of Russian explorers who went to the colder parts of this planet.

The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

After a day’s stroll, it was great to come back to the Hostel in St. Petersburg, which was smack down in the center. There, I had booked a single room, but somehow my reservation got lost. Since it was low season, the staff handed me over the key to one of the dormitories. So, I found myself in a room full of beds – and as big as my apartment. I felt like a backpacker Tsar.

St. Petersburg features a lot of shops and restaurants. Usually, I do prefer to hike through unknown territory – carrying little more than my backpack. To my surprise, I enjoyed very much being in this relaxing city, walking through historical streets – and taking a zip of coffee in a small coffee shop every now and then.

Downtown St. Petersburg

The day before leaving, I went to the Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad. There is was reminded of a grim part of the city’s history, when Leningrad was besieged by the German forces during World War II. This siege lasted almost 900 days (1941 to 1944) and is considered to be the longest and most destructive siege of a major city in modern history.

With great respect, knowing that I just had visited a very historic city, I went to the airport to continue my journey through the Baltic states. Knowing that this is a city where i’ll definitely come back.

Smolny Convent

At the Museum of Cosmonautics and Rocket Technology