This morning we were up and out at about ten o’clock, ready to go and find some great coffee and a bite to eat for breakfast. It was SO warm in the hostel last night, I was struggling to breathe properly! With the window open it was quite nice and refreshing but someone in the dorm closed it at some point… my plan this evening is to smother the radiator with my towel. After the intense warm of the hostel it was really refreshing to get out into the crisp, cold air. We walked a little way down the road and came across the cutest coffee shop – it was so tiny! You could fit three people in at a push. We bought a quick coffee from there to sip on route, I had a cappuccino and it was absolutely delicious. Really creamy a yummy, perfect first thing in the morning.
We then returned to the Cathedral of the Saviour of Spilled Blood, it looked quite different and even more beautiful in the daylight. This time we got to go inside and it is just absolutely stunning, I have never seen anything like it in my life. Every inch of the interior is decorated in the most intricate mosaics, depicting biblical scenes, angels and delicate patterns, all lit by the most exquisite chandeliers. Tom (my Tom) took an amazing panoramic photo – good old iPhone! The photographs really don’t do it justice, it really is a beautiful building. Vadim was telling us how it was painted completely white during the Soviet rein and had to be fully restored in the 1990s.
After this we visited this fascinating shop, Eliseevsky, housed in a beautiful art nouveau building, it is one of the oldest shops in St Petersburg and used to supply the Romanov Emperor and their family. I’ve never seen such beautiful cakes, sweets and treats in all my life! It blew the likes of Harrods out of the water! The interior again was gorgeous, a huge palm-type tree was in the centre, surrounded by tables and chairs for visitors to enjoy their coffee and cake under delicate chandeliers. Intricately iced chocolates and biscuits were stacked in circular stands like great big cake stands, whilst a piano played classical music by itself by the counter. Just fabulous. Tom and I bought a little bottle of vodka each, which is specific to the shop, and I was a proper tourist and took lots of photos.
We then took the subway to get across town and visit some museums. Wow! The subway system in St Petersburg is something else! The escalators go down forever, you really feel like you’re so deep underground, it’s a bit of strange feeling, like entering a nuclear bunker. They also have these platforms where there are just archways with metal doors that open directly onto the train, so no ‘platforms’ as such. The doors are also ‘blast proof’. Make of that what you will.
We arrived at the Peter and Paul Fortress and went to explore the prison museum. The fortress was the first building ever built in St Petersburg and the birthplace of the city. The buildings are beautiful, they’re all painted really rich colours; deep yellow, terracotta and bold turquoise. It really is a stunning contrast against the still white sky. The prison was really interesting and (in my opinion) surprisingly luxurious! For the 1800s. The cells were huge and prisoners had access to reading materials at all times. It still maintained a sense of eeriness despite this, very quiet and still.
On the way back from the fortress we stopped at this really quirky coffee house in a cave! It was literally a solid stone cave in the middle of a park, very picturesque, if a little medieval from the outside. Cosy and snug inside, with bunting, a brightly coloured chandelier and a portrait of a cat drinking coffee on the wall, this was a welcome rest in the afternoon. And surprisingly warm for a cave.
After refuelling on caffeine we made our way back to the hostel where I was sat in the kitchen writing this, but there’s a guy playing the banjo and singing along incredibly loudly so I’ve retreated with my fellow trans-Siberian travellers to the dorm. The plan for this evening; sausages and beer. Sounds delicious. Tomorrow we have another full say in St Petersburg before getting the overnight train to Moscow. I’m excited for our first trip on the train! Then we really start our trans-Siberian travels.