Six days of travel.
Eight airport transfers.
Five adult travellers and a two-year old in tow.
About twenty-seven hours of sleep in six days.
The above quickly come to my mind when people ask about my most recent summer trip in Russia. Hmm… Let me guess what you’re thinking now. Could it be one of the following?
“Silly. How did you do it?”
“What was your itinerary?”
“Was it worth it?”
If the last question is what’s in your mind, my answer is yes. Yes because I have new additions to my “priceless memories” bank. And yes because I have new additions to my invaluable travel photographs.
And in case you have any of the first two questions in mind, here’s how we did Russia in six days:
We flew to Moscow via the Vnukovo airport and took train rides to reach our friend’s hotel in the Arbat area. We left our luggage at the concierge and quickly headed off to Vernadsky Prospekt to watch The Great Moscow State Circus. The show started at 7 PM.
The circus show finished around 9:30 PM. Hungry, tired and sleepless, I was a bit restless when we were having a hard time looking for a taxi. We then learned about Yandex (a phone application for ordering taxis) from a local and got our taxi after around 45 minutes.
We headed off to the Arbat district to have our (very late) dinner then went to our friend’s hotel to get our luggage. Around 12:30 AM, our taxi was on the way to Ramada Moscow Domodedovo, our hotel near the Moscow Domodedovo Airport. We reached the hotel around 1:30 AM and prepared our “smaller luggage” for our next flight at 6 AM.
Have you ever noticed that part of the latter part of our Day 1 is actually part of Day 2? 😃
Tip No. 1: To get a taxi in Moscow or Saint Petersburg, always use Yandex. This is a phone application that makes it very convenient for commuters to “order” taxis. Our taxi bills for taxis “ordered” through Yandex were much cheaper than the taxi bills we had for the taxis we got through other means.
Tip No. 2: Do not ride a metered taxi or you’ll end up short of Russian rubbles.
We left the hotel at 4:30 AM, leaving some of our luggage at the concierge, and headed to the Domodedovo Airport. We arrived at the Pulkovo Airport in Saint Petersburg at around 7:35 AM and headed off to Mini Ale Hotel to try for an early check in.
At the hotel concierge, we found out that one of the rooms I have booked is not available. The only available room was the Triple Room, which looked like it can accommodate all of us. Since we did not want to waste our time and energy in looking for another hotel, we just got the room and paid a few additional rubbles for an early check-in.
Side Note: The unavailability of the other room was a blessing in disguise as we only paid 1100 rubbles per person in addition to the minimal early check-in charge instead of 1980 rubbles per person.😃
It was raining when we finished lunch. We decided to push through with our planned itinerary for the day – an easy-breezy tour of Saint Petersburg via a hop on/hop off bus. We took a taxi to The Church of our Saviour on Spilled blood, where we’ve planned to start our hop on/hop off bus tour. The church was an eye-candy even on a grey-sky day!
We spent about 30 minutes inside the stunning church and waited for the bus at the designated bus stop. However, we opted to cancel the hop on/hop off tour after we met an Indian lady who has been waiting for the hop on/hop off bus for an hour.
We headed to the Hermitage Museum, which greeted us with a long queue of people wanting to go inside the museum. It was understandable, as entrance fee for the Hermitage Museum is free on a Thursday. After more than 30 minutes of queueing, when the ticket office was almost within our reach, the museum authorities announced that they won’t admit any more visitors. As the rain started to fall heavier and heavier, we were running out of things to do. At this point, we’ve decided to just while the time away at the Galeria shopping mall.
We checked out souvenir items (but decided not to buy). My friends bought rain and colder weather gears (one of them brought summer clothes which were not suitable for the cold Saint Petersburg weather at that time 😃 ), and we had dinner at Sbarro. We decided to go home around 10:30 PM.
Side Note: Sbarro at Saint Petersburg sells food by the weight. Though it is one of my favourite restaurants in the Philippines, I did not particularly like the pasta and pizza that we bought.
We’ve planned to leave the hotel around 9 AM to catch the opening of the fountains at 11 AM. We “ordered” the taxis thru the hotel receptionist, and as we were provided with the information that the taxis were arriving in a few minutes, we decided to take away our breakfast from the nearest bakeshop and just eat in the taxi. However, the taxis were late; we did not catch the opening of the fountains.
It was drizzling when we arrived at the Peterhof Palace. Will it be another day of failed hopes and plans in the making?
Well, the day turned out to be so fine! Here are some of our pictures at the Peterhof Palace.
Side Note: I really enjoyed our day trip to the Peterhof Palace. I will soon publish a blog about this trip.
Around 4:45 PM, we headed back to the city center via a hydrofoil from the pier of the lower park in Peterhof. Travel time from the pier to the Neva river embankments was less than 30 minutes. From the Neva river pier, we took a taxi back to the hotel.
Around 6 PM, we had an early dinner at Tepemok, a fast food chain at a walking distance from our hotel. I had the chance to eat borsch, which is a soup adopted by the Russians from the Ukrainians. I think the borsch tastes good so when in Russia, try this.
We decided to split activities in the evening. My two friends went off to watch the “Swan Lake”, which is a ballet presentation. My cousin and our two-year old daughter stayed at the hotel to rest. My husband and I explored the neighbourhood of Zakharyevskaya ulitsa by foot and tried local beers at the Beerhouse. The sky was adorned with a bit of lingering light as we walked back to our hotel around 11:30 PM. It was a lovely night!
We started the day with a breakfast at a nearby cafe around 8 AM. We then headed off to the Chernyshevskaya metro station and tried the Saint Petersburg metro for the first time. We alighted the train at the Admiralteyskaya station and walked through the streets of Saint Petersburg to Saint Isaac’s Cathedral. With the cold and crisp air, the blue skies and streets almost void of people, it was a perfect time for walking.
We walked to the Bronze Horseman through Aleksandrovsky sad, which was adorned with colourful flowers. We then lingered at Saint Isaac’s square to people watch and to smell the roses (well.. literally). We then strolled along the Moyka River and through the Nevsky Prospekt, then went back to the hotel to check out and leave our luggage at the hotel concierge.
We headed back to the Nevsky Prospekt for lunch at a Russian restaurant near the Grand Hotel Europe (where the waitresses did not know how to speak English). We ultimately were somehow satisfied with the food we ordered. Thanks to our instincts and to Mr. Google!
We then “ordered” a taxi via Yandex, which unfortunately was nowhere to be found. In search of the taxi, we reached the Griboyedov Canal, which then lead us to The Church of the Saviour on the Spilled Blood. On such a lovely day, who would complain of having lost the taxi and stumbling upon this architectural beauty once again?
We then decided to just walk to the Hermitage Museum, which was a 15-minute walk from The Church of our Saviour on the Spilled Blood. We passed by cafes, houses, souvenir shops and canals on the way to the Hermitage Museum. We then toured the stunning Hermitage Museum for an hour, then lingered a bit at the Palace Square outside the Hermitage Museum around past 6 PM.
After (what seemed to me) a long stroll through the Moyka River and the Nevsky Prospekt, we came across the Marketplace Cafe, and decided to have dinner around 7:30 PM.
Our dinner at the Marketplace Cafe capped off that lovely day and our whole stay at Saint Petersburg. The food was great, serving amount was abundant, the price was reasonable and the ambiance was nice. I’ll come back to eat when given the chance.
After the dinner, we quickly headed off to Starbucks to buy some souvenir tumblers then checked out Kazan Cathedral around 8:30 PM. Did I ever mention about our flight to Moscow at 10:55 PM? 😃
We “ordered” a taxi through Yandex, went back to Mini Ale Hotel to get our luggage then headed to the Pulkovo airport.
We arrived at the Domodedovo Airport around 1 AM. We dropped by the Ramada Moscow Domodedovo to get our luggage then headed off to the Moscow city center. We reached the Airbnb room that we rented around 2 AM and (at long last) had a good rest.
We woke up around 7 AM then headed off to the Izmailovsky Market to buy Matryoshka dolls, a Matryoshka dress for my two-year old daughter and other souvenirs. We had our breakfast at one of the grilled food stalls. We left around noon time.
After leaving all the things we’ve bought from Izmailovsky Market, we headed to the Red Square and spent the whole lovely afternoon admiring the Saint Basil’s Cathedral, the GUM, the Kremlin, Kazan Cathedral, State Historical Museum and all the other structures around the plaza. My daughter had a wonderful time pleasing some Red Square visitors as they took pictures of her in her Matryoshka dress. At the square, we happened to meet some fellow Filipinos for the first time.
We decided to go back to our room around 7 PM to freshen up prior to the big birthday dinner of the trip. We just walked from the Red Square to our Airbnb room as we tried to prove the Airbnb host’s claim that the flat is a 15-minute walk to the Red Square. It seemed to be an endless walking activity as 30 minutes had gone past without our room in sight! We reached our room after 40 minutes of walking. We were dead tired that I even joked about just buying bread from the grocery in the neighbourhood instead of celebrating my husband’s and friend’s joint birthday celebration in a good restaurant..Haha!
Around past 10 PM, we had an opulent dinner at Dr. Zhivago, which is very near Kremlin. The restaurant’s ambiance was really luxurious. The waitresses were very accommodating and spoke English well, the food was really great and the restaurant is a value for money. It was a perfect cap off for that exceptionally lovely day.
We dropped by the Red Square prior to heading back to our room around 12 MN.
We woke up early and arrived at Kremlin around 9 AM. It was another beautiful day! We especially enjoyed the views in the park of the Bolshoy Kremlevskiy Skver. We strolled through the streets of Moscow until we reached the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour then headed off to the Hard Rock Cafe at the Old Arbat Street.
We went back to our room around 12:30 PM to get our luggage and headed off to the Domodedovo Airport for our 3:30 PM flight. Our connecting flights were delayed by about 3 hours, but this is another story. =P
So did I like Russia? No, I did not. I loved it!
Six days is too short to explore Moscow and Saint Petersburg, but six days is enough to make me wish to come back.
All photos are by Gilbert and Anna.