Wow...that's just about all I can say but it really doesn't seem to be enough.
I'll spare you the gory details of the 13 hours it took to get here. But it was all good: seemingly fast flights, fast connection, good breakfast in Frankfurt (hey, a girl's got her priorities!) and then I breezed through immigration here and then my bag was second off the carousel! Jackpot!
Sergei (hereafter known as the hottt driver assigned to me by my So Far Really Awesome Travel Consultant) took me to my hotel, which is right off the upper part of Nevsky Prospekt (the Champs Elysees of St. Petersburg, I guess you could say). I say "upper part" because it does take about 20 minutes to walk to the center where the main sites are, but hey, we're down with exercise, right?
So fast forward through viewing a Russian block-era hotel room, showering in the world's smallest shower stall, but rejoicing at towel warmers (those who have read the Rome report know how I feel about that!) and off I went down Nevsky Prospekt with nothing but Church on the Spilled Blood on my mind and in my head. But wait...is that a bliny shop summoning me? Oh, this Russian version of a crepe, the ham and swiss was calling to me. Laugh if you will, but I also ordered in Russian and asked a woman "is that seat taken?" in Russian, and she let me sit with her. So there. The podcasts did pay off! And it was educational to stop for a bliny. Really!
Ok, now we're off to Church on the Spilled Blood. And walk and walk down crowded Nevsky, just like in Paris, window shoppers out for the day. Lo and behold look left and there's Kazan Cathedral (which is mildly interesting in and of itself) but I knew from studying my map that if I look right I'd see the church I'd only dreamed of and there it was, sitting right on the edge of the canal. Holy crap. Really, that's what I said. And I walked the canal to it, around it and back to the front, really controlling myself because it's on a tour later this week, as much as I wanted to go in now. But the exterior, nothing in the world can prepare you for this. Part of me says "ridiculous hodge podge" but the other part says "gorgeous, just beautiful". And then back down Nevsky toward the Winter Palace.
I'd double checked my map and noted that Nevsky arcs right and lets me right out into the middle of....and another gasp. Wow. There right as I rounded the corner was the Winter Palace in all of its turquoise splendor. The square is massive, the detail on the palace is insane and the color is so bright, I already know my camera hasn't been able to do it justice. And this is another place covered later this week, so for now I just have to be happy having seen it.
Nearby is St. Issac's Cathedral and not so coincidentally, a restaurant I wanted to try, so I head off in that direction. St. Issac's is impressive and yes, it IS sort of reminiscent of St. Paul's in Rome, believe it or not.
Dinner tonight was at Teplo. I didn't have a reservation, but I went early and figured they could squeeze me in before the later diners come in, which they did. I had an unbelievable pumpkin soup, beef stroganoff and garlic baked potatoes. Yee ha! Of course with all the meals on planes and near the airports today (who can say no to German Fruhstuk??), I think that was my 6th meal since I left home, but we'll get back on track tomorrow. Maybe.
So that's it for today. I'm now 30 hours with no sleep and can't understand how I'm still going. Up early for 9:00 tour...
Pictures from this week