Helsinki (Finland) to Saint Petersburg (Russia), 13th of May 2018 Daily number of km by train: 278km Total number of km by train: 3410km Total number of km: 3810km Travel time: 3h27
On the 13th of May, I left the city of Helsinki to enter Russia through Saint Petersburg, via train. I took the Allegro train, the high speed and direct train from Helsinki to Saint Petersburg.
You cross the border on the train and custom officers control you inside the train, while the train is running. Because I was entering Russia with my viola, it took me some time (around 45 minutes, and 3 custom officers :-)), to get the paper proving that I entered Russia with a viola. But I finally get it!
You arrive in Finlyandskiy Railway Station, known to be the train station where Lenin entered Russia in 1917.
The city of Saint Petersburg
On the first day, I mainly walked in the city. I was really lucky because the weather was really great. At the same period last year, it was snowing.
Saint Petersburg is a city with a lot of canals that give it the nickname of the Venice of the North.
The Baltic sea also “cuts” Saint Petersburg in two parts. On the following picture you can see the Peter and Paul Fortress which was built by Peter the Great in 1703 and was the original Saint Petersburg, a “windows on Europe”, but also a place to fight against the Swedish people.
Saint Petersburg is also well know for the Hermitage, the old Tsar Palace, which is now one of the biggest museum in the world.
Next to the Hermitage, you can find the Summer Gardens, really nice at this period of the year.
Finally, Saint Petersbourg is also a city with a lot (really a lot) of old palaces, but also big shops like the “Grands Magasins au Pont Rouge”.
On my second day, I went to the Church of the Savior on Blood (which is now a museum), and which was completely restored after the World War II. This Orthodox church is probably one of the most famous church in Saint Petersburg. Paintings inside the church are really amazing.
My second day was also dedicated to go to the Mariinsky Theater, the most famous Opera and Ballet Theater in the city and to assist to three small ballets:
- Le Spectre de la rose, orchestrated by Hector Berlioz
- The Swan, on the music from the Swan by Camille Saint-Saëns
- Scheherazade, on the music by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
The level of the dancers and musicians is really incredible and The Swan was probably the best ballet I’ve ever seen in my life.
Fun fact, the oboist played all the ballets with his sunglasses, maybe he is blind :-).
I spent the following day in the Hermitage museum, which is composed of several buildings. Really huge, you can get a combined ticket to access to some other buildings around the Hermitage for the same day, like the General Staff Building (museum on the same square, that’s got an incredible collection of paintings).
In the Hermitage museum, you can find an incredible collection of arts and old masterpieces. I especially fell in love with this masterpiece made of bones (18th century) and with the golden Peacock Clock by James Cox. You can watch this video to see it working.
As the Hermitage was a palace, you can also just walk in the palace and enjoy the many rooms.
The General Staff Building museum is mainly a painting museum but also a museum of contemporary art.
On the 16th of May, I went to a primary school in the suburbs of Saint Petersburg (near Petergof) to play the viola to kids. I played there in the gymnasium thanks to Artyom, a sport teacher in this school, who made possible my coming. Most of the kids had never seen a viola (nor a violin), and they could tried the instrument. I hope some of them will start to play an instrument (and why not the viola ;-)).
This day ended by the visit of the Petergof palace, a palace built for Peter the Great who wanted something like Versailles. Pertergof palace is well know for all the fountains in the garden. An important fact is that Petergof was completely destroyed during World War II and was rebuilt identically.
Life in Saint Petersburg
When you go to Saint Petersburg, you must a least take the underground once. Like an underground palace, the metro stations are really incredible. Some are also really deep. I spent 4 minutes on an escalator just to go to the platform!
On the streets you will also cross the road of many street musicians. This trio (you can see the video on the top of this post), was composed of a viola, cello and drum.
Saint Petersburg is also Russia :-), and for a lot of Russians, the car is really important. That’s why you can see this girl taking her boyfriend into picture in front of his car and the church of the Savior on Blood. Very surprising!