Russia allures me. Hailing from a theatrical background, I have long wanted to see and experience firsthand the place from which so much talent emerged. Let’s see… Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Baryshnikov, Nureyev, Pavlova, Pushkin, Tolstoy, Gorky… the list goes on. Authors, poets and athletes… oh my! A controversial history? Yes. Rife with talent? Incontrovertibly.
The story of art in Russia is complicated and fascinating. But you know what they say… from struggle comes excellence.
Admittedly, I had preconceived notions of what it would look like. Surprise! So much for preconceived notions. As a professional in the travel industry, I do try to harness that unpleasant human tendency to foster preconceived notions, but sometimes I fall.
It is more European looking than I imagined. Well, duh! It is part of Europe. It is part of Asia as well, so okay… it’s Eurasian. Bursting with colorful architecture set among the oh so clean streets is a joy to behold. The city is beautiful at night with all the gorgeous buildings lit up. Buskers line the streets, and buskers in Moscow and Saint Petersburg are nothing to sneeze at. They are ridiculously good! In fact, the quality of musicians in cafes, restaurants and throughout is HIGH.
The food is deliciously diverse! The cuisine emanates influences from Europe to Asia. From humid to Arctic climes. Every type of cuisine is represented. And you simply must try a Stolle Pie, the Russian version of the pierogi.
Ubiquitous with history and architecture, you can spend hours roaming around The Kremlin & Red Square, gazing at those iconic buildings you’ve seen in the movies. St. Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square is just as pretty as all the pictures… by day AND night. Definitely see it both ways. It is the ultimate symbol of Russia. By the way, all of the above are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Shopping, shopping and more shopping! I must say, I was surprised to see so many shopping malls. My favorite was Gum. It is so charming inside. The vendor displays are simply divine.
Perhaps one of my biggest regrets in all of my travels was not being able to experience The Bolshoi. It is ALWAYS sold out, so you need to plan waaaay ahead for this. But never fear, St. Petersburg remedied my disappointment…
Saint Petersburg is often called the Venice of the North due to its many water corridors. It is the northernmost metropolis in the world and a breathtaking city. Seriously one of the most beautiful cities I’ve seen anywhere! Like Moscow, it is overflowing with extraordinary history, lavish architecture, vibrant nightlife, and rich cultural traditions. From the mysterious White Nights to world class opera and ballet, it is truly an inspiring city. Well, what else would you expect from a city founded by Peter the Great?
With more than 100 theatres and theatre companies, I was in heaven here. My highlight was seeing La Bayadere at the Mikailovsky Theatre. I was at a Russian ballet! In a country famed for its ballet, I got to watch from a coveted box. In the adjoining box was a professional ballet dancer who I remain friends with to this day. It was such fun picking his brain about his profession.
Should you venture into the metro, it is as ornate as the Tsars’ palaces. Stroll around the city taking time to visit the Hermitage, the Fabergé Museum, and some of the glorious palaces. And you absolutely must take in an opera, symphony or ballet performance at the famed Mariinsky Theatre or one of the other 100+ theatres woven throughout the city.