Russia had always been a destination on Archana Paranji’s bucket list. And why not? It’s a country that never stops inspiring and confounding you with its turbulent political history, rich heritage, breathtaking performing arts, and exotic cuisine. So recently, the event organiser, along with her friends, made an in-depth visit to Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Here’s what she had to say about her visit to Russia’s two premier cities…
Unlike other countries that have big developments catering to tourists, Russia seems almost untouched by people. This was one of the two reasons why I visited. The other was to explore Saint Petersburg for its art, history, and romantic canals. However, my husband Jayanth was never the slightest bit fascinated by the idea of visiting Russia. Luckily, a close friend of mine, Aparna Rao, mentioned that a guided tour was being planned and her mother and aunt were going. Since the tour combined several of our own passions like art, culture, history, and cuisine, after a two-minute deliberation we happily signed up and were soon on our way to Russia.
Our trip took us to Saint Petersburg – a city where the sun barely sets – and Moscow, home of world icons like the Kremlin and Saint Basil’s Cathedral. The climate, the people and the variety of sightseeing opportunities in both cities were excellent. Each morning, our group enjoyed a hearty breakfast in the hotel, and then gathered in the lobby for the following day’s adventure. As the saying goes, the character of a city is in its coffeehouses and bars. There were times where we would abandon the group visiting cathedrals and palaces, and instead go sit at a bistro and experience the warmth of the people and the bustling streets. Here we found a lovely restaurant along the river’s banks called the Flying Dutchman; it was an old World War I ship, restored and converted into a restaurant. Leading from the ship was a deck, overlooking the glorious Winter Palace – it was stunning during sunset and outstanding at night. That was an unforgettable evening.
We had been warned to be careful and told not to take a cab alone at night. But then we broke all the rules. We got into a cab past midnight and got taken for a ride, quite literally. After a harrowing journey during which we were driven around in circles, we were deposited at our hotel and given a bill totaling five times what we were told to expect! Relieved at being back in our hotel safe and sound, we paid and thanked the Lord, and quietly crawled into our bed.
We stayed in the heart of the city in both places – Radisson Royal Hotel in Moscow and Holiday Inn in Saint Petersburg. Saint Petersburg has a really nice cultural awareness to it. The people here are simple and warm. Moscow is warmer than Saint Petersburg, but only in terms of weather. We decided to indulge ourselves with two ballet performances that we attended in Moscow and Swan Lake in Saint Petersburg, both of which were beautiful. The performances, sets, lighting and, of course, the music were fabulous. It was certainly the highlight of our trip. – Archana