There are trips that you do not anticipate, that simply cross your path when you least expect it. It had been a season since I had thought about visiting Russia, especially since the day I was hooked reading the summary of the history of this great country that I found in the Lonely Planet guide on a Friday afternoon in the travel bookstore Altaïr. This year we planned to do three weeks in October, but for work issues in the end we saw that we only had two weeks in a row. And so, we are in the middle of June with a loose week to do in mid-August. Many destinations came to mind, but at that point the flights were prohibitive. Just the next day I saw that the Amu Daria association organized a free basic russian course during the month of June and I interpreted it as a sign of destiny: we had to go to Russia.
St. Petersburg, our city of entry, was founded in 1703 by Peter the Great. This innovative tsar was fed up with the intrigues and superstitions of ancient Russia and decided to create a new city in the lands won in the war against the Swedes. In the middle of the swampy terrain, it raised a new city in the image and likeness of the European cities of the time and ended up making it the capital of the kingdom in 1714. St. Petersburg has undergone major transformations due to the political changes of the country, including the name. First it was changed to Petrograd (city of Pedro) in 1914, then it was called Leningrad (city of Lenin) in 1924 and finally renamed St. Petersburg in 1991 after a popular consultation. After the 900-day Nazi siege, which was followed by the communist period, the city ended up falling into absolute decline, until, on the occasion of the third centenary (and with the impulse of President Putin, son of the city) it was decided to restore it to Give it all the splendor of yesteryear.
At half past five in the morning our flight landed. An hour long to pass immigration, plus thirty minutes in a van that linked to the nearest subway station to be swallowed by the earth as we descended the deepest subway in the world (110 meters). The St. Petersburg subway only has five lines and many of its stations are true works of art of the Stalinist period. It began to be built in 1955 and continues to expand today. It is very easy to move by subway through the city, because all the stations have the name written in Cyrillic and in the Latin alphabet (at least where I was), although the stations are only announced in Russian when you are inside the car.
In August 2011, a single metro ticket costs 25 rubles and you have to buy them at a ticket office where a lady gives you a token that you then have to enter in the machine to pass. As I told you, the St. Petersburg subway is the deepest in the world, and when you go down the escalator to the platforms, the gap looks like an endless abyss. Some subway stations do not have a platform, but it is a lobby with doors that look like an elevator and only open when the subway arrives at the station. Finally we arrived at our hostel, the Gogol Mogol, at eight o'clock in the morning and, to the surprise of Sergei, the boy who attended us from the hostel, instead of going to devour the city, we decided to try to sleep a little before leaving.
Nevsky Prospekt It is the main avenue of St. Petersburg. In its four kilometers long they can be seen from vestiges of the ancient city of the tsars to all kinds of franchises of American fast food chains. Our route through the historic center began at the Mayakovskaya station (Маяковская). It was midmorning and what really interested us was to place ourselves in the city and wander through its streets.
We started down by Nevsky Prospekt and we made the first stop at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, a huge church of neoclassical style, quite atypical for the architecture of the area. This church was ordered to be built by Tsar Paul, who wanted to unite the Christian and Orthodox rites in its construction. Admission is free and being Sunday we were lucky to see an Orthodox wedding.