We have had a deep fascination with Russia ever since visiting the ex-Soviet block countries like Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia. We figured, why not visit the very place where it all began? Moscow was out of reach due to visa restrictions but St Petersburg offered us a taste of Russia visa free! We just had to adhere to some simple rules which was to board a ferry from Helsinki in Finland, not overstay our 72 hours allocation in St Petersburg and return via ferry back to Helsinki. The process was straightforward and uncomplicated as long as you followed the rules and the moment we got past customs, we were exhilarated! Our first foray into Russian soil and we never felt more excited to explore this foreign land that so much of the world talks about.
St Petersburg can be summed up as truly belonging in a class of its own. Elegant, polished and majestic, the buildings were made to impress. The boulevards are wide and plenty and not short of traffic. It is a bustling metropolis that attracts hordes of tourists who want to see the beautiful and ‘European’ city of Russia, fashioned by the great Tsars of Russia. Exploring the city and all its architectural marvels with occasional glimpses of the unmistakable Soviet style building blocks was a real highlight. The Hermitage and Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood were just some of the outstanding sites we visited in 72 hours, plus a spectacular ballet performance at the Mariinsky Theatre
As for the locals, we left with positive experiences and new friendships that we hope continues on. There’s nothing like a rewarding local interaction to top off an experience in a country.