Cruising, Faberge and pelmini

One of our favorite things to do when we travel to a new city is to ride the hop-on hop-off tourist bus. But in St. Petersburg, you can do that on a boat. It was a lovely, sunny day to see a beautiful city from the water, including a waterside view of our fabulous hotel — the Kempinski — as well as the Winter Palace, the Peter and Paul Fortress, and the Church on Spilled Blood. (That particular onion-domed extravaganza is so-named because it marks the spot where Tsar Alexander II was fatally wounded by nihilist revolutionaries.) We never bothered to hop off — just kept lazily rolling along until the boat docked and it was time to get off.

A stroll along St. Petersburg streets

Well-rested from our boat excursion, we explored Nevsky Prospekt for architectural peeping and people-watching. Like all things here, the Singer House has its own story to tell. Designed to be the home of the Singer Sewing Machine Company in Russia, it was meant to be a skyscraper, like its brother in New York. But local building codes meant no building could be taller than the Winter Palace. So instead, it’s a six-story Art Nouveau building capped with an imposing glass tower and globe. It may not be a skyscraper, but it definitely says “hey, look at me!”

We took a quick dip into the Kazan Cathedral, a Russian Orthodox church dedicated to Our Lady of Kazan, one of the most venerated icons in Russia. A service was underway, and we were treated to beautiful call-and-response singing as well as disapproval for trying to take pictures.

Window-shopping and the hunt for authentic amber

About 90% of the world’s amber comes from Russia, and so of course, we had to have some. The Russian amber store was just the ticket, and with the help of Alexey and Vika, we were able to buy a fine amber pendant to bring home. After some longing looks at the Cobalt Net pattern of Imperial Porcelain, we decided we couldn’t afford any of that and walked on.

Holy Faberge, Batman

The world’s largest collection of works by Carl Faberge is at the Shuvalov Palace in St. Petersburg, including nine of the famous imperial Easter eggs. These eggs were ordered by Tsar Alexander III and Nicholas II as gifts to their wives and mothers. The palace itself is beautiful even without the collection it holds, and was our first (but not last) experience of being handed both tickets and funny slippers to cover our shoes before entry. We couldn’t stop ourselves from taking too many pictures of the many ornate and painstakingly crafted objects there. But wait! What’s that over in the corner! A Salvador Dali exhibit, and so of course we had to go.

Starving but rewarded

All of that touring and wow-ing and walking and learning builds an appetite. Alexey steered us into a restaurant aptly named Pelmeni for our first experience with Russian dumplings. We decided to sample everything — from the folded Georgian khinkali (Vika demonstrated how to eat these so the juices didn’t run down our chests), to an assortment of pelmeni with various fillings, all delicious and satisfying. Masha was happy with her soup and tarragon soda. It was another amazing day in Russia, and we still couldn’t believe how lucky we were to be there.


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Canal Cruise & Faberge Museum

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