By Colin Dunn
At one end of Nevsky Prospekt is probably the main reason I wanted to visit St Petersburg. Situated on Palace Square is one of the greatest museums in the World, The State Hermitage Museum. To say it’s big is a bit of an understatement and to really get the most out of your visit I implore you to spend the day there. Yes, the whole day, not just a couple of hours. If you think you can whizz around and see the ‘highlights’ then you’d be missing out on so much.
Tip #1 – Buy your entrance ticket in advance through the website, then pick it up from the small gatehouse that’s at the entrance. Like a lot of things in Russia, the instructions are a little long-winded and bureaucratic but it’s important you follow the information they are providing as it makes the ticket collection so much easier. Note that queues start forming even for the ticket collection early in the morning. Once you have your ticket, there’s more queuing at the actual main entrance to the museum as it doesn’t open until 10.30am
Once inside, if you don’t fancy paying for a guided tour – which I didn’t – then it’s up to you how you proceed. there’s no ‘right’ way to work your way around the nearly 3-million pieces of art they have. Again, preparation is the key so make sure you’ve checked out the various rooms and exhibitions available online before your visit. My personal favourites were the Da Vinci and Raphael pieces in the Western Art section, the Classical Roman & Greek sculptures and the small statue of the Crouching Boy by Michelangelo, pictured below.
After a day spent at the museum you’ll be wanting to relax and put your feet up for a while but don’t let that be a reason to just stay indoors at your hotel. I would recommend a boat tour, which takes advantage of the numerous canals that meander their way through the fabulous architecture of the city, allowing you to sit back and watch as they pass you by. There are many tour operators available, selling boat tours amongst many other things, but I would recommend making your way to the Anichkov Bridge and checking out the ones available there.
By Colin Dunn
I thought it was about time I documented my trip in 2013 with a few words for a change, in addition to the photos that I’ve been posting since I got back. I’d like to be able to provide a small taste of what each of the main destinations I visited where like, maybe a few tips as to where to go, what to avoid and other useful bits of information. Whether I’m successful or not is down to you, dear reader, so let’s begin with my first port of call – St Petersburg, Russia.
On arrival at Pulkovo Airport, and having negotiated a rather stern-looking Russian customs official, I made my way to the bus stop outside the terminal in order to get the #39 bus to Moskoyskaya Metro station on the M2-Blue Line, as the airport itself doesn’t have it’s own Metro station. Standing-room only on a packed bus, on a hot summer’s day and with all the instructions in Cyrillic, I was a little nervous about getting off at the right stop but I needn’t have worried and made it without incident.
Once at the Metro I received a pleasant surprise, all the Metro instructions about tokens – as they issue tokens, not tickets – and the various lines all had English translations (unlike Moscow, but more of that in the future!). If I remember correctly, the cost of a single journey token, allowing you to complete any single journey to anywhere on the Metro was around 20p!!! It’s clean, safe, reliable and some of the stations are spectacular and it’s well worth you getting off from time to time just to see the architecture. Here’s a link for the St Petersburg Metro and a map is below.
Whenever I go to a new city I try to familiarise myself with the city layout, get myself a point of reference that I can use to get my bearings at all time. I do this mostly by walking. Everywhere. Well, maybe not everywhere but as much as I can as I think the best way to get to know a city is by staying above-ground.
In St Petersburg, the main thoroughfare is Nevsky Prospekt and I used that as my point of reference – If I knew I was on Nevsky Prospekt I knew how to get anywhere else in the centre of the city. It can be a little intimidating at first as it’s a 4 or 5 lane highway in each direction and you really need to keep an eye on the traffic signals before attempting to cross! Everything you need from an entertainment point of view is along this street, or just off it. Hotels, hostels, bars, restaurants, shopping malls, churches, museums, everything.
The Mongolian Army On Parade – Sukhbaatar Square, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia - 10th July 2013
by Colin Dunn
On the occasion of the inauguration of their new President, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, the Mongolian Army form a guard of honour, resplendent in their red, yellow and blue dress uniforms.