St. Petersburg day 2

(People are asking me how I get to travel so much, and welcoming me back to the States, so I should clarify that these photos are all from 1 August 2013… I’m really bad at posting on time.)

Our second day in St. Petersburg was not as nice weather-wise. We had a light rain for most of the day, so we were lucky in that day 2 was a mostly indoor appreciation day.

First off, the Hermitage Museum, one of the oldest and biggest museums in the world created by Catherine I (remember her?). One of the palace buildings that was converted into the museum was formerly the Winter Palace and it looks out over Palace Square. One of my favorite things about visiting other places is thinking about the historical events that took place there, thinking about whose footprints I’m stepping in. For example, Palace Square is where Bloody Sunday and the October Revolution happened. Reading about these events in textbooks and even watching documentaries is one thing, but breathing the air there is an entirely different experience. I get overwhelmed by the feeling.

My view of Palace Square from inside the Hermitage Museum

In any case, the Hermitage is home to so much great art. I can’t even show you all the art that I have photos of, let alone all the art that they actually housed, but I’ll give you all a taste of some of my favorite pieces, some famous pieces, and pieces with interesting stories. (Included in the captions, which are maybe worth reading for once this time!) I have way way more, so let me know if you want me to share any of the other pieces I photographed. 🙂

Portrait of the actress Jeanne Samary – Renoir
She is best known not for her acting but for Renoir’s portraits.
Boy with a Whip – Renoir
(It looks like a little girl, but we were assured this is a boy, as it was custom for little boys to dress this way.)
Woman in the Garden, Saint-Adresse – Monet
We were told that this painting originally also had a man next to the woman, who commissioned this painting, but she then asked Monet to remove him. Drama.
Thatched Cottages at Cordeville – Van Gogh
Dance II – Matisse
This painting could take up an entire wall of my bedroom.
Le Café Maure – Matisse
Musical Instruments – Picasso
Two Sisters – Picasso
A rare original Da Vinci painting

Casually run out of room for priceless art and put it on the ceiling.
Rembrandt was the most popular artist in the museum.

More gifts from Egypt

The building itself, of course, being a Winter Palace, was also utterly magnificent.

Just… just look at that. Casually gilded and lined with priceless art.
Chandeliers are to the indoors what fountains are to the outdoors. Gotta love the opulence a little bit.
A lot of beautiful ceiling patterns, some that mirrored the beautiful floors.

From the Hermitage, we went to the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood. The history of this church is amazing and fascinating. It was built on the site where Alexander II (who is maybe on of the most revered Russian monarchs) was assassinated. Literally, the very spot where his blood was spilled is preserved and enshrined in this church. The blood-stained cobblestones are exposed (although fenced off) and around them was constructed a glittering shrine of gleaming stones.

Today, it is no longer a place of worship, as it was used as a morgue during World War II and, well, if housing the dead isn’t a form of desecration,  I’m not sure what is. After World War II, rather than holding religious services, the church was used for storing vegetables (better than corpses) and was affectionately called the Church of the Savior on Potatoes. (Cute, no?)

Elaborate shrine marking the exact spot where Alexander II was assassinated.
The very cobblestones upon which Alexander II’s blood was spilled.
My neck started aching from looking upwards at all these BEAUTIFUL ceilings.
Vents to keep services warm during cold St. Petersburg Sundays
Alexandrite in the pillars…

Afterwards, we headed off to St. Isaac’s Cathedral, which is a magnificent Russian Orthodox cathedral. It cost so much money, time (40 years), and many lives to build this spectacular building.

The cathedral was filled with these meticulously created mosaics
The progression of the cathedral’s architecture

It was a good last day in St. Petersburg. I really felt like I had gotten in touch with my Russian roots. (If those are a thing…) I just really loved St. Petersburg and I would really love to go back someday.

The first “Venice of the North” that we saw


St. Petersburg (Day 1)


I say this only because I loved St. Petersburg so much and I have maybe way too much to say/show. (tl;dr St. Petersburg was amazing.)
This was our only Baltic capital that wasn’t a European one, so we had to get blanket visas through a tour company called TJ Travel. (This company also did our Berlin tour for us!) It was nice having a tour guide again as opposed to our usual independent venturing, primarily through hop-on/hop-off (“ho/ho”) buses. Ours was a nice young man named Michael. (I say that like I’m an old lady; I think Michael was at least 2 years older than me.)

My mom told me long ago that she has some traces of Russian ancestry. (This was her explanation for why I don’t have typical Chinese facial features and why people think I’m half-European.) (???) I like the thought of having some Russian ancestry, so this was really an opportunity for me to visit my motherland!

I’m not sure I can accurately articulate how excited I was to visit St. Petersburg. I played “Rumor in St. Petersburg” in my cabin all morning as I got ready to go, if that’s any indication. The song played for maybe 30 minutes straight.

(I add this Read More because you shouldn’t be subjected to the photos if you don’t want to be.) (It’s a lot.)Read More »

Eurotrip 2013 Checklist

I will be leaving a post-graduation family vacation to Europe shortly and I couldn’t be more excited! We visited Southern Europe exactly 10 years ago, and now we’re going on a little cruise around the Baltic Sea, so it’s a whole new set of cities that I have been really excited to visit. Although we’re no longer visiting Amsterdam as our original itinerary included, the freed up space means I finally have the chance to visit Paris!

I don’t know if I will get to see all these sights while I’m abroad, and I’ll probably want to see more than I’ve listed here, but I hope that I get to check off a good number of these items by the time I return. 🙂

London, England

  • Buckingham Palace
  • London Eye
  • Tower Bridge
  • Tower of London
  • Big Ben
  • Westminster Alley
  • St. Paul’s Cathedral
  • Piccadilly Circus
  • British Museum
  • National Gallery
  • The City of London  (Click for a great video on the difference between London, the city, and the “secret” City of London, courtesy of C.G.P. Grey.)
  • Trafalgar Square
  • Brick Lane
  • King’s Cross Station
  • Hyde Park (thanks Katie!)

Copenhagen, Denmark

  • The Little Mermaid statue
  • Round  Tower
  • Rosenborg Castle
  • Christiansborg Palace
  • Kronborg Castle
  • Frederiksborg Palace (basically, if I don’t see at least one castle or palace whilst in Copenhagen, I will be sorely disappointed)
  • Tycho Brahe Planetarium
  • Viking Ship Museum
  • Tivoli Gardens (time permitting)
  • Gefion Fountain
  • Christianshavn

Warnemünde/Berlin, Germany

Bit confused here because Berlin is quite a bit inland, so… we shall see. Mostly listing Berlin attractions.

  • Westmole Lighthouse
  • Berlin Wall
  • Tiergarten
  • Gendarmenmarkt (Deutsch is a real challenge for me…)
  • Olympic Stadium
  • Brandenburg Gate
  • KaDeWe
  • Neue Synagogue
  • Berlin Cathedral
  • Victory Column
  • Reichstag
  • Checkpoint Charlie

Tallinn, Estonia

  • Old Town
  • Kadriorg Park
  • Town Wall
  • Open Air Museum (Rocca Al Mare)
  • Tower Kiek in de Kök
  • Viru Square
  • Russalka

Saint Petersburg, Russia

  • Russian ballet at the Mikhailovsky Opera and Ballet Theatre OR
  • Russian ballet at the Alexandrinsky Theatre
  • Peter and Paul Cathedral
  • St. Isaac’s Cathedral (I am listing many cathedrals on this list. While I’m not religious, I would be a fool to not look forward to visiting these amazing buildings that are a testament to the long history of these nations and to the long history of Christendom.)
  • Palace Square
  • Yusupov Palace
  • Anichov Bridge
  • Bronze Horseman
  • Peter and Paul Fortress
  • Gatchina Palace and Park
  • Cottage Palace
  • Nevsky Prospekt
  • Hermitage Museum
  • Peterhof Palace (thanks for reminding me of these 2 important ones, Barry!)

Helsinki, Finland

  • Church in the Rock
  • Esplanade Park
  • Upenski Cathedral
  • Seurasaari Island
  • Kamppi Chapel of Silence
  • Design District

Stockholm, Sweden

  • Millesgarden
  • Old Town
  • Canals
  • Drottningholm Palace
  • Skeppsholmen
  • Royal Palace
  • ABBA Museum 😀
  • Ericsson Globe
  • Nobel Museum

Paris, France

  • Eiffel Tower
  • Notre Dame
  • Île de la Cité
  • L’Arc de Triomphe
  • Sacré Cœur
  • Champs-Elysées
  • Place de la Concorde
  • Pont Neuf
  • Tuileries
  • Panthéon
  • Louvre
  • Musée d’Orsay
  • Les Invalides
  • Luxembourg Gardens
  • Trocadéro (thanks Alex!)
  • (Can we get to Versailles?)
  • (Maybe Monet’s garden at Giverny?)

So in short, I want to see beautiful parks and squares, castles and palaces, and cathedrals wherever I can, in addition to the places that make each city unique.
I didn’t list many specific museums that I am interested in visiting because I don’t want to worry too much about admission costs and also I don’t know how much time we’ll have to go visit and browse at our leisure. I’m the kind of girl who likes to read all the signs… but I’m usually alone on that. ^^;

I pride myself on being relatively good at articulating how I feel, but I don’t know if I can accurately communicate how excited I am for this trip. Europe is a continent with such a vast and massive history, and so much of it is accessible to the public by just walking around. There is no denying the magnitude of events that happened where I will soon get to walk, taking in the same sights as names I first learned in textbooks did centuries ago.

It’s going to be amazing, no matter which sights I get to see.

What should I see while I’m abroad? What should I pass on? Please leave any and all suggestions in comments! 🙂