by Andrew Scott
On this rest day a group of choristers, myself included, decided to travel to St. Petersburg and explore the city. We boarded a sleeper train for an overnight ride to the former Russian capital. It was an exciting journey, filled with lackluster sleep and bunk beds that were too small for my above-average height. We made it to St. Petersburg early in the morning and immediately set out into the city. We admired the wide boulevards, the intricate facades of the Savior on the Spilled Blood church, and the KFCs which were along our path.
The most important part of our walk, however, was its destination: the Hermitage. An intricate complex of buildings, the Hermitage contains a truly massive collection of artwork. We were treated to a free tour of part of the Hermitage, a sign of our growing clout (and a tour originally meant for two people, not fifteen, but nevermind that). The most interesting part of the tour was the well protected Gold and Diamond Rooms. They are filled with priceless artifacts, from ancient golden Scythian stags to bedazzled Turkish swords. Those rooms, combined with a tour of the rooms of the Winter Palace, showcased a truly astonishing display of opulence and wealth.
As the tour ended, our group split between those who continued exploring the Hermitage and those like myself who wanted to go back into the city. To meet that goal we found a boat tour of the city. As the tour guide spoke in Russian and I know roughly five Russian words, I was content with just studying the architecture of the city. Many have talked about the differences between Moscow and St. Petersburg, and it was easy to feel those differences while drifting along the canals. St. Petersburg has the obvious influence of Western Europe, compared to Moscow’s origins as a decidedly Russian village.
The day was filled with a great deal of walking. According to my handy app I walked 12.4 miles for the whole day. By my scientific estimations, that is roughly way more walking than I wanted to do, but it meant I was able to fully enjoy the many roads, walkways, and alleys of the city. By the time we reached the train station in the evening, I was absolutely exhausted, and yet happy with the day I had. We boarded the train back to Moscow and arrived back at our hotel at around midnight. Of course, the day was not over yet (even though it technically was), because I ran into another group that had decided to take a night walk into the spooky woods nearby our residence. I finally returned to the hotel around 2:00 am, around three and a half hours before our tour bus would depart for Rostov. Plenty of time to rest before another busy day.