Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Interrupting the trip reports to show you the only finished piece I've knitted all summer.

It's Daisy, a pattern by Kim Hargreaves and featured on her recent book Breeze. I particularly love the pocket details and the horizontal rib effect. The yarn was also quite nice to knit with (I don't enjoy knitting with cotton that much) and I added a trim on the inside of the button band to give it more stability.

Pattern: Daisy, by Kim Hargreaves
Size: XS
Needles: 3.25 mm
Yarn: Rosários 4 For Nature, color 25 (5 skeins)

And I even managed some outside photos this time ...

I'll try to post about the rest of our Baltics trip soon, but we're leaving tomorrow for a week of hiking in the Pyrenees so unless we find wi-fi access up there I'll get back to it at the end of next week. And now I better get some sleep because we have a 12 hour drive starting *very*early* tomorrow morning ...

st petersburg - day 3

Our third and final day in St. Petersburg started with glorious weather, much unlike the day before. We had saved this day to visit some of the main attractions nearer the center, so following a walking itinerary suggested by Natalia we left early to explore more of the city. We passed by the Mikhailovsky Theater, and the small garden in front with Catherine the Great's monument. Crossing Nevsky Prospekt we admired the Yeliseev building, which once housed a specialty grocery store.

From there we quickly reached the Mikhailovsky Castle (Engineer's Castle) and crossed into the Mikhailovsky Gardens, which were quiet and peaceful at that time of the morning. From there we exited in front of the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, the first attraction we had planned to visit that day. The name comes from tsar Alexander II, who was mortally wounded on this site in 1881.

The outside is breathtaking, but the interiors are just plain stunning. When we first entered, all I could think of was .. Wow ...
I wasn't quite expecting that, and was totally blown away.

Right in front of the church there's a quite popular souvenirs' fair, which I'd been told was a good place to get matryoshkas and such. I'm a lousy bargainer so no doubt I paid twice what I could have, but still I thought the prices were quite reasonable.

Our next stop was the Peter and Paul Fortress, which is the oldest building in the city, founded by Peter the Great in 1703. The walk from the Church of Spilled Blood to the fortress took us about 30 minutes, crossing the Neva river via the Troitskaya bridge.

The fortress contains several historical buildings, but we just visited the cathedral, which is the burial place of all Russian tsars from Peter I to Alexander III. The remains of the Romanovs are also located here, in the more recent St. Catherine's chapel.

From the fortress we walked all the way back to the center, but this time crossing the Dvortsovyy bridge instead. It was almost lunchtime by then, and I really wanted to try a special restaurant for our last meal in St. Petersburg so we walked all the way to the Mariinsky Theatre (which sadly didn't have any events going on during our stay).

On our way there we stopped briefly at St. Isaac's Cathedral and the Bronze Horseman statue nearby.

At Sadko we had an amazing meal (and not expensive at all), and I particularly loved the detail of the bill in the matryoshka doll.

It was almost time to leave for the airport so we rushed back to the B&B, said our goodbyes to Natalia, promising to come back next time in the winter, and headed off to catch the mini-bus.

We came back with a lot of fond memories of this city, and it's just one of those places I'm sure we'll be visiting again very soon ...

More photos here

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

st petersburg - day 2 - yusupov palace

After lunch we visited the Yusupov Palace, better known for supposedly being the place where Rasputin was murdered in 1916. We didn't get to see the Rasputin exhibition since it could only be visited with a tour, but we went in to see the palace rooms anyway, which are beautiful and worth the visit (especially on a rainy day).

After leaving the palace we decided to walk back towards Nevsky Prospekt ...

... and have tea at the Café Singer, which is located on the second floor of the huge bookstore on Nevsky Prospekt (which formerly belonged to the Singer Company), and with a wonderful view of Kazaan Cathedral. We went into the bookstore looking for a nice photo book of the city (managed to find two actually) and a Cyrillic version of Pride and Prejudice (for a friend who is a Jane Austen fan and collects her works in several languages). We were lucky to grab a table by the window and spent an hour or so enjoying the view. The cakes and pastries are to die for, and the hot chocolate was thick enough to eat with a spoon, just as hot chocolates should be...

Later that night, after walking most of Nevsky Prospekt and a quick sushi dinner, we came back to the same spot, which was perfect for some night shots of the monuments (by then it had finally stopped raining ...)

More photos of the Yusupov Palace here

Monday, September 28, 2009

st petersburg - day 2 - catherine and paul's palace

Monument to the Heroic Defenders of the city during the World War II siege

On Sunday when we woke up the day was dark and quite gloomy. We had arranged to visit both Catherine's Palace in Tsarskoe Selo (in the town of Pushkin, about 20 km from St. Petersburg) and Paul's Palace (Pavlovsk) located nearby.

During summer it's quite difficult to visit Catherine's Palace without a tour or guide (or otherwise be prepared to wait a long time in line) so we engaged the services of a private guide recommended by Natalia. Her friend Gennadiy Chentsov proved to be a most excellent guide and besides the palaces showed us a couple of very interesting places that we probably would not see on our own.

It was a Sunday so there was hardly any traffic to get to Pushkin, but unfortunately it also started to rain quite heavily on our way there.

Driving from the center on Moscovsky avenue we stopped at the Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad during the World War II siege that lasted for 900 days. It's a most impressive monument especially from the inside.

We also stopped briefly to visit a monastery and a church near Pushkin, which the Romanovs used frequently when they were imprisoned in Alexander Palace.

It was quite crowded at Catherine's Palace but Gennadiy got us in quite quickly. Inside there were huge lines queuing for each room (a lot of Japanese tourists that day) so although the Palace rooms are beautiful, especially the fabulous Amber Room it was not the best day for a visit.

Outside the grounds seemed extensive and worthy of a more detailed exploration but with the rain setting in we had time for just a quick look before leaving for Pavlovsk (and a brief stop to see Pushkin's statue in the main garden in town).

Pavlovsk is a much smaller residence and not so opulent. It was not as crowded, so we were able to visit the rooms with a bit more leisure.

Again, we were frustrated not to be able to visit the gardens as we wanted to but the rain was literally pouring down and we were starving by then, so we decided to head back into the center and asked Gennadiy to drop us off in front of the Yusupov Palace. We bought our tickets first but before going in we had lunch at the Idiot, located a couple of blocks down the road (Moyka 82) and supposedly one of the best vegetarian places in the city.

The atmosphere is quite cosy, with various rooms filled with antiques and old furniture, bookshelves filled with books and a most interesting menu.

There was a complimentary shot of free vodka to warm up and we ordered the day's special, which included borscht and mushroom pelmini, both quite delicious. With our tummies filled and dried up from the rain we were ready to visit the next attraction...

More photos of the palaces here

(Thank you all for the comments on these trip reports and especially for sharing the memories of your visits to this wonderful city with me. Kate, I haven't seen the Russian Ark but I'm ordering it soon and am looking forward to watching it.)