Saint Petersburg and Moscow – Day 3

On the third day in Saint Petersburg we asked the hotel to order us a taxi to a breakfast place named 22.13. The place was recommended by a friend and while it wasn’t in a very convenient location, we wanted to go. While waiting for the taxi in the hotel I noticed an ad for night cruises on the Neva river to see the bridges opening to let the taller ships pass. The hotel apparently cooperates with a company called Alye parusa (Алые паруса), but this was a convenient way to book the cruise and I bought two tickets for the same night for 700 (11,60€) rubles per person.

The taxi finally arrived and the cost for the trip was 370 rubles (6,15€), but it turned out that the restaurant was for some reason closed until further notice. This wasn’t mentioned on the restaurant website and I hate wandering around looking for a place to eat while I’m hungry. So we had no choice but to continue to the Griboedov Canal Embankment and just pick a place that looked nice. We ended up having breakfast in a restaurant possibly called Frikadelki (Фрикадельки) or Market Place. I think that restaurant Frikadelki was becoming restaurant Market Place or the other way around. 🙂 The sign outside said Frikadelki, but the wifi was called Market Place. 🙂

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Breakfast Cafe

The concept is that they have a selection of ready items that you choose from. Unfortunately for us their breakfast was already turning into lunch, so the selection of breakfast foods was already pretty slim and the lunch foods weren’t ready just yet. We chose some fried potato patties and filled blinis. You could buy tea, coffee and cakes from another counter.

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Breakfast

By the time we finished breakfast and went outside it started raining. Luckily we had raincoats with us and it turned out that we would need them today. We headed towards the Peterhof express pier at Admiralteyskaya embankment 2 in order to take a hydrofoil and visit Peterhof Palace. Peterhof is better visited during a sunny day, but this was our last day in Saint Petersburg, so we didn’t have many options and luckily the rain ceased after an hour or so.

The hydrofoils depart every thirty minutes between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. The ticket cost 700 rubles (11,70€) one way and roundtrip cost 1200 rubles (20€), but you needed to tell them in advance at what time you will take the hydrofoil back. We decided to get tickets only one way and decide how we get back later. We couldn’t get the tickets for the next departure, so we had some 40 min to spare, so we walked to The Bronze Horseman statue of Peter the Great, which was nearby.

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The Bronze Horseman

We boarded the hydrofoil and the ride started just fine. Approx. 5 min after departure the young woman came and started loudly presenting and distributing different items they had for sale. DVDs, umbrellas, books, postcards etc. She didn’t really push and you didn’t have to take any of the distributed items, but she did speak almost the entire journey to Peterhof, so it was rather annoying and not something I would call a nice ride. At least it was quite fast. The hydrofoil ride took about half an hour and it is a very easy access to Peterhof lower park from the pier. So if you don’t know where you’re going hydrofoil is a very easy option.

The tickets to the lower park needed to be bought from the ticket booths near the entrance. I bought the tickets in Russian, so I got them for 300 rubles (5€) each. I think that the tickets for foreigners cost 500 rubles (8,30€). There is a turnstile at the entrance to the park where your ticket is read optically. Right after entering the lower park you will see the Grand Palace and the water fountains.

Virtually the entire place is a reconstruction since Peterhof suffered during WWII. There was of course damage inflicted by the Germans, but ironically the palace suffered the worst damaged by Soviet bombing as Hitler had a plan of hosting a New Year’s victory celebration at the palace and Stalin was determined not to let that happen.

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The Lower Park
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The Grand Palace

To enter the Grand Palace, you need to buy a separate ticket. In addition to that there are different times of entry, which were extremely confusing. Another confusing thing was where to buy the tickets to enter the Grand Palace as there seemed to be a person checking tickets at the entrance. After some investigating it turned out that you can in fact buy tickets inside the Grand Palace, but there are certain times of entry some of which are reserved for locals and some for foreign tourists. It just happened so that we arrived just in time for the tourist entry slot. This means that I had to pay 550 rubles (9,15€) for my boyfriend’s ticket, but they sold me the ticket for the Russian price, which was 400 rubles (6,70€). They questioned me first what I was doing there at that time if I was speaking Russian, but they sold the tickets after I said that one of us doesn’t speak Russian. Due to this I was sure that there is some sort of guided tour, but in fact they just let us in and we could walk by ourselves.

There were quite a lot of people and narrow corridors for walking, so we couldn’t move very fast and had to stick to our position in the line so to speak. The upside to this was that there were a lot of smaller tourist groups with private guides and we got to hear some interesting stories they had to tell. 🙂 The palace rooms had signs in English, so you get to read most of the things the guides tell anyway, so I don’t think that you are missing a lot if you don’t have a guide.

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View from the Grand Palace into the Lower Park

We decided not to take the hydrofoil back to the city, but to go with a marshrutka minibus instead out of curiosity. If you want to take the marshrutka, you need to go in the opposite direction from where you came on the hydrofoil, so to the other side of the palace, but to reach the bus stop, you basically need to walk to the other side of the Grand Palace and walk until you hit a bigger road with traffic. I think it’s about 5 min walk, after which you cross the road and the bus stop is right there. You want to go to the Avtovo metro station, so you need to look for minibuses which have the sign saying Автово on them. There seems to be plenty of them standing there waiting to get enough passengers. The ride back costs 60 rubles (1€) per person, so it is significantly cheaper than the hydrofoil, but depending on the traffic it can take a while. But the ride was quite fun as you get to see how the suburbs of Saint Petersburg look like. The final stop will be in Avtovo and the metro station entrance will be right next to the stop, so it is easy to catch the metro back to the city center.

After Peterhof we walked past the Savior on the Spilled Blood church and it was finally open, so we decided to go inside. The tickets can be bought either from one of the ticket boots or there was a ticket machine where you could buy tickets. The ticket cost 250 rubles from the machine and payment with foreign Master Card went smoothly.

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After the church we walked to the metro and headed back to the hotel to freshen up. I like this corner of the city as there is the Singer building and the Kazan Cathedral. The bookstore in the Singer building used to be one of my favorite places in the city, but in the recent years I have moved completely to e-books, so I have to keep away from the store less I buy a bunch of books. 🙂

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The Singer Building
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The Kazan Cathedral
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Metro Station “Nevsky Prospekt”

In the evening we took a taxi from the hotel to the restaurant, which cost 700 rubles (11,60€) and headed to restaurant Mansarda (Мансарда) for which I made a reservation the day before. This was our last night in Saint Petersburg, so we wanted to go somewhere nice. Mansarda has a really nice view of the Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, which is the largest orthodox cathedral in the city and we did first go and checked the cathedral out.

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Saint Isaac’s Cathedral
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Saint Isaac’s Cathedral

Mansarda turned out to be a nice restaurant with some shortcomings. In the typical way for Russian restaurants even the good restaurants have a rather large menu to choose from instead of carefully thought out and a very short menu I would’ve expected.

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A really great view from Mansarda restaurant

First we ordered drinks. It was stressed in the menu that the head chef has put a lot of thought into it, but the result was rather meh. I wouldn’t order it again and stick with the wine. Tuna ceviche starter on the other hand was great. Guacamole with tuna and onion chips were also rather unimpressive. I make better guacamole any day.

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Bruschetta with crab was very very good. Beef medallions with unagi sauce and shiitake mushrooms were awesome despite the meat being quite more well done than the medium I ordered. The dish was also merely lukewarm and not hot. It says a lot about the dish that I still liked it a lot. 🙂 Beef fillet with smoked beet cream and porto onion was once again rather well done than medium, but the dish was good.

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At this point we were served by three different waitresses and they cleaned the table and left us waiting. At some point I had to catch a waitress and ask for the dessert menu because it became obvious that they wouldn’t offer it to us. We ordered two desserts, which were both really good. The desserts were served by our first waitress, who seemed to be very sad about something, so the service was so and so.

We ordered raspberry dessert with ginger syrup and ice cream, which was amazing and raspberry mousse, which was also very good.

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All in all I have very mixed feelings about this restaurant. The place is really nice and the food is (mostly) good. I would’ve wanted to have the meat prepared as ordered and to get better service. I would give this restaurant another chance though. We asked the restaurant hostess to call us a taxi back to the hotel and it cost 800 rubles (13,30€).

Our evening didn’t end here. We went back to the hotel and had to stay awake as our boat tour would start at 1 a.m. and we needed to be there half an hour before. We were so tired that we took a taxi (yes, again!), which cost 360 rubles (6€) and arrived on the Neva river bank for our night cruise. The cruise ticket control person complained about the order confirmation given to us by our hotel, but directed us to one of two boats.

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Neva night river cruise
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Neva night river cruise

The boats had some blankets available and I put on the warmest clothes I had with me, but it was still very cold. A lady on our boat brought a down blanket with her and I sure regretted not taking one with me. The idea of a night cruise is fun, but it was rather far from it. There was tens of boats on the Neva river and it was not a peaceful ride. Some guys on our boat had already enjoyed more than enough alcohol and it smelled heavily of fumes as there were boats everywhere. All the boats started at one point and then raced to the next bridge that was opening. After seeing three of four bridges opening the final hour was spent riding the boat back to the pier s-l-o-w-l-y.

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Neva night river cruise
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Neva night river cruise

There were a lot of people watching the same from the embankment and I would suggest doing that instead of taking the boat ride. You go and stand by a bridge and you’ll get a nice view and you get to leave when you want. Our boat ride ended at 2.45 a.m. and I was half asleep by that time and we had to move inside the boat in order not to freeze to death. I know I’m being overly dramatic, but nobody’s at their best when tired and cold. 😉 Especially when it seemed that the boat was going very slowly just to make the ride longer than the other companies’. It’s quite demotivating to see other boats just passing you by when it’s after 2 a.m.

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Neva night river cruise
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Neva night river cruise

When we finally got back to the land we noticed that the local taxi drivers are very aware that at this time there are a lot of people, who just want to get back to bed. 🙂 I just flagged the first taxi that was coming our way and we negotiated the price to 500 rubles (8,30€) back to the hotel. I am willing to be good money on the fact that our taxi driver was on drugs the way he kept sniffling, but luckily there was virtually no traffic, so we were doubly glad to be back at the hotel safely and go to bed.

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