Welcome to our Sunday Spotlight feature in which one of our favorite travel bloggers shares five photos from one of their favorite travel destination. If you want to participate in a future Sunday Spotlight, please contact us.
Author Bio: Shanna is a self-professed travel addict who can’t go very long without a fix. Some of her favorite places to travel have been Scotland and anywhere in France (the south of France especially). Shanna loves to provide value conscious travel information for ordinary folks who don’t have a luxury budget but still want extraordinary travel experiences. You can follow her travels at There and Back Again Travel Blog or on Facebook or Twitter.
St Petersburg Russia is a spectacular city with many beautiful palaces and churches to snap photos at, but underneath the shiny bits, it becomes quickly apparent that it is a city that is being held in the past. Old, broken down soviet era cars lie dead in their tracks on the sides of the roads, and the city if filled with grey, drab soviet era concrete housing behemoths. It is a city filled with contrasts-the opulent and extravagant and the dingy and broken down. One thing that I never realized before our visit (and something that is almost inconceivable to someone who has never known anything but freedom) is that there are many people in Russia who miss the security at the expense of freedom provided by the Communist system of government.
Russia, especially during the Soviet era, was a country of extremes. This is one end of the spectrum – Catherine’s Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia. The palace itself is massive, and it is surrounded by huge and ornate gardens. Many of the rooms inside the palace are covered in gold leaf, and it was even common practice when the palace was built to put gold leaf on the outside of the building as well (Catherine the Great stopped this practice once she learned how expensive it was for something that would just weather away.)
This is the other end of the extreme. The subways in St. Petersburg Russia were once called the palaces of the people (a far cry from the opulence of its many palaces enjoyed by St. Petersburg’s rulers). Socialism valued work and being productive in society, and statues and carvings in the ornate subway stations reflect this. They show people of various trades looking productive and hard at work. Despite the relative opulence of St. Petersburg’s subways, the trains themselves looked like they have been in use since the 50’s or 60’s (as did much of the public transit system in the city.)
This ornate church in the traditional Russian Orthodox style is the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg. it was built to commemorate the assassination of Tsar Alexander II. The church was one of the most impressive and lavish churches that I have ever seen, rivaling St. Peters in Rome in my mind for its “wow” factor.
St. Petersburg is a city stuck between two times. The end of Soviet rule in Russia has brought many changes. Among others, people are able to own their land and goods are imported from other parts of the world. According to our tour guide, many people who lived in Soviet times think that the quality of life has improved, but there are still many people who are trapped in the past and long for the days when the government ruled their lives and their freedom but in exchange provided for all of their needs. Despite the progress, the scars of Soviet rule are still very evident in St. Petersburg. Blocks of concrete, soviet era housing are still seen all over the city. The buses and trams look like they are from a bygone era (they really look like they should be in a museum) and old, soviet era cars like this are still common. Some are still limping along, and others like this one have fallen into disrepair and still sit where they died on the side of the road.
Despite challenges and changes, life still goes on in St. Petersburg. We saw many couples celebrating weddings around the city as we were touring. This wedding group was taking photos at a St. Petersburg landmark. As the era of soviet rule slips into the past, new generations of young people carry the hope that Russia can evolve and break free of some of the leftover chains that still bind it.