Day 3: Russia, we meet at last

Yes! We are definitely in Russia. This is better than I anticipated.
Yes! We are definitely in Russia. This is better than I anticipated.

We’ve officially crossed the Russian border! Even as I’m typing now, I can’t believe I’m sitting in a Russian hotel on Russian ground, breathing Russian air. Believe me, there was much rejoicing on my part when we cleared all three Russian checkpoints and finally got the green light. This is happening, people! Dreams are coming true.

Getting here was not easy. I thought the hard part was getting my visa back when we were still in Toronto. I spent a good four hours filling in my application online (mostly because their website decided to take me for a hellish ride), but turns out that was just practice for the waiting game we played at the border. It took about an hour and a half to get everyone through the checkpoint. Ah well, I’ve waited almost a decade to embark on this adventure, so what’s an extra couple hours of waiting?

DSC_0094Our first stop was Peter and Paul Fortress, built by Peter the Great to protect against Swedish counterattacks (which never came). It ended up housing political prisoners in the tsarist days.

Smack dab in the middle of the fortress is the prominent Peter and Paul Cathedral. You can’t miss it. It’s the first and oldest landmark in St. Petersburg. There’s usually a huge line-up to get in, but fortunately we were able to get in right before another mob of a tour group arrived.


Absolutely stunning … and wait until you see the inside.


That was just a little taste of the breathtaking architecture in this city. Seriously, I had no idea St. Petersburg is known as the “Venice of the North.” We hopped on a boat cruise down the Neva River, and let’s just say I totally get it now.


Peter and Paul Fortress from afar. See what I mean about the cathedral? You can’t miss it.
This is one of the MANY bridges in St. Petersburg. If the design looks familiar, it’s because the designer is the same guy who created Paris’s Eiffel Tower.


How can you not love this city? Endless photo ops, and I finally got the chance to try out my podcast-gleaned Russian! There were some stumbles and lots of miming, but I was surprised at how friendly everyone was. People always talk about Russian stoicism, but I haven’t found that to be the case at all. Maybe it helps to give Russian a try and to be willing to look a fool once in a while.

Russia so far has been nothing short of amazing. It’s not at all what I imagined. It’s better.

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