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Excursions of St Petersburg

Excursions of St Petersburg

St Petersburg is essential to gain any perspective on Russia: the city has the afcctations of a national capital, even though it has not been one for the best part of a century, and is starkly removed from the provincial reality of the rest of the country.
Anyone enamoured of the fast pace of progress in the city need only leave for one of the surrounding towns to discover that the rest of Russia is still lagging some way behind, if course, a far more positive and equally valid reason to leave is that there are plenty of enjoyable day trips to luxurious palaces, fascinating towns and other interesting areas that will enormously enhance your overall experience of St Petersburg. Trains and buses serve destinations, while in some cases, if there are a few of you, it makes affordable sense to
hire a taxi for the journey.

In the wilderness of the sparsely inhabited Baltic Coast far from Russia’s historic centre, Russia’s aristocracy, and particularly the imperial family, outdid each other throughout the 18th and 19th centuries trying to create the ultimate summer palace.
You are truly spoilt lor choice if you enjoy unbelievably opulent interiors, vast, splendid vistas and gorgeously laid-out parklands, woods and temples. While Petrodvorets is the most impressive with its world-famous cascades, the newly recreated amber room at Tsarskoe Selo is also a liuge draw, while lesser-known estates such as Pavlovsk, Oranienbaum and Gatchina are far less crowded and still enormously impressive.

Not far away from St Petersburg are some fascinating cities, most obviously Russia’s historic and religious centre at Novgorod, one of the most charming cities in the country with its wealth of churches, kremlin and beautiful setting on the Volkhov River, not far from gorgeous Lake Ilmen. For a taste of ancient Rus, a trip to Staraya Ladoga, generally thought of as Russia’s oldest town, is extremely rewarding. In the town’s quaint streets you can find a fascinating fortress, ruined churches and precious architectural relics from Russia’s birth as a nation. Far nearer to St Petersburg is Kronshtadt, the defensively brilliant outpost of St Petersburg
originally called Schliisselburg by Peter the Great. Here you’ll find the neo-Byzantine Naval Cathedral and a pleasant town full of day-trippers from St Petersburg, crowding the relaxed historic streets in the summer and enjoying a change of scene.

For the real Russia, look no further than the country’s pleasant provincial towns. Yes, life here is decidedly languorous, but you’ll see how the vast majority of the Russian population live, a far cry from their cosmopolitan St Petersburg cousins.
The Finnish-Russian border town of Vyborg has an interesting mixed heritage, having been passed between Russia and Finland constantly throughout its history. It’s a run-down but charming town with cobbled streets, a rich architectural heritage and a fascinating 13th-century Swedish fortress. While it’s not typically Russian due to its strong Scandinavian influence, it has plenty to offer for an enjoyable day trip.
If you want to travel for a few days within northern Russia, perhaps the most obvious destination is Petrozavodsk, the pleasant capital of Russia’s Karelia region. From here you can explore the fantastic complex of wooden churches at Kizhi and visit the fascinating Valaam Transfiguration Monastery. It’s a two-to three-day round trip but well worth the effort.

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