In mid August I looked up to gray skies and decided it was best to put on my hoodie. The weather in St. Petersburg does not average into the 70’s °F even in August. The weather was in the low 50’s °F and the sun showed no signs of wanting to poke it’s head out. Here are some of the things I learned during my weekend in Russia and what you can expect when choosing to visit.
The boarder patrol agents are as serious as you would expect them to be. We were told before visiting that it is impossible to get them to smile and after dealing with an intense series of questioning from them I can comment that I believe that to be true. I also recommend not even trying to get them to smile, they take their job very seriously and you should be more focused on getting into the country than making the boarder agents smile. You should also know that for US passport holders there is a $150 visa fee plus $30 extra for visa support so expect to pay some money, getting into Russia isn’t free or relatively easy for US passport holders.
If you choose to visit St. Petersburg for your visit to Russia I highly recommend going to see the Church on Spilled Blood. The church is elaborately covered with Moscow style frescoes and mosaics. The bright colors are incredible and depict many different biblical stories and depictions. This was one of my favorite parts during my visit to St. Petersburg and is a must see for any of those visiting the city.
I also highly recommend visiting Peterhof Palace and Gardens which is the summer home to many of the Russian Tsar’s. It is the Russian equivalent to France’s Palace of Versailles. However, whatever you do make sure you stay on the paths and don’t stand on the grass in the gardens. What may be something very normal in the United States is precious in Russia. I was given a stern talking to by the tour guide for standing on the grass, which is harder to grow in the weather conditions in Russia.
I wouldn’t recommend taking a river tour on the Neva river though. Again, the sky was gray and the weather was cold so being right on the water did not help in staying warm. The canals throughout the city were impressive, but I think Amsterdam has the upper hand in if you are interested in taking such a tour. Most of these boat tours are very tourist orientated and I hate having to sit on a boat listening to a premade script being repeated by a guide who doesn’t seem interested in being there in the first place. I would recommend you head underground and take a tour of the subways. Russia is known for it’s subway artwork in cities such as St. Petersburg and Moscow.
Do your research before booking a trip to Russia, because like I discussed earlier getting in is not necessarily cheap or easy. That being said Russia is a very beautiful country, especially when the sun is shinning (I wouldn’t know though because I didn’t see it the whole time I was there). Russian culture is portrayed as very different then life in America and it is places such as Russia that open up your eyes to how people live in other parts of the world. So if you have an opportunity to go make sure you take advantage of it, and take advantage of that famous Russian Vodka.