As I planned a work trip to Norway I suddenly became inspired. Why not tack on a few days in St. Petersburg to pursue my interest in Catherine the Great? With great resolve and some trepidation on the part of family members I made plans for a four-day visit during January of 2003 to focus on the Romanov dynasty. Having found a guide with a masters degree in Russian history I knew I would be expertly guided through the history of the Romanovs with particular focus on Catherine the Great.
After a day of flights my plane touched down at dusk on the snowy runway of Pulkovo Airport. To say everything was foreign would be an understatement. After departing my flight and making my way through Russian immigration my guide met with a sign in the arrivals area. We proceeded to the van and driver that would be transporting us for my visit. As we began our drive into St. Petersburg to the Hotel Astoria, Anya reviewed the itinerary to ensure that it was aligned with my interests. Satisfied that we had a final plan, she proceeded to orient me to the monuments we were passing as we entered into the city center. I was surprised by the many canals that we crossed and Anya explained that St. Petersburg was built by Peter the Great on top of a marsh and that there are many waterways running through St. Petersburg.
The colorful architecture served as jewels contrasting against the white blanket of snow. I had chills. Not from the cold but from the fact that I was finally visiting the city that was once inhabited by the Russian Tsars and Tsarinas. After reading a shelf full of Russian history books I was armed with enough knowledge to be dangerously engaged in everything Anya would be teaching me over the next several days. As we pulled up to Hotel Astoria night had fallen and the lights of St. Isaac beautifully lit the cathedral. After checking in with a young woman fluent in English I proceeded to my room overlooking St. Isaac’s Square and the cathedral where I struggled to capture the essence of this unforgettable moment of snow gently but persistently falling onto St. Isaac’s Square.
Mary Beth I have a passion for creating and experiencing unforgettable moments and sharing those with others. I hope that this story has helped you experience one of those moments.