In June 2018, one of my biggest dreams came true: I finally traveled to Russia. Ever since I watched the animated movie, Anastasia, I was charmed by the country of tzars, colorful churches, and infinite traditions.

As the Football World Cup was hosted by this beautiful country, I took the opportunity to go there, experience a World Cup game for the first time, and be a good girlfriend by buying the ticket for my boyfriend and organizing the whole trip.

Anyway, the initial destination of the trip was the stunning capital of Latvia, Riga, where we spent the first two nights of the trip. Blessed by a warm and cloudless weather, we could walk through the Unesco World Heritage Site, that is the old city of Riga and be amazed by the Art Nouveau’s facades of the buildings around the city. Personally, I am in love with the Jugendstil, or Art Nouveau, and I have chosen Riga appositely to check this architectural style out.

At that time, Riga was getting ready to celebrate the country’s first 100 years, therefore there were several events around the city. Timing is essential, and we had the most of our time in Latvia!

Here you can see some pictures from the first day around the city:

After a long walk around the city center, we decided to visit the Open Air Museum, quite a distance from the city center but easily reachable thanks to the great transportation system in Riga (we took a tram and a bus and after 40 min we were there). The Museum consists in a great park, where houses and buildings from different cultural clans were re-constructed and displayed. It was really instructive to see the differences and similarities between several areas of Latvia, and, not to forget, the park was the perfect destination for a weekend stroll in nature!

Next destination: St. Petersburg!

And after a short flight with the Latvian airline Air Baltic, we landed in Russia! We didn’t even have to apply for a visa, since we had the tickets to the World Cup and its badge. In fact, the badge worked both as visa and as pas-par-tout to travel on the day of the game (or games, if you had more than one match-ticket). In the Venice of Russia, we finally met a previous classmate of mine from my Danish university, Natalia! (Hey Natalia) It was amazing that she could join us for a couple of days in St. Petersburg, even though her hometown was quite far away (and we will eventually get there, in the next days – Read part 2).

To get to the city center from the airport, we just needed to ride a bus (we purchased the ticket on the bus, luckily we changed some money before coming to Russia) and then we could take the metro. Yes, the famous Russian metro! I knew already that every metro ride would have been a discovery, and a jaw-dropping experience! In fact, it is one of the most attractive and elegant metro systems in the world.

We arrived in the late afternoon, and our plan was to meet Natalia and then have dinner with her. We booked our room through and our hotel was conveniently located close to the metro stop of Gostiny Dvor and 5 minutes walking from Nevskiy Prospekt, the main street of the city, named after the 13th-century Russian prince Alexander Nevsky and planned by Peter the Great himself.

We could easily walk to the city center, but the only problem was the daily market behind our hotel, which woke us up with screams, music, and noise every day!

St. Petersburg is one of the most elegant cities I have ever visited. Think about the Hermitage Museum, which includes one of the greatest art collections in the world, and it is inside the breath-taking Winter Palace! I was also impressed by the richness of the Church of The Savior on Blood, the ticket cost was absolutely worthy!

We managed to find one of our beloved free walking tours (we always try to book a free walking tour and Sandeman New Europe is so far our favorite company, they have the most amazing guides!) and we could discover more about the city and its history, above all about Catherine the Great. Did you know that she was the first person to get a vaccination in Russia? She was so amazed about the vaccination process that she gathered the best specialists in the field to get vaccinated. First person in Russia, and a woman!

We purchased our tickets in advance for both the Hermitage Museum and the free walking tour, and I would advise to do the same, it was pretty convenient and fast.

During our time in St. Petersburg we had the opportunity to try something that many people recommended, Georgian cuisine. Yes, it is actually quite strange that we were in Russia and we had been advised to try another country’s food, but we found a great restaurant (even though the service wasn’t the best) and we were completely in love with the food (and the chacha, a kind of brandy) we tried: khinkali, khachapuli, misvadi, sulguni and pkhali.

The overall experience in the city was more than positive, thanks to the beauty of the buildings around us and the World Cup vibes. Every day we would meet groups of people from all over the world, and there were many events and tourist points available.

On our last day, my boyfriend and I tried caviar and vodka, in the most beautiful café/market I have ever seen (again Art Nouveau style, so of course I loved it!): Eliseyev Emporium Coffeeshop.


Next blog post with the rest of the trip coming soon! 

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