July 7, 2015 | By Seta Kembikian
In April of this year, I had the opportunity to travel to Russia on a “travel agent familiarization” trip with Exeter International, a tour company specializing in luxury travel to Russia and Eastern Europe.
Upon arrival at the St. Petersburg airport, a representative from Exeter was there to greet us and transport us to the beautiful Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace St. Petersburg. The main stairway and the entry hall have been restored to the original 1820 beauty. It is just two blocks from the Hermitage Museum and close to Nevsky Prospekt and Mariinsky Theatre. I found the rooms to be light, airy, and welcoming. They feature high ceilings, large windows and full marble bathrooms.
St. Petersburg is a city built on majesty and grandeur and was once called the Venice of the North. It was founded by Peter the Great in the 18th century with canals and waterways. This elegant city is home to some of the worlds’ finest architecture, palaces and grand estates.
We visited the lavish Catherine Palace and were invited into the famous amber workshop, where craftsman rebuilt the famous amber panels lost in World War II. At the Hermitage Museum, we had a curator who instructed us on the highlights of the collection.
Next, we visited the ornate Church of Spilled Blood. This is the only church in the world covered completely inside and out by mosaics of tiles and semiprecious stones and has got to be one of the most extraordinary buildings in St. Petersburg. That afternoon we visited St. Petersburg’s first Faberge Museum, which is a must see. It is a short walk from Nevsky Prospect and houses the celebrated Faberge egg collection. This private museum is open by appointment only, with just a few visitors per hour allowed in.
The following morning we took the luxurious Sapson high speed train to Moscow. Again, we were met by an Exeter representative at the train station and we took the bus to the beautiful Four Seasons Hotel Moscow. The hotel is steps from the Red Square and the Kremlin in a landmark location. Our room was spacious and very stylish. The bathrooms are decorated with panels of coarse marble, with double sinks, separate toilet, shower, and deep bath.
In the morning we visited the Grand Kremlin Palace, which is now used by the Russian President for entertaining and hosting state visits and meetings. Later, we visited the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. This is the largest museum of European art in Moscow. In the evening we enjoyed the ballet at the Bolshoi Theatre – a definite must see. The Bolshoi building now has been designated as one of Moscow’s main sights. It opened in 1856 on Tsar Alexander II’s coronation day. The following morning, we visited Grand Christ the Holy Redeemer Cathedral, which towers over historic Moscow. The dome provides a fantastic view of the city’s most significant sites, including the Kremlin and Moskva River.
Russia is built on strength and power, and it was incredible to witness these displays of it firsthand.