After a most awesome morning at the Hermitage Museum, we embarked on the next part of the shore excursion – exploring the city of Saint Petersburg on our own for 3 hours. This part of the shore excursion was unguided, unlike at Bruges, and all we had was a city map given out by our guide, and instructions on the meeting place after the 3 hours on our own.

Nevsky Prospekt is the main shopping street in Saint Petersburg, and this is what it looks like – the equivalent of our Orchard Road.

Anichkov Bridge that crosses the Fontanka River. This kind of river cruise seems to be a norm in almost every Baltic city we had been to, but nothing beats the experience at Bruges.

The Horse Tamers are a series of bronze sculptures along the Anichkov Bridge.   They rank among Saint Petersburg’s most recognizable landmarks.

Side walk restaurants are everywhere at Nevsky Prospekt.  With colourful flower boxes and outdoor seatings, they are a wonderful place to sit down for a meal and people-watch.  This shore excursion with Princess Cruises did not include lunch, so we do needed to find lunch for ourselves.

We chose the more affordable option of a coffee-house for lunch.

Don’t you think the logo of this coffee house looks so much like that of a certain American coffee-chain. My impression of Russian coffee did not go well at all – first of all, it lacks robustness and aroma, secondly,  the beverage was just too dilute to be called a coffee. The same goes for their food, which is relatively tasteless and bland.

Our simple lunch of sandwiches and puffs.

About SGD 15 for a simple meal for 2.

Nevsky Prospekt is a wonderful place to shop, with a good mixture of luxury departmental stores, Russian designer boutiques and a good selection of small souvenir shops.  In fact, there were so many souvenir shops, we were spoilt for choice!

What to buy when you are in Russia?

Top of the list, obviously, has to be the Matryoshka, or what we usually term the Russian Doll.  It is the symbol of Russia, and had its origins from long ago, where artisans created these dolls which open to give up to 60 smaller versions inside them.  The price of a set of Russian dolls can range from SGD 20 to as much as a few thousand dollars, and its actual price will depend on whether it is a mass-market production, the number of dolls inside each piece, the material used, and the artists who created these pieces.

On board the Caribbean Princess, a wide range of Matryoshka of different price ranges are sold in their shops.  But nothing beats shopping for one yourself in Russia.  They are readily available everywhere, from small souvenir kiosks in the underground subway station, to the up-market departmental stores.

Replicas of the Faberge Easter Eggs are worth a look.  These pretty looking eggs usually opens up to reveal a miniature model inside, and even though they are a replica of the real ones which are encrusted with fine gems and jewels, they still sell at a most expensive price.

Palekh and other kinds of painting.  The Russians had a tradition with arts and crafts, and this old Russian tradition of painting on wood are one of the most splendid pieces of art.  The painted and lacquered boxes are famous all over the world.  Like other pieces of art, these do not come cheap at all.

Join us next as we experience a Russian Ballet.

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