Sunday, April 21, 2013

Feeling like a Princess

Me at the Mariinsky Theater
If there’s ever been a time where I’ve felt extraordinarily fortunate, it’s now. Not many people can say that they’ve strolled around Tsarist palaces, travelled to Moscow for the weekend, or been able to unwind in the comforts of an authentic Russian banya. This week has been one of those weeks when I have felt particularly fortunate. This feeling in large part revolves around my experience at St. Petersburg’s premiere theater, the Mariinsky Theater. Last Sunday night, four friends and I made our way to a stunning light green palace (the infamous Mariinsky Theater) to watch a ballet performance of Anna Karenina. The performance was spectacular. The role of Anna Karenina was performed by the prima ballerina of the Mariinsky Theater. Watching her and the other ballerinas perform was a treat of a lifetime. They were remarkably talented. I have no idea how it’s possible for a human being to hold his or her leg into the air in a splits position, but the ballerinas in the performance did so with remarkable grace. The set designs were especially creative- my favorite being the train they used throughout the play. Yes, the performance was spectacular and unforgettable, but so was the theater itself. The interior of the theater was dripping with gold ornaments, charming lamps, and decadence. It’s easy to imagine a tsar attending a ballet in this theater; tsarist opulence simply radiates from this place. 

On that note, I recently traveled with our entire group on an excursion to Gatchina Palace. Yep another Tsarist palace within an hour’s travel from St. Petersburg. However, the architecture of this palace is significantly different from the others. The exterior of the colossal dwelling looks more like a European castle. There’s even a moat and a secret underground tunnel connecting the residential area of the palace to the lake that lays in the middle of the palace gardens. However, the interior of the palace was like any other residential dwelling. Gold trimmings, intricate ceiling designs, you name it. My favorite room was the baby blue bedroom (picture to the right). Absolutely stunning. Unfortunately, all the rooms are not the originals. During WWII, the Nazis occupied the suburban areas surrounding St. Petersburg, including Gatchina Palace. When the Nazi’s began their retreat at the end of the war, they burned the palace from the inside. Today, only a few of the rooms of the Palace have been renovated to its pre-war opulence, but it was fascinating to see the contrast.

Even the simple comforts of Russia are particularly rememberable. Every week without fail I eat at this gem of a cafe located about 10 minutes from the Winter Palace Square. It’s a local hangout and absolutely delicious. I’ve never particularly like coffee in the past but their coffee with milk is to die for, so sweet and scrumptious. I know that I’m going to be craving this coffee when I leave Russia. As for the food, the only thing to buy is пышки. These delectable treats look like doughnuts but are 1000 times better. They taste more like beignets. And it’s so cheap! Four пышки and a cup of coffee with milk only costs $3. Oh how I will miss this place.

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