08 June 2015

Off the beaten path in St. Petersburg

The magnificent city of St.Petersburg, the gem of Eastern Europe has a wealth of offerings for any kind of traveller. So whether you’re on a business trip, holidaying or simply passing through, you are most definitely going to be amazed and left wanting more.

 If like me you’re into alternative experiences that aren’t the usual tourist attractions, then keep on reading. These few suggestions will give you a better idea of how to get to do your own thing and indulge in the ‘quirkier’ options the city has to offer.

Gatchina Birch house

The Gatchina Palace and museum is an attraction in itself and you do need to spend a whole day to walk about the magnificent gardens, pavilions and the Amphitieatre, but perhaps the most unusual attraction here is the Gatchina Birch house, built in 1780 as an architectural joke whereby the outside resembles a large number of logs piled on top of each other. Don’t be fooled though as the interior with all its gilded plasterwork and abundance of mirrors is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

Join a Matroyschka doll class

If you’re itching for something to do and aren’t too fussed with getting your hands a bit dirty then make sure to sign up for a Matroyschka doll class. Contrary to popular belief the Matroyschkas (also called nesting dolls or babushkas) are not entirely Russian in origin but were adopted in the late 19th century from Japanese culture and turned into one of the most popular toys in Russia. Some workshops offer classes where you are provided with a 3-5 piece doll ready to be decorated to your heart’s content.

Vodka Museum and Donut Bars

St. Petersburg is famous for having retained some of the oldest Russian traditions, two of which are donuts and yep, you guessed right Vodka. Join the locals in queuing for some donuts and tea at one of the local ‘Pyshechnaya’ in the morning or if you’re a vodka drinker make sure to visit the Vodka museum where you can get some insights into Vodka production and drinking and also get to try shots of some different varieties.

The Gulf of Finland

Why not venture a bit outside the city and head on to the Gulf of Finland? The walk alongside the coast is mesmerizing and there’s a myriad of things to do that are sure to keep your quirk on. From dramatic improvisation theatres, art galleries to small scale museums depicting Russian life and customs this area slightly further out of the center is sure to keep your quirk on!

Featured post supplied by Corinthia Hotels.

25 November 2014

Going to...Gothenburg in Sweden

The fun, friendly city of Gothenburg is an excellent way to get to know Sweden. It’s a clean, vibrant place with plenty to occupy visitors. Gothenburg makes a wonderful place for a weekend city break or as a base from where to discover the rest of the country. Gothenburg is the second largest city in Sweden and home to 500,000 people; along with its cultural centres and typical foods the city provides access to the marvellous islands of the archipelago off Sweden’s western shores. Its island geography and Dutch influenced design gives Gothenburg a Swedish, Amsterdam feel, with lots of island districts, canals and bridges spanning the waterways.

Sweden does not currently use the euro as its currency and has no plans to replace the krona in the near future. Anyone planning a long stay or who takes up employment opportunities in Sweden should consider applying for a flexible international bank account to allow easy transfer of money in different currencies.

Kungsportavenyn, or simply “The Avenue” is a kilometre long street that was built as a result of an architectural competition in 1870 and where you will find the Gotaplatsen with such cultural interests as the Museum of Art and Gotenburg library. 

The avenue stretches all the way to the Kungsportaplasen in the old town centre and also has the Tradgardsforeningen park in the area. This is considered to be the popular entertainment centre and has the highest concentration of pubs and restaurants in Gothenburg.

The Haga, is the picturesque old quarter of Gothenburg and is dominated by old style wooden buildings, chic café bars and boutique shopping. Today it is an area much gentrified, betraying its working class roots. 

Renovation in the 1980’s led to the creation of a slick centre within the heart of the city where once had been a district with a less than savoury reputation.

Gothenburg Botanical Gardens covers 145 hectares of beautifully preserved natural beauty and has been recognised on a number of occasions in the European Most Beautiful Garden Competition. Opened in 1923, it has around 16,000 species of plants and trees and such wonderful sections as the Rhododendron valley and the Japanese Glade. There are also its marvellous greenhouses, which house over 4,000 varieties of rare and exotic plants.

Lisberg Theme Park is the most popular attraction of Gothenburg and is the largest such park in Scandinavia, seeing over 3 million visitors annually walk through its gates. The park is full of thrilling rides like the log flume, Balder wooden rollercoaster and the speedy Lisebergbanan ride.

Island Fortress of Alvsborg is another of Gotenburg’s great attractions, this 17th century fort, situated on the seaward approaches to the city was built to protect the population from the Danes. During the 18th century it was used as a prison and finally fell into disuse and eventually handed over to the people of Gothenburg. Today you can walk its grounds, explore the dungeon and enjoy delicious snacks in the café and lovely views from the ramparts.