Saint Petersburg is gorgeous. It's a place where you should spend more than two days. I didn't have the time because I was expected in Samara. Also, I was kind of nervous and had no patience to stand in front of art. So, I decided to ditch the Hermitage (famous art museum) and look at the Botanical Garden instead. It seemed more intriguing to me than European art. I've always been a KINO (Kunsthistorikerin (art historian) in name only) and studied it because I've been fascinated with unusual places for years. History can be exciting (if the backbone is a good story) or (more often) a bore.
In the Botanical Garden, I hoped to find somewhere worthwhile to linger. A place that would offer me motifs that could be more than just sights. The main attraction of this place (for me) was not in the plants. The 25 greenhouses from the years 1823-24 provided a backdrop that was so beautiful, so pristine. It was the ensemble, the atmosphere created by these buildings inhabited by old and diverse plants, which stimulated my imagination That made the fairies and stories in my head jump around in loops. It was also a quiet place in this bustling city (especially if one comes from the countryside in Finland).
Although I had read that it was a bit out of the way, the Botanical Garden was only a few metro stations from the Hermitage. Very central. If you ever have to decide, I throw my 2 cents in the hat of the Botanical Garden. They speak no English, French or German there. Everything runs in Russian. If they realise that you are one of those mindless tourists who crossed the border without the necessary language skills, they will speak a little louder and faster. Out of embarrassment, I bought the most expensive tour. In the end, this turned out to be a blessing, but it occupied headspace during my entire walk. (Did they take advantage of my ignorance? How much is that in €? When would I miss the money spent?) After a nice walk in the park, which was overgrown and in a deep winter sleep, I finally arrived in front of the long-awaited old and round greenhouses. In graceful constructions, they stood on rusted and rotten thin legs, in beautiful curves and levels in the snow. Some of them had elaborately designed doors, which referred to their year of construction. It's the oldest Botanical Garden in Russia. It's the most beautiful I have ever seen. Granted I have seen almost nothing. Kiev's Botanical Garden for example. Just a few days ago, I saw pictures that showed me that that one possibly is even more beautiful.
Also, on my second day in St. Petersburg it was bitter cold. Visiting the park at -20 degrees was, of course, not very smart. It wouldn't get much warmer in the coming days. In fact, I was lucky that it was only -20. My frozen nose began to run without me feeling the liquid. I only noticed it when a drop fell on my hand. These are the somewhat sad realities of a "real" winter. Getting used to these takes time. In contempt, I took my handkerchief and went into the warm vestibules of the orangery. There had already gathered a random assortment of Russian tourists for the Russian-speaking tour, which I had paid at the entrance. I would only be able to walk through these beautiful greenhouses while listening to the Russian-speaking guide. So I did just that. However, I had a podcast in my ear.
When I grow up, I want to have a greenhouse. I believe I would like to become a Russian Czarina and live in the palaces, flee from the pomp to a small hut in Russian Lapland, and enjoy the winter sun. Then, next to my palace, build a winter palace and only travel first class. I would love to take everything I see. So many things, so much beauty, so much power. But then I remember the missing toilets in the palaces, the uncomfortable drafts, the annoying servants, and I change my mind. In real life, I do prefer a backpack to a palace and a photo to a souvenir.