Tag Archives: tourist

The overnight train to Vologda

My apologies for not putting up a post for the last week. It’s been busy since we returned from Vologda Monday morning. But I’ll be publishing lots of photos from Vologda over the next few weeks to try and make up for it.

A countryside scene on the way to Vologda.

A countryside scene on the way to Vologda.

It takes about 12 hours by overnight train to cover the 600 kilometers from St. Petersburg straight east to Vologda, a small, “authentic,” Russian town. We, the whole Duke in St. Petersburg group, left for Vologda last Friday evening, spent two full days there, and returned to St. Petersburg early Monday morning.

Vologda is several times larger than Rockville, or for you Dukies, around the size of Durham, but it retains a small-town feel, perhaps because it’s population is spread over such a large area. Few tourists venture to Vologda, and just about zero Americans. It’s a pity, because Vologda and the surrounding area is beautiful, full of old Russian (15th-16th century) churches and monasteries, open countryside, and fresh air.

I’ll be writing more about Vologda as I sort through and post photos from my trip, but for now, click here to view photographs shot from the windows of our leisurely train ride.

A steel plant near Vologda.

A steel plant near Vologda.

City Tour

We saw the old KGB headquarters in St. Petersburg today; or rather, we saw the FSB building. It’s called большой дом, The Big House, and from the windows you can see Siberia, our guide joked.

Speaking of law enforcement and such, we also passed by the Peter and Paul Fortress, a low hexagonal island defense against the Swedes that was never used in war. Instead, it held political prisoners to 1917. Only one person, the anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, has ever escaped from the island, and he did it by getting transferred to a hospital.

Perhaps the coolest thing we glimpsed from the bus during our driving tour of the city was the cruiser Aurora. The Aurora, which survived the Russo-Japanese war, fired a blank at the Winter Palace at the start of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, and has therefore been immortalized for its role, however small, in bringing down the provisional government and carrying Lenin to power.

The ship has become a tourist trap of the highest degree. As we drove by, I noticed the row of stalls beside it hawking t-shirts and souvenirs to tourists. People posed for pictures sitting on the deck gun that fired the famous shot. The ship serves as a museum of Communist propaganda; across the river, however, stands the massive St. Petersburg Bank.

As we drove, we saw a few other interesting sites, like the St. Petersburg Mosque, built in the early 1900s, and a whole bunch of statues. The variety of statues here is pretty impressive, but it’s hard to keep them all straight (other than the Lenin statue in front of the Palace of Soviets. He’s pretty distinictive. I really want to take my picture in front of Lenin, but we’ve only driven by so far; we haven’t stopped.). Particularly impressive was The Bronze Horseman – a huge statue of Peter the Great on horseback.