Palace-hopping in St.Petersburg

Russia is dodgy. Stunning architecture, fascinating history, but let’s get it out of the way first, it is dodgy. When a tour company has a budget for bribing officials at the borders, you know something is not quite right. Not even 20 minutes into the country and our Top Deck bus was pulled over by the Police, a pay-off amounting to AU$20 settled any potential prison visits and we were back on our way to St Petersburg.

Welcome to Russia!

That aside, Russia is absolutely beautiful. It is not like any other country in the world (besides the ex-Soviet States that have since claimed independence.) The bright colours of Cathedrals and Palaces provide a stark contrast against the grey concrete of the many communist apartments. When the sun peeks out, the gold highlights on buildings reflect the opulence of the country’s varied past. 

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Moscow More Often

I had been in Russia for a few days now on a Top Deck ‘Red Star’ tour and was getting used to the language, over-presence of authority, tasteless hotel breakfasts and the imposing communist statues that dot the cities. I no longer felt intimidated by any dodgy looking local walking in my direction and I had even mastered public transport (which when written only in Cyrillic can be a nightmare!)

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Holy Espagna, Batman!

It was Easter in Spain and I had flown down to Seville to witness one of the most interesting religious festivals in the world. The Semana Santa or Holy Week showcases multitudes of Catholic processions by those wishing to be cleansed of their sins for the year. Participants don long robes in the identifiable colours of their local church, complete with a very large pointed hood that covers the face so that they can only see through two holes in the front. Envision the Ku Klux Klan in various colours but without the hate crimes and prejudice. Their pointed hoods are supposed to hide the height of the person while their face is hidden so that people cannot identify the ‘sinners’.

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