THE first time I went to St Petersburg there wasn’t a lot of freedom for exploring.
That’s was ten years ago, a little more than a decade after the Iron Curtain fell, and I was on a coach tour with the guide not allowing much time for his passengers to stray from the organised itinerary.
On that visit I was allowed to explore the grand plaza behind the city’s opulent Winter Palace solo for just a few minutes, after emerging from a guided excursion around the Hermitage, and rushed to make it to Nevsky Prospect for a brief look at the Russian city’s busy main drag.
So on this visit I was keen to simply walk, to wander a few urban neighbourhoods to see something of this beautifully decrepit and decaying city from street level, rather than the window of a moving bus, and get a better idea about the settlement carefully created by Peter the Great more than 200 years ago.
I was in St Petersburg on the Celebrity Silhouette, a cruise ship carrying 3000 tourists on a lap of the Baltic, and because Russian immigration regulations said I needed to join an organised tour to get a visa and leave the port I arranged to do five half-day tours on the three days we were in town.
The first excursion was a ride on the St Petersburg subway to Vladimirskaya – a journey that would take me along two lines with a change at fabulous Mayakovskaya Station – where I would be given free time to wander the neighbourhood that was once home to acclaimed Russian novelist Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky.
Here are some snaps from a lazy circumnavigation of the blocks around Vladimirskaya Station.