Russia

a glimpse inside peter and paul cathedral

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Everywhere we visited in St Petersburg, there were a lot of people sightseeing, doing what we were doing. Peter and Paul Cathedral was no different. In comparison to some of the other European churches we visited, the cathedral was probably on the smaller side so the crowd here might’ve seemed disproportionally large.

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The draw card might be because the cathedral holds the remains of many of Russia’s Emperors and Empresses, including Tsar Nicholas II and his family. The last Tsar along with his family, were famously executed in the dead of the night. Though rumours say that two of the children were never found (the more famous being the Princess Anastasia), our Russian tour guide said that those stories are merely a “fairytale” made up by the rest of the Western world to make the history more exciting.

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Anyway, as with other Russian buildings (such as the Hermitage and Catherine Palace) built during this era, the interiors are opulent and ornate.

And here, we shall stop writing and let you take a glimpse inside the cathedral for yourself.

Hope you enjoy our photo essay.

Please feel free to leave us any comments.

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what would you order from our three-course taste of travel menu?

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We were nominated/tagged by two fellow blogger pals, A New Life Wandering and Mrs Ayla’s Adventures for #atasteoftravel blogger competition. Although we are not eligible to win the prize and we are not entering this post into the competition, we thought it would still be fun to get involved in creating a three-course menu from the foods we have tried on our travels.

But we are choosing to put a “spin” on the menu – instead of one entree, main or dessert, we have decided to make it like a set menu: a choice of one of:

  • three entrees
  • three mains
  • three desserts

Simply because we could decide on JUST one for each 🙂 – Apologies in advance that there are no vegetarian options.

So here goes the Wise Monkeys Abroad 3-course Travel Menu.

ENTREE

OPTION 1:

White Rose Dumplings from Hoi An, Vietnam

A steamed dumpling filled with shrimp bunched to look like a rose.

It is served with toasted garlic and sweet dipping sauce.

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OPTION 2:

Sashimi Platter from Hakone, Japan 

A selection of uncooked seafood includes tuna, prawn, squid, octopus, yellow tail .

Served with wasabi and shaved radish.

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OPTION 3:

Cheese Fondue from Lucerne, Switzerland

An infusion of gruyère and emmental cheese in dry white whine.

Served in a casserole on top of a spirit lamp and a basket of bread.

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MAIN:

OPTION 1:

Beef Stroganoff from St Petersburg, Russia

Sauteed beef in a mushroom, sour cream based sauce.

Served with a side of mash potatoes.

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OPTION 2:

Seafood Paella from Leon, Spain

Aromatic rice cooked with seafood, chicken and vegetables over an open fire.

Served in the pan it is cooked in.

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OPTION 3:

Pork Knuckle from Riga, Latvia 

Slow-cooked pork knuckle.

Served with beans, fresh tomato salad and potato wedges.

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DESSERT:

OPTION 1:

Chocolate Soup from Edinburgh, Scotland

A hot chocolate served in a bowl, topped with whipped cream and chocolate sauce.

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OPTION 2:

Creme Brûlée from Carcassonne, France

Vanilla custard based layered underneath a hard caramel top.

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OPTION 3:

Pistachio Baklava from Istanbul, Turkey

Chopped pistachios wrapped in filo pastry and held together with a sweet syrup.

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What are you ordering?

Let us know in the comments.

our first month in review

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We have been away exactly a month now and we have enjoyed every moment and experience! We have seen some mind-blowing, spectacular and confronting things. And we have learnt soooo much more about European history from the countries that we have visited.

Here is our first month in a quick review:

Our first stop was Russia where we visited Moscow and St Petersburg. There we saw some amazingly opulent palaces and got a sneak peak into the lives of the past royals. Our standout moment from here would be setting eyes on St Basil’s in Red Square for the first time.

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The Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were next on the agenda. We learnt about the Singing Revolution which we had no idea about and also learnt about the Baltic Way – 2 million people holding hands across the 3 countries to make a 600 km human chain to stand up for their independence. A few of our favourites in this area would be visiting the Hill of Crosses and experiencing the old towns of each capital city

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Poland was definitely a little surprise package for us. We enjoyed what the country had to offer; its history, food, people and culture. Here we experienced awe as well as sadness. There were moments of joy and wonderment as we visited the Wieliczka Salt Mines, walked around the Old Town of Krakow and be impressed at the restoration efforts of Warsaw. Then there were moments of heart-break where we shed tears for those who lost their lives during World War II especially when we visited the concentrations camps.

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We had a small taste of Czech Republic back in 2006 when we visited Prague for a few days. This time, we had an opportunity to visit Cesky Krumlov as well. One of our highlights in Cesky Krumlov was definitely getting a tour of the Zámecké Divadlo (Castle Theatre). One of the last few remaining wooden theatres still with costumes, props and stage sets. Prague was nothing like we remembered, probably because we came this time with “older” eyes and a different mindset to travel. A highlight would have to be seeing the Astronomical Clock again and really appreciating it for what it was this time.

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Now we are in Bordeaux, France and we are loving France all over again. Despite common belief, the French people are very friendly and always willing to help. Two memorable experiences amongst the many so far (as we still have all up another 10 days or so) was watching Moulin Rouge and seeing Mont St Michel. Next stop Carcassonne 🙂

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Have a great week ahead, folks!

Feel free to leave us a comment here

catherine palace: royal summer residence

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Catherine the Great in the 18th Century wanted a summer residence hence the construction of what is now known as Catherine Palace: the summer residence for Russian Tsars.

What we see today is a restoration of the original as during World War II, the Germans destroyed the palace. One of the most famous rooms is the amber room (the one room where photography is NOT allowed). This room was looted by Nazi Germany during the war and there were attempts to locate it whereabouts but it was never found. The room now has been restored to its original appearance, believed to have cost 11 million Euros.

The palace is so extravagant; it appeared that no expense was spared. It is reported that over 100 kgs of gold was used to gild the exterior.

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And internally the ornate wall carvings and ceiling are gilded in gold, while some of the rooms, the walls are covered in either silk, mirrors and/or oil paintings.

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Even the ceilings are not forgotten, of course. Look up and it is very highly likely that it would be beautifully painted. Each room we enter seems more grand then the next. There is just no way to notice all the detail of every room. Upon reaching the ballroom, we admit that for a second we are swept back a few hundred years and picture ourselves waltzing…. Ok, so we didn’t picture the waltzing part, we actually did a 20-second waltz, but when you see the ballroom, you will understand why!

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The gardens of Catherine Palace were not as impressive as that of Peterhof Palace. Interestingly, while Peterhof Palace was full of fountains, Catherine Palace did not have a single one. Catherine did not care for fountains so preferred to have a lake instead.

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After one week in Russia, we have been awestruck by the lavish lifestyle that were had by the Emperors and Empresses.

Feel free to leave us a comment here