Predictable to a fault, I’m afraid. As soon as I learned that St Petersburg boasted a notable ‘sight’ known as The Cathedral of Spilled Blood, my crime-writing instincts went into overdrive. Within hours, I worked out a story-line that would feature a cruise ship, a trip to St Petersburg, and – naturally – a trip to the cathedral. I duly followed in the footsteps of a group of characters whom I’ve so far only sketched out in my mind.
The Cathedral is stunning, and so is St Petersburg. I have never been to Russia before, but this was one city I have long been keen to visit. It certainly lived up to expectations. We went on a boat tour of the River Neva and surrounding canals – not for nothing is St Petersburg known as the Venice of the North (though I later learned that Stockholm also claims that title). Our trip took us past the Winter Palace and the Hermitage Museum, although unfortunately time did not permit inside tours of those remarkable places.
Another must-see was the Summer Palace, with its fabulous Amber Room, and the Tsar’s Estate. The drive out to Pushkin, where these sights are to be found, took us through some of the magnificent parts of the city as well as past some rather dour buildings and apartment blocks. My overall feeling was that the Russians seem to have managed the transition from the old regime to a new way of life with remarkable accomplishment. I don’t know many Russian people, but those I have come across have been, without exception, charming and cultured, and after this first sampling, I’d like to get to know their remarkable country better.