In honour of the premiere of BBC One‘s War and Peace, I am starting a new series (of blog posts) on Russia. Every Sunday, I will share photos of places visited during my trip to the country in 2014. Some of these will be filming locations for the current TV series or other film adaptations, and others will be the setting (or in the cities) for Leo Tolstoy‘s novel* (*Tolstoy said: ‘not a novel, even less is it a poem, and still less a historical chronicle,’) of four volumes (plus an epilogue of two parts). Though ‘War and Peace’ begins in 1805, not all of the locations will date to the same time period or earlier. First in this series will be places visited in St Petersburg.
Grand Hotel Europe
The Belmond Grand Hotel Europe (Гранд Отель Европа) is a luxurious 5-star hotel dating back to 1875. Originally known as Hotel de l’Europe, some of the well-known guests who have stayed at the hotel include Claude Debussy, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, and Gustav V of Sweden. Aside from being a hotel, the building had served as a hospital, orphanage, and even government offices between the First World War to post-revolution. Today, the hotel has 265 rooms and suites, as well as 5 restaurants and bars.
The architectural styles of this hotel varies. The exterior of the hotel has a Neo-Baroque façade to compliment the neighbouring buildings that date back to the 1820’s. During the 1910’s, the interior of the hotel was remodelled in the Art Nouveau style.
Inside the quiet Mezzanine Cafe, one can relax to enjoy a cup of tea/coffee/chocolate or even Russian afternoon tea. The cafe is surrounded by colourful exteriors of hotel rooms, as if one were in a covered ‘outdoor’ cafe. Since the roof of the cafe is glass, there is natural sunlight during the day.
It was here we enjoyed a cup of Sbiten (Сбитень), a traditional Russian winter drink. I enjoyed my cranberry, lemon, spice Sbiten the best. By the way, the pretty metal glass holders aren’t cheap at souvenir stores so I imagine you’ll have to ask around to find out where you can purchase one for more than half the price.
Regarding service, anyone who walks into the hotel is already worth millions! Service is impeccable though not when it comes to speed. Unless we went to all the wrong places, everywhere we visited in St Petersburg and Moscow took ages to order, to be served, and to pay. So if someone comes around to serve, you order right away – and you may as well ask for the bill so that you won’t have to wait an extra half hour. If you do plan on having a cup of anything, I suggest you make sure you have an hour to do so. I had to burn my throat drinking tea just so our tour bus wouldn’t leave without us.)
Address: Nevsky Prospekt, Mikhailovskaya Ulitsa 1/7, 191186 St Petersburg, Russia