"Travelling - it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller." - Ibn Battuta
It's hard to disagree with the Moroccan traveller and scholar, don't you think? And what better reason for travelling than your honeymoon... but with so many beautiful and exciting places to choose from, it can be crazy difficult to decide where to go.
Paul and I recently came back from our first proper holiday in eight years and it was truly amazing. In last week's post, I started telling you about the wonderful places we've visited and I'd love for you to join me for the second part today.
I hope you'll find some inspiration and ideas for your honeymoon or special anniversary trip.
While I love a good story, I think this one is best told in pictures so I'll keep my musings to a minimum. I bet I can make you fall in love with St. Petersburg, Helsinki, and Bruges with pictures alone.
(You can see and read about the first part of our travels, which took us to Oslo, Copenhagen, and Tallinn, right here.)
St. Petersburg, Russia
St. Petersburg was by far our most exotic destination and we were crazy excited to spend two days in this city (although we've quickly found out it isn't nearly enough time to take in all the marvellous sights and attractions St. Petersburg has to offer).
We started off by visiting Peterhof Palace, which is located about 30km from St. Petersburg.
This 18th-century palace and garden complex, which is sometimes referred to as the "Versailles of Russia" is one of the city's most popular tourist destinations and it looks truly spectacular.
Seeing the inside of the Grand Palace was without a doubt an amazing visual experience (taking pictures inside the palace is not allowed). Talk about decadence. This is not a place for minimalists.
Due to the large crowds, visits are very regulated though. Some of the State Rooms contain such precious items and fabrics that you're not even allowed to stop to take in the sight. Let alone have the space to do so...
If large crowds make you feel uncomfortable and nervous, you might want to visit the gardens only. Many people say that the gardens are the most beautiful part of Peterhof anyway.
One of the most breathtaking sights was the Grand Cascade with its marvellous Samson fountain.
The gardens contain 144 fountains. We didn't even come close to seeing all of them, but the few we did see were truly remarkable works of art.
Our next stop was the State Hermitage Museum/Winter Palace on the banks of the Neva river. Founded in 1754 by Catherine the Great, the Hermitage is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world with a collection of over 3 million items.
The State Hermitage Museum is visited by approximately 3.7 million people every year. So yeah... it's very crowded.
There aren't many places that don't attract large crowds, especially in summer. Or whatever passes for summer in St. Petersburg. (Did you know that the city only enjoys an average of 62 sunny days per year? And they certainly didn't show up while we were there.)
The works of art on display at the State Hermitage Museum are magnificent. Words can't do them justice so I'll let the pictures do all the talking.
One of the most unique and enchanting pieces is the Peacock Clock in the Pavilion Hall. Although the word clock doesn't even begin to describe this spectacle.
It only runs a few times per year to preserve the old mechanism. And the actual display? That would be the little dial on the mushroom head at the base of the tree. (Have a look here if you like to see the clock in action - starting at 0:56 - . It's very sweet and totally over the top, of course.)
With our brains completely overloaded by all the amazing sights, we took things slowly on our second day. We went to the Literary Cafe and learned how to make Pelmeni (kind of like Russian tortellini, very tasty) and drink Russian Vodka, which completely knocked me off my socks.
While not without a few drawbacks, St. Petersburg is a fascinating place and the historic city centre is a feast for the eyes. We would love to return to Russia one day for more adventures.
Next up... Helsinki. The beautiful capital of Finland was one of our highlights and is competing with Copenhagen for the title of favourite city.
Our first stop was Rock Church in the neighbourhood of Töölö (the Finnish language always puts a smile on my face). As the name suggests, Rock Church is build directly into solid rock.
A truly remarkable piece of architecture that is well worth a visit.
Only a 20 minute walk away, we came upon the impressive Sibelius Monument, which is dedicated to the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.
The monument is made up of 600 hollow and richly textured steel pipes as well as the face of the composer.
The surrounding Sibelius Park is equally beautiful and worthy of some exploration.
Our next stop was the city centre with the magnificent Helsinki Cathedral being one of the main attractions.
After spending some time walking around the old city centre, we made our way to Uspenski Cathedral, the largest Orthodox Church in Western Europe.
Uspenski Cathedral sits upon a hilltop and offers amazing views over the city.
Only a stone's throw away, you'll find the Market Square, the best place to buy traditional foods, handicrafts and souvenirs. We left a good amount of money in this charming place.
And if you come across a poodle with the world's coolest braids... that's Erdvin. And he's totally up for posing for pictures.
We really enjoyed our time in Helsinki and would love to come back to see more of Finland's stunning landscape.
And finally we arrived in Bruges. It was the place we knew the least about and we were pleasantly surprised by this pretty city. Think cobbled lanes, canals, soaring towers and churches and lots of medieval architecture. It's very picturesque.
The Markt is located in the heart of Bruges and surrounded by many historic buildings. The most distinctive sight is the Belfort, a 13th-century bell tower offering a panoramic view over all of Bruges. If you're prepared to climb the 366 steps, that is (we opted for delicious Belgian Waffles instead).
Cutting through Town Hall and the Old Civil Registry is a narrow passageway called Blinde Ezelstraat (meaning Blind Donkey Alley) which leads to the old fish market.
Bruges is often referred to as the "Venice of the North" due to its many canals (although it shares this title with at least 38 other cities across Northern Europe including St. Petersburg).
Some of Bruges' most amazing architecture comes in the form of churches, cathedrals, and other religious sites of which there are many.
Also be prepared for some very serious house envy when strolling around Bruges.
We finished our day in Bruges by strolling past some of the most peaceful and calming landmarks, the Beguinhof and Minnewater Lake.
According to legend, a girl named Minna was once in love with a warrior from a different tribe named Stromberg. Her father didn't agree and arranged a more suitable marriage for his daugther. Desperate, Minna ran away. When Stromberg finally found her, she died in his arms from exhaustion. The lake was named in her honour and if you walk across the bridge with your loved one, it is said that your love will become eternal.
Bruges is a beautiful and very charming place. We left with some great memories. And approximately 2 kilograms of chocolate. None of which made it back to Australia.
And here we are... I truly hope you've found some ideas for that special trip you're planning.
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I'd love to know if you're interested in a "Honeymoon Destinations" series? While my main focus will always be all things stationery, it was a lot of fun to switch things up a bit. But most of all I want this little online space to be helpful to you. What do you say? Honeymoon Destinations: yay or nay?
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Thank you for reading my friend.