Just seconds after “Alexander the Great” applies the brakes in front of the Crown Plaza Hotel Ligovsky, our four-star digs while in St. Petersburg, Orna O’Reilly and I, two photojournalists invited by Insight Vacations (Insight) to sample its Easy Pace Russia journey, hop off the motor coach and make a bee line for Varenichnaya № 1, just up the prospekt, for an all-Russian fare dinner, the lip-smacking part of our two-part folksy night in the city.

Varenichnaya,” notes Gennady, Insight’s Moscow-born tour director/concierge, “means Dumpling House.” He adds, “It’s one of the most traditional, tastiest and economical restaurants in St. Petersburg.” To prove his point, he joins us around the table.

As with most eateries frequented primarily by locals, the menu at the “Dumpling House,” with its retro Soviet decor and Cold War-era prices, is in cyrillic script. Not to worry, we’ve got Comrade G standing by to translate and help us make our selections.

With just over an hour to devour, we order way more food than two people should: a crunchy white cabbage salad; eggplant wraps; deep-fried pike fish cakes with a creamy mound of mashed potatoes; pumpkin fritters with sour cream; blinis stuffed with cherries; and, a few glasses of Permskoye Gubernskoye, a Russian-brewed European pale lager, to wash it all down.

While we wait for the parade of mouthwatering dishes to begin, we pass the time staying within the lines as we experience the latest dining craze: adult coloring sheets. How’d I do?

One of the main avenues of St. Petersburg, running perpendicular to Nevsky Prospekt, is Liteyny Prospect. Once lined with foundry workshops tasked with casting the very first canons for the new Russian Navy, the Liteyny of today is a grand boulevard of upscale neighborhoods dotted with luxurious palaces, ornate apartments and stylish public buildings, like the Officer’s Assembly House, where we alight for the second and final leg of this folksy night in St. Petersburg.

They say a visit to Mother Russia is not really complete until you get up close and personal with the barynya (landlady). Monthly rent payments aside, this “landlady” is a top-flight folk show of traditional Russian song, dance and music that plays out on an old stage inside an ornate early 20th century music hall that was part of the then Red Army House.

One of ten optional experiences on the Easy Pace Russia itinerary, the folklore show, nearly two hours of entertainment with a champagne-filled intermission, is the absolute best way to experience the history, spirit and traditions of Mother Russia in one evening.

We score front-row, center-stage seats and clap and stomp along with the troupe during this cornucopia of melodious folk songs and traditional dances. Fab singers and athletic dancers in colorful costumes perform historical pieces from the different provinces of Russia: lyrical dances of the north, fierce dances of the Cossacks, and humorous numbers from the Urals and Siberia.

As the curtain closes on the final act and the audience rises to its feet to acknowledge the folkloric troupe with a well-earned standing-O, I quickly check my wallet to make sure I’ve got enough rubles. This month’s rent is due and I really don’t want to hassle with the barynya.

For complete information on Insight’s three itineraries to Russia, as well as more than 100 other premium and luxury-escorted routes around Europe, just click HERE, or call toll-free (888) 680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

It’ll be another relaxed start tomorrow as we head inside one of the oldest, largest and most impressive museums on the planet: The Hermitage. See you in the queue.

©The Palladian Traveler

Borsalino w/ props SMALL | ©Tom Palladio Images

Note: The Palladian Traveler’s participation in this journey was supported by Insight Vacations, which did not review or approve this article before publication.

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Written by The Palladian Traveler

Tom traded his hometown St. Louis Cardinals' baseball cap in the United States for a Borsalino and he now hangs his "capello" in the Puglia region of southeastern Italy. A veteran print and broadcast journalist, with well-worn passports that have got him into and out of 49 countries and counting, Tom fell in love with the "Bel Paese" years ago. As he notes, "I'm inspired by the beauty I find in all things that are very, very old, and reliving history, or at least meandering along cobblestone streets that were laid down over a thousand years ago and just looking up and marveling at what occupies the space still today, really gets my 'Vespa' running." Tom has a good eye behind the lens and is a graphic storyteller, but he'll let you decide as he keeps his camera batteries fully charged and the posts flowing from his creative hideaway in the hills overlooking Ostuni. You can also follow his dispatches along the cobblestone via TravelingBoy.com.

5 comments

  1. A wonderful blog Tom. So well written and photographed I could almost be back in St. Petersburg watching the incredibly colourful dancers and listening to that superlative male singer who made my hair virtually stand on end. 🙂

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