It’s a common conversation and question on the Trans-Siberian – people heading West (to Moscow from China, Mongolia or Vladivostok) ask people heading East what they thought of Moscow or Saint Petersburg.
Story has it that everyone likes one and not the other and, in my experience, St Petersburg wins almost 99% of the time. I met only two people on my trip that liked Moscow. Others met none.
In reality, these two cities are so different it seems crazy to compare them at all.
Moscow is edgy, crowded, and gives the impression that it is far too busy for tourists. I loved that and did not want to leave. I am nowhere near finished with Moscow.
Arriving in St Petersburg, on the other hand, felt to me like opening one of those flowery jewellery boxes you get as a little girl with a ballerina waiting inside who spins on her toes to music in front of a little mirror.
“Peter” (as the locals here call it) was designed and built by the Tsars to wow and gives the sense of floating on a dreamy cloud. The opulence is in stark contrast to Moscow’s functional yet grand buildings. Peter drips with gold, Greek and Roman gods, and flights of fancy. It used to speak French, has canals reminiscent of Venice, and reaches for Europe where once it was considered the finest city.
When I first drafted this post I had newly arrived in Peter after tearing myself reluctantly from Moscow and still had lots to explore. At that time it was “1-0 to Moscow, but a tale of two cities and the jury [was] out”. I hear the inhabitants share a healthy rivalry too.
Although I tried hard not to at first, I was soon falling for Peter’s charms…