City of Real Beauty Is a Russian Revelation; HISTORY AND CULTURE OF ONE OF RUSSIA'S MOST BEAUTIFUL CITIES MEANS MICHAEL McINTYRE WILL SOON FIND HIMSELF BACK IN THE USSR

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WE asked Evening Telegraph readers to share their holiday stories with us and act as travel writers.

Here Michael McIntyre, 46, a history teacher of Moor Street Earlsdon, sent in his report on a visit to St Petersburg.

ST PETERSBURG has magic like nowhere else.

Elegant pastel, palatial buildings gleam by a warren of waterways. History greets you everywhere. Great cultural treasures such as the Hermitage Museum sit by the Neva River.

Great writers such as Dostoevsky and Pushkin lived here. And momentous events like the Russian Revolution were played out on the streets of this magnificent city.

The city was founded by Peter the Great as his new capital in 1703 and the Hermitage Museum was number one on my places to visit.

This city residence for the old Tsars of Russia now houses one of the world's greatest art collections.

Not only is it full of great Rembrandts, Impressionists and Picassos, each room is a masterpiece so outrageously beautiful that the paintings they house can seem like a side show. Walking to the rooms you can imagine the hordes of the Bolshevik Red Army in October 1917, many in a drunken stupor, helping themselves to priceless objects on their way to start the Revolution.

For coffee I chose the famous Idiot cafe on nab reki Moyki 82.

Although named after one of Dostoevsky's books it doesn't have a lot do with the great author, but it does have real atmosphere.

Tiny rooms, each with a different ambience, make up this cellar cafe and your coffee comes with a warming - and free - shot of vodka. Can't be bad!

Tempted to stay all afternoon, I decided to press on. But it's wise to be careful, as Dostoevsky says in Crime and Punishment "There are few more grim, harsh and strange influences on a man's soul than Petersburg."

With that warning in mind I set off toward the Yusupov Palace where Rasputin was murdered.

Inside there is an excellent tour available, taking you to the room where he had his last meal and explaining the gruesome details of his death. …