The oldest bell tower on Saint Petersburg

The fountains just outside the train station

Day 4: Tuesday

Sometimes you have to go off the beaten track to find small treasures you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

Shlisselburg Fortress was one of these small gems we discovered. It is a town in Leningrad Oblast, situated at the head of the Neva River on Lake Ladoga, 35 kilometers east of St. Petersburg.

Shlisselburg Fortress on a small island in the distance

We took the suburban train out to Petrokrepost station. When we got off the train it looked like a little deserted town and we really thought that we might have gotten off at the wrong place. We walked around anyway just too have a look, we found the ocean and walked out along the dock. We could see the castle across the river on a small island but no way of actually getting there. Standing on the dock trying to work out where to from there we saw a small speed boat approaching. It seemed that they were ferrying people over to the castle. There was a guy and his eagle with us in the boat and a bunch of local Russians, no other tourists.

The first fortification was built in 1299. It guarded the northern approaches to Novgorod and access to the Baltic Sea. The Shlisselburg fortress is situated on Orekhovets Island, its name refers to nuts in Swedish, Finnish and Russian. During the times of Imperial Russia, the fortress was used as a notorious political prison. Ivan VI of Russia was murdered in the fortress in 1764, and Lenin’s brother, Aleksandr Ulyanov, was hanged there too.

The fortress is a little more than ruins today. Out of ten towers, only six remain standing.The remains of a church inside the fortress were transformed into a memorial to the fortress’s defenders.

We had a wonderful day walking around and exploring the ruins.

Surrounded by wild flowers with the Fortress in the background

We had lunch back in the town sitting on the dock before taking the last train back to St Petersburg.

That evening we went to IDIOT for dinner!! On my winters visit to Saint Petersburg we had dinner here for my birthday and I just had to go back.

The Dostoevsky-inspired Idiot restaurant is a cult favourite amongst St. Petersburg’s artsy and ex-pat community. Its four rooms are decorated with antique furniture, oil paintings and bric-a-brac. There are also chess and backgammon sets available and a small English-language bookshelf. The excellent Russian and vegetarian cuisine create a suitably Bohemian vibe. As soon as we sat down we each got free vodka shots which helped warm us up. Their cocktails are great and the food is fabulous!! Love coming here.

Walking back to the hostel it was 11pm and still light outside