Two cities, one challenge – to be better as a destination than your opponent. There is over 11,000 kilometres between these two cities as the crow flies, most of that is the Atlantic Ocean, and in fairness, we have two very different cities here in many respects. St Petersburg was the Russian capital for many, many years. Until the Bolshevik Revolution. Thankfully for the visitor the Bolsheviks did not burn the whole place to the ground and you can visit the incredible Hermitage/Winter Palace today.
Quito is a younger city, founded in the 15th century, and according to parts of the interweb, it has the ‘best persevered & least altered historic centre’ of any Latin American country. It was also built on the ruins of a far older Incan city. Ooooooohhhh. I can attest indeed that the centre of town is very well preserved. It’s also a very high city at 2850 metres, whereas today’s rival St Petersburg is basically at sea level.
Before we really get into this tussle though, let’s start by checking out the two cities’ path to this meeting in the second round. Quito came here via a match with neighbouring Peru’s capital Lima in an all South American affair – City Rumble – Quito versus Lima.
Then we have St Petersburg, the old capital of Russia which did battle with the current capital, which of course is Moscow. City Rumble – St Petersburg versus Moscow.
Let’s have a closer look at the two cities. I’m going to start with Quito. It’s a very nice approach if you’re flying in – that’s what you get when you’re surrounded by mountains I guess. With it’s Spanish history, it’s a very Catholic city. I took a walking tour when I went to Quito – often a good thing to do in a new city, and I think especially so in Quito.
Safety is a concern in Quito, or so I learned when researching and hearing from those on the ground. Mostly from petty theft, be careful in taxis and all the usual jazz. I read a couple of horror stories, but I fancy they may have had a bit of mayonnaise added on top. The centre of town, the old town, is where all the action is at and where the majority of the things to see are, and this part of the Quito is patrolled and careful watched by the police these days which apparently improved the security situation in a massive way. I never felt threatened in any way at all, in fact I dropped a wad of cash on the ground – it fell out of my money belt without me realising – and someone picked it up and handed it back. If they hadn’t – it was my second day – my whole tour of South America would have been in serious jeopardy. I hastily sewed up the holes I didn’t realise existed that night and never had the same issue again. But it shows there are good people everywhere and bad people shouldn’t dictate how you feel about the place.
On a personal level it seemed a lot safer than Lima, Buenos Aires and even Rio de Janeiro. But then I didn’t have an incident in any city in South America, which I think was partly down to luck. As far as safety is concerned, I would think Quito is the less safe though of these two cities.
Quito has some beautiful churches, such as the Cathedral de San Francisco. And the Basilica de Voto Nacional, although a recent addition to the cities (1970s I think) is one you can climb which is awesome and a little nerve wracking too. And of course the old town has loads of squares and spots, and there’s heaps more.
You can take a trip to the ‘Middle of the World’ or if you prefer, the ‘Equator’, and sure, it’s cool to stand with one foot in the northern and one in the southern hemisphere. It’s a little gimmicky it must be said, but it’s a cool gimmick! And you can take trips out from Quito into the mountains and do hiking and more. There’s a gondola ride and a hill that overlooks Quito, but it’s one you really need to be careful on due to security concerns.
Let’s travel across that Atlantic Ocean, 11000 plus kilometres to St Petersburg, one of my favourite cities in the world. Yeah I know, but we gotta do this right! My first introduction to Russia in 1999 was St Petersburg, this city that to me seemed so … BIG! And different. It blew my mind. There was only a couple of hostels there at the time, and so a group of us went around and explored and went clubbing. It was awesome! Oh and it was so cheap! Less than a dollar for a shot of vodka at a CLUB! I should say not so cheap these days, but not roaringly expensive either. Quito is probably the cheaper of the two cities – just.
St Petersburg is a city of wide avenues and tall apartment buildings. Outside the train station is a large square/intersection. The trams and trolley buses ply the avenues whilst the beautiful metro, similar to that of Moscow but not as large, trundles around underground. You have wide river views, beautiful churches and places to visit.
The most striking church is the Church of the Spilled Blood, which sits off Nevsky Prospect – the main drag – in a real mix of Orthodox colours. It’s reminiscent of St Basil’s in Moscow. The Alexander Nevsky Monastery is worth a look too, the church in there is beautiful and atmospheric.
But of course, the thing to see is the Hermitage or Winter Palace. Well, to be exact the Winter Palace is known as the main building of the Hermitage Museum, one of the world’s greatest museums. You could spend days there. I love it not for the works on display, but because of the building which is just draw-droppingly brilliant.
Day trips to places like Peterhof and the Palace of Catherine the Great are on offer too. But honestly it’s a magical city and I LOVE it.
So, yes, the winner is Qu… no just kidding it’s St Petersburg. Just writing this post makes me want to return. So, I do like Quito, I don’t think there’s a city that I would say I didn’t like in the second round. But here I do have to give this one to what my heart says, and that’s St Petersburg. Thanks for reading today, what do you think?
Take care – and May the Journey Never End!