St. Petersburg, Russia.........Russian Wonderland

Saint Petersburg Travel Blog

 › entry 7 of 7 › view all entries
On Dvortsovvy Most,we were crossing from the Winter Palalce to Strelka

Our final stop on the Baltic region trip was St Petersburg, Russia.  The process to get our visas for the trip was challenging and expensive.  Rob was not that excited about the prospect, but he was willing to give it a try.  Once we had everything in order the stress of going was reduced.  During the trip leading up to going to Russia the escalating situation with Georgia made us a little uneasy.  We made a call to the State Department and were assured everything would be fine.

Corner detail of St. Nicholas Cathedral- Tops of white Corinthian pilasters with glimpse of a cupola
  Now that the journey is over, we found it to be a really amazing and enlightening experience.  We learned so much and our ideas and perceptions have changed from what we experienced.  It is a large country with many different aspects to it, however the one city we saw and people we spent time with have changed our ideas about the country and it's people.  We have been able to separate the
USSR from Russia and her people, the government from the country and her inhabitants.

 

August 15, 2008

We started out bright and early on the morning of Rob’s birthday.

Soviet figures on community center This building was repurposed during Soviet times to provide a place to teach Soviet principles.
  The train was actually very nice and comfortable.  While we were traveling the Finnish passport control officers came through the train and processed us.  When we reached Russia, the train stopped and the Russian passport control came through and collected all passports.  It was a little uncomfortable to be sitting there with no passport waiting for about an hour.  Everything was fine and we were on our way. 

 

We arrived at the station and the car we arranged was waiting.  We checked into the hotel and had some time to walk around some before our guide was meeting us.  We were immediately blown away by the beauty and grandeur of the city.  We made a quick stop at the ATM to get cash.  We were surprised to find you can get US Dollars and Rubles, but no Euros.

Ok.......Let's take a vote on where to go......
  We stopped at an open air market across from the Church on Spilled Blood.  The number of lacquered boxes and nesting dolls was incredible.  Once again we found beauty in something that can seem very tacky out of context.

 

Because Russia is such a foreign place, even to Europeans, we hired a guide.  We used Peter's Walking Tours.  The first day we actually got Peter himself.  This day he was taking us on "The Slums of St Petersburg" tour.  We wanted to see something different and off the beaten path.  To get to the area we took a very old mini-bus in need of repair normally only used by locals.

 

St Petersburg is currently doing a large renovation on all building facades.

Close up of Church on Spilled Blood 144 mosaic coats of arms on bell tower represent regions, towns, and provinces
  Peter took us into the courtyards of some of the apartment buildings.  Even though the exteriors are very grand and beautiful the interior courtyards are very plan and utilitarian.  They also need a huge amount of work.  Since the revolution property has been a very hot commodity.  Two years ago the government changed the method of buildings being managed.  It use to be done by a government agency from one large central fund.  Now the buildings can chose to hire a private company to handle the administration. 

 

In some areas there are nice parks between buildings.  These were not originally planned; they are the result of destroyed or damaged buildings that were torn down. They city chose not to rebuild.  One thing the Soviets did was tear down churches.  They were very threatened by the church or anything else that gave people something other than the government to believe in, including Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.  During the Lenin era very large and ornate buildings we built.  Multiple families would share the apartments, having a communal kitchen and bathroom.  Each person had an allotted amount of space, so if a family had more than that allotted then the government would assign someone else to live with them.  Single people were assigned to corners of rooms.

corner/arch detail
  To gain some privacy they would put up curtains and dividers.  These efforts really took a toll on the Art Nouveau interiors.  During the Stalin era the Soviet Union had little money to build.  They changed from the grand Lenin design to prefabricated high-rises.  Families were given 35- 40 sq meters.  While they were small and you could hear through the walls, people were thrilled to have their own space.  The buildings were meant to be temporary, but they are still being used.

 

We had arranged for Peter to accompany us to dinner to ensure we found a good place and could interpret the menu correctly.  We continued to have a great conversation about the changes since the revolution.  Peter is part of the transitional generation.  He remebers being a Young Pioneer (Soviet version of Boy and Girl Scouts) and was a young adult during the revolution.  He said that the older people have had a harder time adjusting because the government had always taken the lead.  Older people are also have to rely on their children for support now rather than the government supporting them in retirement.

Soviet bridge detail Detail of the Dvortsovvy Most
  Because the younger people have always had the freedoms they take them somewhat for granted. 

 

During the 90's there was a very lucrative business in converting government property.  Peter said that during that time the young Russian men wanted to be gangsters.  They played out the role well and created quite a problem.  The young women wanted to be high class hookers, because who wants to be a low class hooker.  Times have changed and the mafia problems have been cleaned-up.  Now people are very interested in going to law school.  The Prime Minister and President both have law degrees so youth see it as road to success.

 

After a very nice dinner and much more time than Peter had planned we called it a night.

 

August 16, 2008

 

 

Our second day was set to be the tourist sites with Natalia from Peter's Walking Tours.

Dome close up in St. Issac's Cathedral
  Peter the Great founded St Petersburg to be his capital city.  He was very impressed with Amsterdam so he modeled the city after it. 

We started by walking to Strelka.  On the way we passed through the Palace Square next to The Hermitage (Winter Place).  Before the Revolution, Palace Square was the setting for colorful military parades.  In January 1905 it was the site of the "Bloody Sunday" massacre when troops fired on thousands of unarmed demonstrators.  In the center of the square stands The Alexander Column dedicated to Tsar Alexander I.  On the southern side is the General Staff Building designed by Carlo Rossi.  Over the arch in the center is a sculpture of Victory in her chariot.

From there we went to Strelka located on the eastern end of Vasilevskiy Island.

Details on building facade showing Soviet symbols representing many different groups
  The Zoological Museum is there which houses the best preserved mammoth ever found.  Because the capital has moved to Moscow, many of the former government buildings are now used for other purposes.  From the site of the light houses we got some excellent views of the Peter and Paul Fortress. 

We crossed the bridge to visit the fortress.  The founding of the Peter and Paul Fortress on May 27, 1703 is considered the founding of the city.  The Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul is the resting place of Tsars and their families since Peter the Great.  The only ones who are not buried there are Peter II and Ivan IV.  The cathedral proved to be too small so an annex was added to hold the relatives of the Tsars.  Also in the fortress is The Mint, which was founded in 1724 and still produces ceremonial coins, medals, and badges.

Rostral COlumn Detail Protruding ships' prow in celebration of naval victories.
  While we were there a group of soldiers were doing parade movements for some sort of ceremony.  Maybe we are getting old, but we were shocked by how young they were.  Military service is still compulsory in Russia for men.  The fortress was very impressive.  We exited through St Peter's Gate and then the Iron Gate.  Across from the fortress was Trinity Square.  It orginially had a church there, but it was torn down and a monument to is now stands there. 

We crossed the river again and went through the Field of Mars.  Originally it was used for military maneuvers, but has been transformed into a garden.  In the center stands the granite Monument to Revolutionary Fighters.

Statue of Stalin - One of the few that has survived
  In the center of that the Eternal Flame commemorates victims of the Revolution of 1917 and the Civil War.  From the park you can see the Marble Palace that Catherine the Great had built for her lover who helped her assassinate her husband, the deposed Tsar Peter III.  Unfortunately he died before he could move into the palace.

We moved on to the Church on Spilled Blood.  It was built on the place were Tsar Alexander II was assassinated.  It is an incredibly colorful and impressive building.  The details and variety of materials are mind blowing.  Once you go inside you the true majesty of the building is revealed in the mosaics.  They cover every inch of the walls and ceilings.  This is one of those buildings you can sit in and stare for hours to take in the details.

At this point we were very hungry so we headed to lunch.  This required we take a regular bus.  To ensure people pay they have a person who comes around and sells tickets.

This sign warns that it is not safe here during attacks.
  We had lunch at a touristy restaurant called The Idiot.  The food was very good and the atmosphere great.  As a started to the meal they brought us a complementary shot of Vodka.

After lunch we moved on to St Issac's Cathedral.  It weights 300,000 tones and has 48 massive columns.  They had to build special structures to erect the columns.  We know we keep saying it, but the details, beauty, and craftsmanship were unbelieveable.  Originally there were oil painting in the Cathedral, but due to humidity issues they were replaced with mosaics.  Since the invention of HVAC the oil paintings have been returned.  They have left some of the mosaics on display.

From St Issac's we raced through the rain to The Hermitage.  The original museum was built on to the Winter Palace by Catherine the Great.  Over time the museum has grown and taken in the Palace itself.  Many staterooms are on display.  After Tsar Nicholas III was deposed the Palace was opened to the people to allow them to see the grandeur their Tsar lived in while they lived so poorly.

Rostral Column Orginally designed as lighthouses by Thomas de Thomon sits before the Navel Museum
  We were able to do a quick 1.5 hour tour with the remaining time that day.  We saw some incredible works by Rembrandt, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, and many other masters.  The beauty of the Palace itself was also amazing.  It would be impossible to create rooms like those today.  In the end we purchased a book about the museum that weights over 3 kilos.

We still needed to do the souvenir shopping so we headed to the open air market again.  We were able to get everything we wanted and made some bargains by negotiating.  At this point we were pretty tired.  We headed back to the hotel.  We filled out post cards.  The stamps we had purchased did not have glue on the backs so we had to borrow them some from the front desk.  Hopefully they will get to everyone.

That night we ate at a restaurant close to the hotel.  It was a Georgian place with a lovely Georgian woman running it.  We had a delicious meal and some very good conversation.  She had a different perspective on the events in SOuth Ossetia than the Russian people we spoke with.  The one common thing, was they did not see a reason for the situation.

Former palace across park

All in all it was an outstanding day.  We saw and learned so much.  We went to bed tired and in awe.

August 17, 2008

 

Our second day was set to be the tourist sites with Natalia from Peter's Walking Tours.  Peter the Great founded St Petersburg to be his capital city.

Walking through the slums
  He was very impressed with Amsterdam so he modeled the city after it. 

We started by walking to Strelka.  On the way we passed through the Palace Square next to The Hermitage (Winter Place).  Before the Revolution, Palace Square was the setting for colorful military parades.  In January 1905 it was the site of the "Bloody Sunday" massacre when troops fired on thousands of unarmed demonstrators.  In the center of the square stands The Alexander Column dedicated to Tsar Alexander I.  On the southern side is the General Staff Building designed by Carlo Rossi.  Over the arch in the center is a sculpture of Victory in her chariot.

From there we went to Strelka located on the eastern end of Vasilevskiy Island.

Soviet community center Building is on the Neva River
  The Zoological Museum is there which houses the best preserved mammoth ever found.  Because the capital has moved to Moscow, many of the former government buildings are now used for other purposes.  From the site of the light houses we got some excellent views of the Peter and Paul Fortress. 

We crossed the bridge to visit the fortress.  The founding of the Peter and Paul Fortress on May 27, 1703 is considered the founding of the city.  The Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul is the resting place of Tsars and their families since Peter the Great.  The only ones who are not buried there are Peter II and Ivan IV.  The cathedral proved to be too small so an annex was added to hold the relatives of the Tsars.  Also in the fortress is The Mint, which was founded in 1724 and still produces ceremonial coins, medals, and badges.

More beautiful details of St.Nicholas Cathedral
  While we were there a group of soldiers were doing parade movements for some sort of ceremony.  Maybe we are getting old, but we were shocked by how young they were.  Military service is still compulsory in Russia for men.  The fortress was very impressive.  We exited through St Peter's Gate and then the Iron Gate.  Across from the fortress was Trinity Square.  It orginially had a church there, but it was torn down and a monument to is now stands there. 

We crossed the river again and went through the Field of Mars.  Originally it was used for military maneuvers, but has been transformed into a garden.  In the center stands the granite Monument to Revolutionary Fighters.

Corner of the winter palace
  In the center of that the Eternal Flame commemorates victims of the Revolution of 1917 and the Civil War.  From the park you can see the Marble Palace that Catherine the Great had built for her lover who helped her assassinate her husband, the deposed Tsar Peter III.  Unfortunately he died before he could move into the palace.

We moved on to the Church on Spilled Blood.  It was built on the place were Tsar Alexander II was assassinated.  It is an incredibly colorful and impressive building.  The details and variety of materials are mind blowing.  Once you go inside you the true majesty of the building is revealed in the mosaics.  They cover every inch of the walls and ceilings.  This is one of those buildings you can sit in and stare for hours to take in the details.

At this point we were very hungry so we headed to lunch.  This required we take a regular bus.  To ensure people pay they have a person who comes around and sells tickets.

rthodox Church at Lermontovskiy & Rimskovo-Korakova
  We had lunch at a touristy restaurant called The Idiot.  The food was very good and the atmosphere great.  As a started to the meal they brought us a complementary shot of Vodka.

After lunch we moved on to St Issac's Cathedral.  It weights 300,000 tones and has 48 massive columns.  They had to build special structures to erect the columns.  We know we keep saying it, but the details, beauty, and craftsmanship were unbelieveable.  Originally there were oil painting in the Cathedral, but due to humidity issues they were replaced with mosaics.  Since the invention of HVAC the oil paintings have been returned.  They have left some of the mosaics on display.

From St Issac's we raced through the rain to The Hermitage.  The original museum was built on to the Winter Palace by Catherine the Great.  Over time the museum has grown and taken in the Palace itself.  Many staterooms are on display.  After Tsar Nicholas III was deposed the Palace was opened to the people to allow them to see the grandeur their Tsar lived in while they lived so poorly.

rthodox Church at Lermontovskiy & Rimskovo-Korakova
  We were able to do a quick 1.5 hour tour with the remaining time that day.  We saw some incredible works by Rembrandt, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, and many other masters.  The beauty of the Palace itself was also amazing.  It would be impossible to create rooms like those today.  In the end we purchased a book about the museum that weights over 3 kilos.

We still needed to do the souvenir shopping so we headed to the open air market again.  We were able to get everything we wanted and made some bargains by negotiating.  At this point we were pretty tired.  We headed back to the hotel.  We filled out post cards.  The stamps we had purchased did not have glue on the backs so we had to borrow them some from the front desk.  Hopefully they will get to everyone.

That night we ate at a restaurant close to the hotel.  It was a Georgian place with a lovely Georgian woman running it.  We had a delicious meal and some very good conversation.  She had a different perspective on the events in SOuth Ossetia than the Russian people we spoke with.  The one common thing, was they did not see a reason for the situation.

Vyborg, Russia

All in all it was an outstanding day.  We saw and learned so much.  We went to bed tired and in awe.

August 17, 2008

 

 

Our last morning, we were scheduled for a bike tour with Peter.

Foxes in neo-baroque detail
  Unfortunately, Brian was not feeling well and wanted to stay in bed.  Rob headed out on the bike tour.  There was so much fog that morning you could barely see.  It obstructed the views across the rivers, but also gave an interesting feel to the city.  The first stop was The Bronze Horseman in Decembrists Square.  It is a statue of Peter the Great.  Peter the Great's son tried to overthrown him.  He was arrested and convicted of treason.  Before he could be executed he died from torture.  It is said Peter the Great himself carried out some of the torture.  On the statue the horse trampling the snake represents his victory over treason.

From there we moved on to Lieutenant Shmidt Bridge.  This bridge had to be widen to accommodate the expanding city, so it was completely dismantled and rebuilt wider with all of the original pieces.

The Admiralty The gilded spire of the Admiralty (and particularly its weather-vane korablik - "the little ship") The Admiralty tower, topped with its golden spire, is the focal point of three of the city’s main streets.
  They even used the support columns.  Crossing the bridge our destination was the Academy of Art to see the 14th Century Sphinxes.  They were found in ruins of Thebes in ancient Egypt and installed on the river steps in 1832.  Along the way Rob managed to have a small bike wreck, ripping his jeans and scrapping up a knee.  Not to be stopped the tour continued with a quick stop to a drugstore.

We rode through the area where the Nobel's lived in St Petersburg.  They made their money in Russian oil.  There is an interesting sculpture to the invention of dynamite.

St. Nicholas' Cathedral-details over front entrance
  From there we went to the Cruiser Aurora.  The ship has a very interesting history that has been documented in children's books and songs.  It was so important that at the beginning of the Siege of Leningrad that it was sunk in the Sea of Finland to protect it.  When the treat was over it was recovered and restored.

By this time it was getting late so Rob headed back to the hotel and Brian.  They finished the packing and headed to the airport.  This was a trip that we will never forget.  We will go back to see more of Russia someday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On Dvortsovvy Most,we were crossin…
On Dvortsovvy Most,we were crossi…
Corner detail of St. Nicholas Cath…
Corner detail of St. Nicholas Cat…
Soviet figures on community center…
Soviet figures on community cente…
Ok.......Lets take a vote on wher…
Ok.......Let's take a vote on whe…
Close up of Church on Spilled Bloo…
Close up of Church on Spilled Blo…
corner/arch detail
corner/arch detail
Soviet bridge detail
Detail of th…
Soviet bridge detail Detail of t…
Dome close up in St. Issacs Cathe…
Dome close up in St. Issac's Cath…
Details on building facade showing…
Details on building facade showin…
Rostral COlumn Detail
Protruding …
Rostral COlumn Detail Protruding…
Statue of Stalin - One of the few …
Statue of Stalin - One of the few…
This sign warns that it is not saf…
This sign warns that it is not sa…
Rostral Column
Orginally designed…
Rostral Column Orginally designe…
Former palace across park
Former palace across park
Walking through the slums
Walking through the slums
Soviet community center
Building …
Soviet community center Building…
More beautiful details of St.Nicho…
More beautiful details of St.Nich…
Corner of the winter palace
Corner of the winter palace
rthodox Church at Lermontovskiy & …
rthodox Church at Lermontovskiy &…
rthodox Church at Lermontovskiy & …
rthodox Church at Lermontovskiy &…
Vyborg, Russia
Vyborg, Russia
Foxes in neo-baroque detail
Foxes in neo-baroque detail
The Admiralty
The gilded spire of…
The Admiralty The gilded spire o…
St. Nicholas Cathedral-details ov…
St. Nicholas' Cathedral-details o…
The Bronze Horseman
Statue of Pet…
The Bronze Horseman Statue of Pe…
The river at Vyborg
The river at Vyborg
Vyborg, Russia
Vyborg, Russia
Walking throu the slums of St. Pet…
Walking throu the slums of St. Pe…
A quaint balcony with flowers
A quaint balcony with flowers
Walking through the slums
Walking through the slums
Rob arriving in St. Petersburg, Ru…
Rob arriving in St. Petersburg, R…
The Belfrey of St. Nicholas Cathe…
The Belfrey of St. Nicholas' Cath…
Victory in her chariot in Palace S…
Victory in her chariot in Palace …
Trinity Square with Islamic mosque…
Trinity Square with Islamic mosqu…
Brian arriving in St. Petersburg.
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Brian arriving in St. Petersburg.…
St. Nicholas Cathedral
St. Nicholas Cathedral
St. Nicholas Cathedral
Known as t…
St. Nicholas Cathedral Known as …
Grand beo-baroque building
Grand beo-baroque building
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Domes of St. Nicholas Cathedral
Trinity church
Trinity church
View of Strelka across River Neva
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View of Strelka across River Neva…
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View of Church on Spilled Blood …
Close up of previous pic
Close up of previous pic
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Fence detail - Church on Spilled …
Church on Spilled Blood
Built on …
Church on Spilled Blood Built on…
Jewellers enamel was used to cove…
Jewellers' enamel was used to cov…
Brian and Rob at Church on Spilled…
Brian and Rob at Church on Spille…
Canopy in Church on Spilled Blood
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Canopy in Church on Spilled Blood…
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Mosaic work in Church on Spilled …
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Mosaic work in dome
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ceiling detail
Arch in the Church on Spilled Blood
Arch in the Church on Spilled Blood
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column detail - Church on Spilled…
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Icon close up
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Ceiling close up
St. Issacs Cathedral
One of worl…
St. Issac's Cathedral One of wor…
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Square in front of St. Issac's Ca…
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Doors of St. Issac's Cathedral O…
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Door panel close up
door panel close up
door panel close up
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Door casing close up
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Detail work on front of St. Issac…
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Ceiling on front walkway on St. I…
Interior of St Issacs Cathedral
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Walls adorned with 14 colured mar…
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Interior of Central Copula. The …
Chapel honors Alexander Nevsky who…
Chapel honors Alexander Nevsky wh…
Three rows of icons surround the r…
Three rows of icons surround the …
Interior shot at St. Issacs Cathe…
Interior shot at St. Issac's Cath…
The Alexander Column in Palace Squ…
The Alexander Column in Palace Sq…
Lieutenant Schmidt Bridge
Rebuilt…
Lieutenant Schmidt Bridge Rebuil…
Winged Lion
This is on the steps …
Winged Lion This is on the steps…
Church on Vasilevskiy Island
An a…
Church on Vasilevskiy Island An …
Colorful Church
Colorful Church
Antique refrigerator
This box was…
Antique refrigerator This box wa…
Rostral Column
Orginally designed…
Rostral Column Orginally designe…
Rostral Column
During 19th centur…
Rostral Column During 19th centu…
Spire of Peter and Paul Cathedral
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Spire of Peter and Paul Cathedral…
The Hermitage - Winter Palace
The Hermitage - Winter Palace
View along the Neva River
The Adm…
View along the Neva River The Ad…
The Admiralty, built in 1806, was …
The Admiralty, built in 1806, was…
View of Strelka
Eastern end of Va…
View of Strelka Eastern end of V…
St. Peter and Paul Cathedral
Cath…
St. Peter and Paul Cathedral Cat…
Detail of Peter and Paul Cathedral
Detail of Peter and Paul Cathedral
Peter and Paul Cathedral
Marbled …
Peter and Paul Cathedral Marbled…
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Datails of Peter and Paul Cathedr…
Datails of Peter and Paul Cathedra…
Datails of Peter and Paul Cathedr…
Datails of Peter and Paul Cathedra…
Datails of Peter and Paul Cathedr…
Datails of Peter and Paul Cathedral
Datails of Peter and Paul Cathedral
Datails of Peter and Paul Cathedra…
Datails of Peter and Paul Cathedr…
Datails of Peter and Paul Cathedra…
Datails of Peter and Paul Cathedr…
St. Petersburg Mint - still a work…
St. Petersburg Mint - still a wor…
Saint Petersburg Hotels & Accommodations review
Not grand but not bad
The location is fantastic. You are only a short walk to St. Issacs, Church on Spilled Blood, Souvenir Market so, you are in the middle of everything. … read entire review