An Introduction to St. Petersburg

Saint Petersburg Travel Blog

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St. Isaac's Cathedral
St. Petersburg is a vibrant, exciting, beautiful city full of rich history. More European and "western" than any other Russian city, it was the perfect transition for me, an American student of the Russian language, about to embark on a two-month immersion program.

This city has a fascinating history. Founded by Peter the Great, it was once the capital of Russia, and is second in size only to Moscow. On the banks of the River Neva, this northern city was built by Russian serfs and Swedish prisoners of war. The Peter and Paul Fortress was the first building of the city, and eventually grew into what it is today.

One of the striking features of St. Petersburg is the Winter Palace, the palace of Catherine the Great all the way through the last Romanovs.
The Church on Spilt Blood
Today it is open to the public as a museum. I can not emphasize enough how large this place truly is. It is practically impossible to see the hundreds of rooms in one visit. When I entered the Winter Palace, my breath was taken away by the elaborate beauty of it. It is important to note that Catherine the Great in particular wanted to be seen as an enlightened ruler, and took very keenly to Western European art and culture. A lot of the style of the Winter Palace is a sort of Russian Rococo; that is to say, French Rococo taken to a new extreme of detail and flabouyance.

Another important architectural landmark of the city is the Xram Spasa Na Kravi (Church on Spilt Blood as we call it in English, or Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood). This building is interesting because it is done in a style more frequently seen in Moscow, a deliberate architectural decision of Alexander III to imitate the style of national symbols rather than the western Baroque styles of St.
Petersburg. This church is built on the spot where his father, Alexander II, was wounded by anarchist terrorists; he died hours later at the Winter Palace.

Other notable landmarks include the Kazan Cathedral, which imitates the Italian design of St. Peter's cathedral in Rome; the impressive golden St. Isaac's cathedral, the most impressive aspect of which is the fact that, due to the swampy ground of St. Petersburg, it has managed to stop sinking into the ground with its massive weight (consider that each of the 72 columns weigh close to 114 tonnes); and the absolutely astounding Peterhof, the "Russian Versailles" that served as an imperial summer residence, featuring more golden gilded rooms and sprawling gardens and fountains.

Aside from these iconic fixtures, St. Petersburg is known for its winding canals, the many bridges that cross over the Neva River (be careful not to be on the wrong side when the bridges go up for the night, you'll be stranded!), and its poetic history through Alexander Pushkin, who died in St. Petersburg.

More to follow, with less history and more travel adventure stories. ;)

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St. Isaacs Cathedral
St. Isaac's Cathedral
The Church on Spilt Blood
The Church on Spilt Blood
The Peter and Paul Fortress on the…
The Peter and Paul Fortress on th…
The entrance to the Hermitage/Wint…
The entrance to the Hermitage/Win…
The Winter Palace as seen from the…
The Winter Palace as seen from th…
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