Peter and Paul Fortress, Church on Spilled Blood and Catherine's Palace
Saint Petersburg Travel Blog› entry 14 of 17 › view all entries
July 27th, 2006 – by: portia
In the morning we went to visit Peter and Paul Fortress. It was the original center of the city, across the Neva river from the Winter Palace (now the Hermitage Museum). Built on a small island, it has the Peter and Paul Cathedral, with its golden tower which had been the tallest structure in St Petersburg until the 20th century, the burial place of the tsars and their families since Peter the Great.
We visited the cathedral of Peter and Paul, where we saw the marble or other stone sarcaphagouses which were place on the floor, enclosed in iron fences. The marble columns of this cathedral was painted, not real marble, supposedly to save money, but they looked real enough.
Outside the cathedral is a small boat house, now a souvenir shop.
We drove around the fortress and back onto a bridge to cross the Neva again to the south. We could see a small sandy beach on the island outside the Fortress, there weren't many swimmers today. But in winter, the members of the Walrus swimming club break the ice in the Neva and go for an icy swim!
Next up was the Cathedral on Spilled Blood (the Resurrection Church of Our Savior), so named because it was built in 1883 on the spot where tsar Alexander II was assassinated. The church was even more beautifull than St Basil's in Moscow. Its exterior and interior were covered in breath-taking mosaics made from 20 types of minerals, including jasper, and lots of gold leafs too.
After lunch on our own, we gathered in the afternoon for a tour to the town of Pushkin (used to be called Tsar's Village, Tsarskoe Selo). Its main attraction was Catherine's Palace. This was actually the summer palace built by Tsarina Elizabeth (Peter the Great's daughter), named to honor her mother Catherine I. Later Catherine II (the Great) also added to the palace. The palace, being outside of St Petersburg, was actually destroyed by the Nazis during WWII. Most of its treasures were stored safely elsewhere, but the buildings were in ruins. Looking at photos of the palace after WWII, it was hard to imagine that it could be restored.
Tsarina Elizabeth was called Elizabeth the Spender! Her taste can be seen as elaborate gold everywhere. The outside of the palace where now were painted in gold paint, used to be gold-leafed! Catherine the Great was not so wasteful, and did not use gold as much. The Great Hall inside Catherine's Palace was big and filled with light because of its windows on both sides, floors were parquet wood. Other rooms had red or green silk on the walls. The picture gallery had floor to ceiling paintings, a strange way to display paintings.
A lot to see in a day. We had dinner at the hotel restaurant, enjoyed our meal with the restaurant's live violinst and guitarist.
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