St. Petersburg, Russia
It's a city that I really love, probably at the top of my favourite cities list. Sadly I've only visited once and it was a short visit. I went with my mother a few years back, she wanted to use that high school Russian she had acquired many (many!!) years beforehand. Mum had wanted to visit Russia for some time and I had got to the stage where I had become interested in seeing it as well. We went for a week and only visited St. Petersburg and Moscow, Moscow was interesting but St. Petersburg was beautiful. I just loved it!
The Hermitage Museum, it's huge! And the crowds are too, prebook your tickets and select a few rooms to see, otherwise you'll end up with art fatigue and never want to see another piece of art again! The Hermitage had been the Winter Palace for the Russian royals, the summers they spent out in the nearby countryside at Tsarkoe Selo, with the coming of the colder weather they would move back into the city.
The city is built on and around the Neva River, the church steeple in the centre belongs to the cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul which is situated on the Fortress of Sts Peter and Paul, an island.
A symbol of St Petersburg and its seafaring tradition, and a very popular site for wedding photos! A few were being taken when we were there!
The Fortress of Sts Peter and Paul with the cathedral where members of the Russian royal family are buried.
Inside the cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul.
St. Catherine's chapel in the cathedral, after the fall of communism the remains of the last Tsar and his family were interred in this chapel. (Although 2 were missing, Maria and the Tsarevich Alexei. Recently their remains were identified and interred in the chapel as well.) An interesting piece of trivia, to help with the identification of the remains, Prince Philip contributed DNA as the last Tsarina was his great-aunt. (His maternal grandmother's sister) The icon at the front represents the last Tsar and his family.
The Church of the Saviour of the Spilt Blood, it was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was fatally injured, he was taken back to the Winter Palace and died there. He was riding along the canal in his carriage when the attempt was made on his life. His death led to one of the great 'what ifs' of Russian history, he was quite progressive and was about to sign a constitution for Russia. His death put a stop to all the reforms he was about to implement and his son the new Tsar was quite an autocrat in contrast to his father. Had Alexander II survived would the course of history have been different for Russia, its people and the Russian royals?
The Church of St Isaac, under communism it was converted to a museum. With the fall of communism it reverted back to being a place of worship, with a chapel being used for regular services and other parts of the church are still a museum. During World War II, museum curators stored artworks from the Catherine Palace (which was under Nazi occupation) under the church.
We did a canal tour of the city, a great many of the buildings are back to their original grandeur. The guide pointed out that Vladimir Putin was from St Petersburg and he actively encouraged its restoration and made sure funds were in place to see that it happened!
Outside of St. Petersburg is the Catherine Palace. During World War II, this palace suffered a great deal of damage from the Nazi occupation. Its famous Amber Room was stripped and the amber shipped back to Germany, never to be seen again. The room has since been restored, to reach it you walk through a series of rooms, each one more ornately decorated than the last, until you come into the Amber Room, the most ornate of all. It was all to impress visitors of the wealth and power of the Russian royals.
The hotel we stayed was not in the central old part of the city, but outside of it and this monument was nearby. It's the monument to the people of the city, then called Leningrad, that was under siege by the Nazis during World War II. The city was cut off for over 800 days and over a million people died, mainly of starvation.
The guide pointed this out to us, it's a statue of Lenin, the only one left in St. Petersburg after the fall of communism. The others were all pulled down, this one remains and from memory it's in front of a 'peoples' congress hall'.
I was there is June and so got to experience the "white nights", we arrived at 11pm to bright daylight, the sun didn't set until 3am and it began to rise again at 5am. It was amazing to have such clear daylight so late into the night, I was told though that the winters were long and dark!
I got a small taste of St. Petersburg when I was there and am planning on going back, there is so much more to see!