St. Petersburg

We had a bus tour of St Petersburg with a local guide.  We have many photos but we don’t remember the names of all the buildings!  So much history.  We felt that nearly everything was either a palace or a museum!

We visited the Hermitage, one of the oldest and largest museums in the world.  It was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and has been open to the public since the mid-1800s.  The collection has some three million pieces, including the world’s largest collection of paintings.  It is said that if you spend one minute in front of each piece, it would take you at least eight years to see everything.  Obviously, we didn’t see everything nor did we spend one minute in front of many items!  The visit was highly regulated—as we guess it needs to be in order for more than 4,200,000 visitors to pass through every year.  We were given an exact time to enter as a group. And everywhere we went, there were staff to make sure we kept moving.  The exhibits were fabulous.

We passed the Narva Gate which commemorates the victory of Russia over Napoleon in 1812.  And another Peter the Great statue!

We visited St Isaac’s Cathedral, the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city and the fourth largest in the world.  It is dedicated to St Isaac of Dalmatia, a patron saint of Peter the Great.  It was completed in 1858.  Here again, it was very crowded, we were given a time to enter, and were rushed through!  It is listed as both a cathedral and a museum but it would be very difficult to find any quiet place to pray!  The original paintings deteriorated due to the cold, damp conditions so that many have been reproduced as mosaics.

On our second day in St Petersburg we drove an hour to visit Peterhof Palace.  This is a series of palaces and gardens designed by Peter the Great.  He visited Versailles, France, and wanted the same here.  German troops captured Peterhof in 1941 and destroyed much but most has been restored.  Here was another palace we were given an entry time and “herded” through.

Looking out over the lower gardens from the palace, one sees the Sea Channel to the Baltic Sea.  (Some guests used to arrive by boat.)  A popular part of this scene is the Grand Cascade.  This huge water installation begins spouting at 11:00 and everyone gathers to see it start.  Samson Fountain is at the center.  The sculpture is of Samson tearing opening the jaws of a lion.  This represents Russia’s victory over Sweden.  One amazing feature is the fountains operate without the use of pumps.  Water is supplied from natural springs which collect in reservoirs and the elevation above the fountain creates the pressure.

One last visit that we made on our own was to the Church of the Savior on Spilt Blood.  This is Russian Orthodox completed in 1907.  The church is built on the site where Emperor Alexander II was killed in 1881.  It is really a museum of mosaics.  The outside is very colorful and looks very different from other churches in St. Petersburg.

Our ship was docked close to the shipyards.  We left St Petersburg late hoping to miss a potential storm in the Baltic on our way to Estonia.

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