Friday, July 4, 2014

An Evening Walking Tour of St. Petersburg

Our wonderful cruise was over. We were off the ship around 9:00 a.m. and squished into a taxi heading downtown to our hotel. The driver took us on some strange route that had us looking at each other in puzzlement, but all of a sudden we popped out into familiar territory. Our rooms weren't ready, so we went out in search of coffee.

Now here's a familiar picture with different players. Two guys looking at a map...at least they aren't pointing in different directions! The coffee in this little cafe was excellent.

When we got back to the hotel, either our rooms still weren't ready or they were overbooked, because they trotted us down the street to their sister hotel, the Astoria. I think it was a nice upgrade.

It rained most of the day and when it cleared around 5:00 p.m., Mike and I went up to the Colonnade in St. Isaac’s Cathedral to walk around the observation deck. Only 262 steps up for the cost of 100 rubles.

The dome of St. Isaac’s Cathedral dominates the skyline of St. Petersburg. The gilded cupola took more than 100 kg of gold leaf to cover and it can be seen from all over the city. The church itself is an architectural marvel, built to be the main church of the Russian Empire. The cathedral took 40 years to complete (1818-1858) and was decorated in the most elaborate way possible.

The doors of the cathedral were fascinating in themselves...

Each of the doors is crowned with  bronze pediments weighing approximately 80 tons with ornately sculpted reliefs.

Look at the expressions on the faces...beautiful.

We hoofed up to the observation deck, around and around the spiral staircase. At the top, I was looking up at a narrower set of stairs, which I was glad we didn't have to climb.

Looking out at the Neva River with the Senate and Synod building on the left. This immense building was built for the two most important administrative parts of the Imperial Russian government: the Senate was the highest legislative power, and the Synod was the highest body in the Russian Orthodox Church.

One of the bell towers...

Towering above the buildings, you can see the amazing Church on the Spilled Blood...

The building with the gold spire is the Admiralty, one of the first structures to be built in St. Petersburg. It was designed to be a dockyard, where some of the first ships of Russia's fleet were built. On the right, is the Winter Palace and the Hermitage.

Even the tops of the columns had incredible details where hardly anyone would see them.

The building with the red awnings is our hotel, the Astoria...we had a perfect location for exploring St. Petersburg.

This was the last set of stairs you walked up before reaching the observation deck...

The Trinity Cathedral with gold stars on the blue domes...I don't think in all our touring that we ever went by it. Restoration started recently after years of neglect. In 2006, a fire caused the collapse of the main dome and one of the smaller ones. It was restored and reopened in 2010.

Back at the hotel...part of the elegant lobby.

Time for dinner...we walked by this pub and decided to check it out. It looked a bit sketchy at first but the food was super.

So glad they had an English menu...our waiter looked exactly like Justin Bieber. He looked a little confused when we said that. Maybe Justin Bieber doesn't translate in Russian.

The pub was called The Library and, fittingly, your bill came in a book.

That about said it all...

At 9:00 p.m., Mike decided he was going for a walking tour. I was quick to follow him, camera in hand. Lead the way, tour guide! It's a good thing he had a map because most of the signage was not going to be too helpful.

The Senate and Synod building...

Thanks heavens for an archway...I can't imagine having to walk around these buildings. They're huge!

Guess what...the Peter and Paul Fortress. This is one weird looking photo...not enhanced in any way.

Originally known as Peter's Square and then Senate Square, this is now called Decembrists Square. In December 1825, the first organized protest for freedom and human rights was held at the foot of the monument to Peter the Great, the "Bronzed Horseman." Protesters were gunned down and the five leaders were executed. The remaining protesters were permanently exiled to Siberia. In the background, you can see St. Isaac's Cathedral.

Lots of beautiful flowers and many people were enjoying the park...

Officially known as the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, this was the first museum in Russia, and is one of the oldest in the world.

A yacht with a wedding party on board...perfect night for it.

The Admiralty was one of the first structures to be built in St. Petersburg. Construction was started in 1704; it was originally built of wood and served as a shipyard to build the first Russian ships. The current Admiralty with the gilded spire was built between 1806 and 1823.

The lion on the opposite side of the street from Admiralty...another apologetic looking statue.

The Winter Palace taken from a bridge that we walked partway across...

Look at all the figures on top of the Winter Palace...

We walked around to the back of the Winter Palace. A horse and carriage ride would have been a lovely way to see St. Petersburg.

Now here is something I swore I had never seen, when in fact I had already taken a picture of it. This is the Palace Square with the Alexander Column. Named after Alexander I, the column is an amazing piece of architecture and engineering.

The body of the column is made of a single piece of red granite, which stands 83 feet high and is about 11 feet in diameter. In 1834, in a terrific feat of engineering, this enormous column weighing an incredible 600 tons was erected in under 2 hours by 3000 men without the aid of modern cranes and engineering equipment. For a while everyone was scared to go near it because they thought it might topple over.

The angel on top of the column...

If you walked right up to the column, the angel was perfectly placed so it was looking down at you...incredible.

The spectacular, crescent-shaped building, most famous for its central triumphal arch was designed by renowned St. Petersburg architect Carlo Rossi (huh!) and completed in 1827. Before the Revolution it housed not only the offices of the General Staff in the East Wing, but also the Tsarist Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Finance in the West Wing. Since 1993, it has been part of the Hermitage.

The statues on top of the arch...

The double-headed eagle, which is the symbol of Russia...

We decided to walk through the arch to see where it led...

Look at the relief work under the arch...such incredible architecture everywhere.

9:55 p.m. and still bright daylight...love those White Nights.

We must have been getting into a more touristy area with the English signs...

One of the canals...it was really reminding me of Venice. The sunlight on the buildings and reflection in the water was pretty.

Another one of the canals...

Old palaces everywhere...

Nevsky Prospekt is the city's main street which runs for 5 km. It's been the place to live for writers, musicians and artists since the beginning of St. Petersburg. It was a buzz of activity. Every restaurant with outdoor seating was full, mostly with young people.

St. Petersburg's largest and most famous bookshop, Dom Knigi, occupies one of the most beautiful buildings on Nevsky Prospekt, the Singer Company Building.

To create the illusion of greater height, the building was crowned with a metal-and-glass tower, topped by a glass globe that lit up with an advertisement for the company.

The company wanted a building similar to the skyscraper that was then being constructed for them in New York. However, St. Petersburg's strict building codes dictated that no building could be higher than 23.5 meters at the cornice. Despite these limitations, the architect managed to create an elegant building that featured a number of technological innovations. It was the first building in St. Petersburg to use a metal frame, which made possible the huge windows on the ground floor. Another first for St. Petersburg was the glass-roofed atrium, and the building was equipped with the latest lifts, heating and air-conditioning, and an automatic system for clearing snow from the roof.

So much detail...

The Kazan Cathedral, which I also thought I hadn’t seen before. It was constructed between 1801 and 1811 and has an impressive stone colonnade, encircling a small garden and central fountain. The cathedral was inspired by the Basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome and was intended to be the country’s main Orthodox Church. After the war of 1812, during which Napoleon was defeated, the church became a monument to Russian victory. Captured enemy banners were put in the cathedral and the famous Russian Field Marshal, Mikhail Kutuzov, who won the most important campaign of 1812, was buried inside the church.

The cathedral was named in honour of the holy Kazan icon of the Mother of God that is kept there, and is one of the most precious relics of the Russian Orthodox Church. Many people were enjoying the benches and fountains...

As we were walking along, I glanced down the street and saw the Church on the Spilled Blood, which is breathtaking. We were going to walk there tomorrow...look at all the wires!

Each of the canals was picture worthy...

A great night for a tour...

Whoa...a car covered in grass? It turns out it was an advertisement for a health food place.

The Griboyedov Canal is a narrow and twisting canal flowing through the centre of St. Petersburg. Although the canal is less than 6 km in length, it is crossed by more than 21 bridges, many of them pedestrian.

At either end of the Lion Bridge, built in 1825, sit two pairs of enormous lions, 7 ft high. In their mouths, they hold the wrought iron rings and thick steel cables that support the suspension bridge.

Church on the Spilled Blood in the background...the sky was so pretty.

All these buildings are connected, hence the arches to get through them.

Another bridge...it was almost 11 p.m. and we were nearly back at the hotel.

I thought the guy with the Russia jacket looked neat. Also a couple smooching...surprisingly, we saw a lot of that.

It was World Cup fever...most of the pubs were packed when games were being played.

I loved the beautiful pastel colours of these buildings. Notice the wires coming right across the canal from one building. We had seen plenty of wires going from building to building, but this took the cake.

This is the Mariinsky Palace located across the square from St. Isaac's Cathedral...we were now back at the hotel having done a 6-7 km loop. The Mariinsky Palace today is the seat of the local City Council. It was originally built as the Imperial residence of the Grand Duchess Maria, daughter of Emperor Nicholas I. Built between 1839 and 1844, the palace was filled with magnificent interiors and even boasted an enormous greenhouse, where it was said that pineapples grew quite well. Palaces everywhere...seriously, no wonder the tsars were finally overthrown.

St. Petersburg is such an amazing city...one more day of touring and then it's time to head home.

1 comment:

  1. Hi J & K
    Gotta say your blogs are awesome and should be required reading for people contemplating a trip such as the one you took. Nice to reminisce about our visit to St. Petersburg and see some familiar places.

    ReplyDelete