Saturday, July 5, 2014

Let There Be Starbucks...Don't Let There Be War

The ship had a lecturer talking about Russian culture, history, anything Russian. She was an amazing speaker and Jim attended all of her lectures. I went to her last one after his continual raving about her. He was right...she was captivating. This one statement she made will stick in my mind whenever I think of Russia. She was asked how the Russians feel about the invasion of western culture, with all the fast food outlets. Her reply was "Let there be Starbucks. Let there be McDonald's. Don't let there be war." I just about cried. The Russian people have been amazing...kind, helpful, and passionate about their country. They made our cruise the most amazing experience.

It was our last day before heading home and we still hadn't seen the Church on the Spilled Blood up close. Also, we had been told a canal cruise is a must-do, so off we went.

Hey, I took the same photo last night. I obviously love this view.

This pedestrian area had been filled with people the previous evening. This morning it was quiet and clean. You don't see graffiti and you don't see garbage. Come to think of it, I didn't see people picking up litter either. Maybe Russians just don't litter...a novel idea.

And here is the amazing, most beautiful cathedral I have ever seen. This is the Church of our Savior on the Spilled Blood, built on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated in 1881. After assuming power in 1855 after Russia’s disastrous defeat in the Crimean war against Britain, France and Turkey, Alexander II initiated a number of reforms. In 1861 he freed the Russian serfs (peasants, who were almost enslaved to their owners) and undertook a rigorous program of reforms, never before attempted in Russia. However, during the second half of his reign Alexander II grew wary of the dangers of his system of reforms, having only barely survived a series of attempts on his life, including an explosion in the Winter Palace and the derailment of a train. He was killed by a group of revolutionaries, who threw a bomb at the royal carriage.

Jim and Kim in front of the cathedral...

The site of the murder is marked by a special chapel in the western part of the church beneath the bell. In an area slightly below floor level, part of the carriageway and railing that were stained with blood can be seen.

The church took 24 years to complete. The cupolas are covered with bright enamel and the roofs with coloured tiles.

The church was closed for services in the 1930s, when the Bolsheviks went on an offensive against religion and destroyed churches all over the country. It remained closed and under restoration for over 30 years and was finally re-opened in 1997 in all its dazzling former glory.

I tried to get a picture from every angle. It is just stunning...

Inside the church there is not a single painting...all the works of art are mosaics.









It is truly a church like no other...

Christ the Pantocrator...a mosaic in the central dome.

Under this dome is the spot where Alexander II was killed...

I'm not sure why we were not able to walk on the floor in this area...

Jim couldn't resist a coin...

The church was saved from destruction when a shell fell on a cupola but did not explode. It remained there and sappers risked their lives in 1961 to diffuse the missile.



And, of course, an opportunity to buy some trinkets...

The summer gardens were one of the favourite parks of the 19th century aristocracy.

It was time to go find our canal cruise...looking down an alley, you would spy yet another church.

Gostiny Dvor, the huge department store...

Neat statues...I think they might have been on the book store.

The route the canal tour would be taking...

Sailing past some apartment buildings...

There are 500 bridges in St. Petersburg. For a scheduled period of time after midnight each day, the draw bridges are all opened to allow larger ships to move about. This can be a major inconvenience if you are stuck on one side and wish to get to the other.

The Panteleimonovsky Bridge...a wooden bridge originally stood here, replaced in 1824 with a chain bridge, and then replaced with this bridge in 1914 with its ornate gilt-covered railings.

This was originally a salt warehouse. The middle section was replaced with a more impressive building and it is now part of the Academy of Arts.

Needing a few repairs...

More elegant apartment buildings...

This ship is a restaurant...

My last picture of the Peter and Paul Fortress...

This is the Palace Bridge. I didn't get a picture of the Trinity Bridge which is similar and had an interesting and incredible story. The local legend is that famed Soviet pilot Valery Chkalov once arranged to have a date with his girlfriend on Trinity Bridge. To win her heart, he flew under the bridge without touching the water. The episode became yet another legend about him, and there is a scene depicting it in the movie the Soviet Union made about him after his death during a test flight. Another pilot recreated Chkalov’s famous stunt six times for the 1940 movie.

The beautiful Kunstkammer, the first museum in Russia and one of the oldest in the world.

The Senate and Synod...

Our last view of the incredible Winter Palace...

The New Hermitage, one of the five buildings of the Winter Palace...

Peter's Summer Palace...Peter commissioned the city’s first and foremost architect to build a small palace in the park. The palace had no heating and was intended only for summer use. A small two-storey yellow building was built between 1710 and 1714, with 7 rooms on each floor. After the Second World War, the palace was carefully restored, the older interiors were recreated and a collection of early 18th century artifacts, many originally owned by Peter the Great, was put on display.

On a lovely summer day, the canals were busy with many tourists enjoying the sights...

The Circus on Fontanka...open air acrobatic performances have been famous in Russia since Peter’s time. The history of the Circus began in the year 1877 when a modern building with a huge dome was erected at the embankment of the river.

And this last photo pretty much summed up our stay in St. Petersburg. Well-dressed ladies, joie de vivre, White Nights...what an experience.

Sadly, it's time to go home. We have loved every minute of our time in Russia. It will be an early wake-up call for us tomorrow as we have a 6:30 a.m. flight.


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