On the Gulf of Finland in northern Russia is Saint Petersburg, the former capital and cultural centre of the Russian Empire founded by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703. Originally named after St. Peter, Saint Petersburg had also two other names in the past: Petrograd (literally the “city of Peter”) and Leningrad (named after the death of Lenin).
We experience the best of St. Petersburg, a city dedicated to art and culture, on a guided two-day land and canal cruise tour taking in many of the famous historical sites including the city’s birthplace at Peter and Paul Fortress, the Church of the Resurrection on the Spilled Blood, the Winter Palace and the Hermitage, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, and the Nevskiy Prospekt.
St. Petersburg is dominated by the baroque Winter Palace built as the winter residence of Tsarina Elizabeth and for use by the imperial family during the winter. Its main highlights are the Small Throne Room, the Malachite Room and the Jordan Staircase. In 1764 the Hermitage was added by Tsarina Catherine the Great to house her vast art collection and since 1852 the Hermitage has been declared as a public museum. Today the Hermitage collection consists of about three million exhibits second in size to the Louvre’s of Paris making it one of the world’s largest.
SS Peter and Paul Fortress, originally built in wood and then replaced in stone, is considered as the nucleus of St. Petersburg. We are told that during the construction of this fortification situated at the Neva River delta hundreds of forced labourers died on the job. The fortress was later used to guard and torture political prisoners.
The city is also famous for its beautiful churches notably Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral, St. Isaac’s Cathedral and the Church on the Spilled Blood (Church of Resurrection).
We admired most the “Church on the Spilled Blood”, both a historical monument and an outstanding work of art. The church was built on the spot where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881 by a revolutionary group. Inside the church is a special chapel that marks the site of the murder. You won’t see any single painting in the church interior. Instead the walls are entirely covered with colourful mosaics. On the exterior the multi-coloured domes are largely decorated with mosaic coat of arms that represent the towns, regions and provinces of the Russian Empire. The copulas are covered with bright enamels and hipped roofs with coloured tiles. It’s an amazing sight especially from a distance!
St. Isaac’s Cathedral with its dome covered with 100 kg. of gold is the fourth largest doomed cathedral on the globe after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Originally intended to be the greatest church in the Russian realm it’s now officially a museum filled with 19th century art.
The commercial and financial centre of St. Petersburg is the Nevskiy Prospekt , the main street of the metropolis as straight as an arrow. It is also considered as the most famous street in all of Russia.
There’s still so much to tell about St. Petersburg. Stay tuned!!!!
Trivia: Saint Petersburg has one of the deepest metros in the world – on average the stations are situated 60-70 meters beneath the ground.