30 May St. Petersburg, Russia
On my way to St. Petersburg I did not know what to expect of this bustling European city otherwise referred to as the Venice of the north. However, towards the end of my visit I realized that four days were simply not enough to explore this picturesque destination.
St. Petersburg is the second largest city in Russia and is located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland. The city was founded in 1703 by Tsar Peter the Great and was once even the capital of the Russian Empire. Nevertheless it is best to illustrate the numerous sites this magnificent city has to offer.
The Hermitage museum was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world. It beholds the largest collection of paintings in the world with over 3 million pieces by artists all over Europe. One has to admire the striking and imposing Winter Palace, the former residence of the emperors which is also part of the Hermitage. A symbol of the Russian Empire and surely more than just a ‘window to Europe’ as Tsar Peter the Great would like to refer to it. Situated right by the Neva River it holds a prominent position especially when viewing it from the river. The museum embraces collections of Egyptian antiques, Spanish and Italian fine art, the Dutch Golden Age, Italian Renaissance, Russian art and many more artworks of different historical eras. To visit all 6 buildings of the museum it will take a full day, therefore it is recommended to start early morning.
Savior on the Spilled Blood Cathedral
This cathedral was built on the site where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated. Construction had begun in 1883 by Alexander III as a memorial to his father Alexander II. The architecture and design differs from St. Petersburg’s other monuments. While St. Petersburg has a predominantly baroque and neoclassical design the Savior of Spilled Blood holds its roots of medieval Russian architecture. In fact for those who visited St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow will notice the similarities. One of the interesting factors of this cathedral is that it contains over 7500 square meters of mosaics, more than any other cathedral in the world. What adds to the beauty of this church is its location along the Griboedov canal.
This historical palace, situated just outside the center of St. Petersburg was built as the summer palace for the royal family. The plans for development were initially laid out by Peter the Great and like the winter palace he brought in designers and architects from Germany, Italy and France. It was where the Russian Tsars would spend their summer period. The palace itself does look imposing when viewing it from the lower gardens, with its 30 rooms. Peterhof is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and by many referred to as the ‘Russian Versailles’. One does gaze in awe when you approach the Grand Cascades which are set in front of the Grand Palace. The colors, the design and the architecture are simply mesmerizing. One can look at the scene a number of times and each time you will notice a new detail. This is of course only the exterior of the palace, venturing inside is another experience that will make you feel as if you are time travelling back to the time of the Russian Tsars. There are of course the lower and upper gardens where one can get lost while blissfully strolling through.
The three sites I mentioned are extraordinary but there are many more sites that should not be missed. This includes St.Isaac’s Cathedral, Tsar’s Village (Catherine’s Palace), the Mariinsky Theater (new and old) and many more. When walking along the Nevsky Prospect which is the main avenue in St. Petersburg one can come across cafes and restaurants of historical importance. Where once poets and writers such as Pushkin and Esenin would have their breakfast or last dinner.
Basic Facts of Russia:
Full Name: Russian Federation
Major Language: Russian
Religions: Christianity, Islam, Buddhism
- The word vodka comes from the Russian word ‘voda’ that means water.
- There was a ‘beard tax’ in Russia during Peter the Great’s reign, paid by anyone who had a beard.
- Russia is bigger than Pluto.
- Gorbachev recorded an album of Russian Romantic ballads in 2009.
- Beer was not considered an alcoholic beverage in Russia until 2013.