I am back on Finnish soil after spending friday in St Petersburg. I took the overnight ferry from Helsinki to St Petersburg, arriving 09.30 local time (3 hours ahead of the uk). Two nights on the ferry and one day in the city. On the ferry I had a two bed ensuite cabin and made use of one of the many restaurants for dinner, finishing with a cocktail in the bar at the back of the ship watching the sunset as the ferry headed for Russia.
My simple but comfortable room. It was lovely and quiet apart from the air con the blew rather loudly all night, fortunately I had ear plugs.
I enjoyed the warmth of the evening sun out on deck as we left for Russia and ended the evening in the bar.
Sea sunset and cocktail from the back of the boat. Happy girl 🙂 !
To get the most out of my time there (and avoid walking around on my own) I booked onto two tours, one around the city being shown the sights, and another in the afternoon around the Hermitage museum, a former Tsar palace.
Here are some general shots of the city…
Now I will take you on a small tour of the city with some pictures and the facts I can remember…
- St Petersburg is made up of about 6 islands and the main land of Russia, giving it about 60 canals and sometimes the feeling one is in Venice.
- All of the old apartment blocks are communal. From the tour guides description it sounded like each family had a few rooms along a corridor and they all shared a kitchen and toilet. She said that bathrooms were public use or family’s went to family/friends to have a shower! Quite different to what we’re used to. The government is gradually renovating these into modern more private self-contained apartments as well as building new ones.
- Below, a Russian Orthodox Church which wasn’t demolished during the revolution but many of its religious and expensive artifacts were looted. It is a rare church because it’s bell tower is separate from the Church, built opposite.
- The city has many Palaces which housed members of the royal family and friends, members of government and military personnel.
Former palaces and Government buildings. Top right picture- building with gold dome in middle. Middle right- yellow building on the right is the current military headquarters. Bottom right- the palace is the building at the end of the canal in the middle with domes.
- Alexander the Great decided to paint bright colours on the buildings because he didn’t like them all looking grey and black. He wanted St Petersburg to look different from Moscow, allowing many European architects to design buildings, and introducing new colours.
- Below is the Palace where Rasputin was murdered, poisoned with cyanide and then shot after a few hours when that hadn’t seemed to work as he was still alive!
- St Isaac’s Cathedral. Largest Russian Orthodox Cathedral in St Petersburg. Designed by French architect Auguste de Montferrand and took 40 years to build, being completed in 1858. In 1931 the government divided State and Church and the Cathedral was turned into a Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism. In 1937 it was then turned into a museum of the Cathedral. The left side of the Cathedral is still used for services since the fall of communism, and the main body is used for services but only on feast days.
Two domes in the roof of the Cathedral. The right one is the central dome 101.5 meters high. A dove can be seen right in the middle, signifying the Holy Spirit, and the darker mural around it contains paintings of Jesus, his disciples and angels. As an Orthodox church, it is very ornate and Biblical paintings and sculptures everywhere!
- Sphinx were bought from Egypt to decorate Embankment (named so after the many English who lived along the river)
- This old boat (actually only 10 years old!) was built as a restaurant and gym.
- Hermitage Museum-Former Palace of the Tsar. Some rooms kept the decor of the palace as it used to be, whilst other rooms were used for exhibitions of sculptures, furniture, ornaments, original artwork including those from Rembrandt and Picasso and Monet, and many rooms of European artwork. It was all very interesting, but a shame they didn’t take us to the Museum of Russian art culture seeing as we’d come to see Russia. Oh well, another time…
The soldier is the Duke of Wellington. The table above is made from Mosaic. The Peacock next to it is a clock. On each hour the peacock spreads its wings and turns. Other palace rooms.
- Peter and Paul Fortress established by Peter the Great in 1703 to protect the city from Swedish attack. In 1720 it became a prison for high-ranking or political prisoners. It became a museum in the 1900s and is the burial place of most of the Russian Tsar’s and their families. The Spire is Italian designed.
- Free Russian Vodka! Why not…
- The Church of Spilt Blood (or The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood or Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ) was built where the Tsar Alexander II was assassinated. Sadly is was cloudy when I saw it so the colours are not at bright as images you can see on google!
A Russian bride and groom. The second couple we saw on our tour. I don’t know if the got married in the church, but it’s a nice thought :). There was one Oriental guy who went right up to them and kept saying “Hello, hello!” until they looked at his camera to take a picture! It was a bit embarrassing, but he seemed quite happy. The poor couple seemed to be engulfed by tourists overcome with excitement to see the couple. I wasn’t going to take a picture and went to the church but when I turned round and they were just standing whilst everyone else took photos, I thought “why not”, so took a quick snap!
- There isn’t enough parking in some places so the Russians double park, even if it affects the traffic and other vehicles can pass! Russian driving is quite awful. There are no yellow boxes at junctions to stop traffic jams, so the Russians just drive anywhere and use their horns a lot!
- Military building and courtyard for ceremonies and concerts opposite the Hermitage Museum.
In one tourist shop I found a variety of genuine knives on sale, along with replicas of grenades and bullets!
To end, some panoramic views of St Petersburg from the top the St Isaac’s Cathedral
Goodbye St Petersburg.
I hope you all enjoyed the little tour around the city :).
Setting sail for Helsinki…