THe Russian Escapade
On the afternoon of Thursday 28th August we crossed over into Russia and traversed the Karelian Plains into St Petersburg for two nights. We travelled through forested country with few towns along the way.
We had to leave one of our fellow travellers behind in Helsinki as she did not have the right visa for Russia. Her travel agent did know know what they were doing and had given her a letter of introduction. Our Tour Director tried to get the correct visa when we were in Stockholm and Helsinki but to no avail.
We used a visa specialist to get ours back home. It was the most complex documentation and cost us about $550 to get the right stamp in our passports.
Winston Churchill once referred to Russia as a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
Saint Petersburg is the second largest city in Russia, politically incorporated as a federal subject (a federal city). It is located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea. In 1914 the name of the city was changed from Saint Petersburg to Petrograd and then to Leningrad in 1924 and in 1991, back to Saint Petersburg.
Saint Petersburg was founded by Tsar Peter the Great on May 27 1703. Between 1713–1728 and 1732–1918, Saint Petersburg was the imperial capital of Russia. In 1918, the central government bodies moved from Saint Petersburg (then named Petrograd) to Moscow. It is Russia's 2nd largest city after Moscow with 5 million inhabitants (2012) and the fourth most populated federal subject. Saint Petersburg is a major European cultural center, and also an important Russian port on the Baltic Sea.
On our arrival we visited the Fortress of St Peter and St Paul. The Church here has the remains of the Romanov Tsars.
The statue below is of the founder of St Petersberg, Peter the Great. The city was founded on 27th May 1703.
Saint Petersburg is often described as the most Western city of Russia, as well as its cultural capital. The Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments constitute a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Saint Petersburg is also home to The Hermitage, one of the largest art museums in the world. A large number of foreign consulates, international corporations, banks, and other businesses.
Three very well known landmarks are St Isaac's Cathedral seen below, The Church of the Spilt Blood (Renaissance Church) and The Palace Square which is four times larger than Red Square in Moscow.
St Isaac's Cathedral is the fourth highest in the world with a dome height of 101.5 metres.
The Church of the Spilt Blood was built on th site of the assassination of a very popular Tsar Alexander II.
Palace Square is surrounded on three sides by The Winter Palace, The Hermitage and the Admiralty.
With a population of 5 million, St Petersburg is the most northern city in the world with a population over 1 million.
Last night, Thursday 28th August, we went to the ballet. Swan Lake was on at Mikharl Square Theatre. This theatre is second only to the Bolshoi Ballet.
We drove back to our hotel via the Nevsky Prospect, the Main Street of St Petersberg.
The palace above belonged to the Stroganoffs famous for a dish they invented -Beef Stroganoff.
This is the Winter Palace taken from the canal boat.
The Winter Palace is now part of the Hermitage Museum that covers four buildings. This is a magnificent staircase into the Tsar's Palace.
A view of the hanging garden from the Winter Palace.
Here are a few more scenes from the Hermitage. Catherine the Great was a very determined collector of art from around the world. The Art Collection from the Hermitage is considered to be in the top three in the world.
We visited the Yusupov Palace famous for being the place where Grigori Rasputin was murdered in September 1916.
The Yusopov Palace. Nicholas Yusupov was related to the Romanovs.
Bedroom of the Princess.
The downstairs office of Nicholas where the four collaborators waited for the poison to take effect on Rasputin who was in the downstairs dining room.
Rasputin in the small dining room. As the poison didn't work, he was shot by Nicholas. While waiting for him to die he recovered and tried to strangle Nicholas. He was seen leaving through the courtyard and was again shot a number of times. His body was thrown in the River Neva. Later tests on Rasputin's corpse showed he actually drowned as there was water in his lungs.
Tonight, Friday, we went to The Officers Club to see a Folk Lore Concert. This was put on by former members of The Red Army and was excellent. We had champagne and vodka in the intermission. Here are a few photos from the night.
Today is Saturday morning, 30 August so we have a late start with some major sightseeing at The Fountain Park and the Pushkin Museum on our way
across the vast Russian steppes to the ancient city of Novgorod where you view the Kremlin Fort, Millennium Monument and St Sophia Cathedral.