Trip Start Mar 01, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Russian Federation  , North-West Russia,
Wednesday, July 25, 2012

St. Petersburg is actually a bunch of little islands. Today I walked across the bridge to the Petrograd side of the Neva River to see the Peter and Paul Fortress and Cathedral. Peter the Great and nearly all of the royal family after him are buried here.
In 1997 Nicholas II (Romanov) and his family are interred in the Cathedral. President Boris Yeltsin attended, but the Russian Orthodox Church was not present; they believe that the remains are not authentic, contrary to DNA testing, which match the DNA to Britain's Prince Philip, a cousin.
Nicholas assumed the throne in 1895. He never wanted to rule. In 1905 his military massacred 100's as the marched into St. Petersburg's Palace Square, in what became known as Bloody Sunday. He also accepted political advice from his wife, who was greatly influenced by Rasputin. He was a pilgrim who gained the trust of the royal family, especually after he predicted the survival of the sickly heir, Alexei, from a particularly dangerouss bout of hemophilia. Rasputin was eventually murdered- poisoned with cyanide, beaten, shot and dumped in the Neva. He was still alive when he entered the water and only ultimately died of drowning.
Nicholas ruled during WWI, but Russia was ill equipped to fight. After much prodding, Nicholas abdicated in 1917.
After Lenin's victory in the Bolshevik Revolution, he had Nicholas and his family murdered while they were in exile in Yekaterinburg.
The bell tower is the highest point in St. Petersburg. The carillon was a gift from Belgium and contains 51 bells.
"May the chiming of these bells enchant the inhabitants and visitors if St. Petersburg for many years as a token of friendship and harmony between all nations."
I was enchanted! You could even hear them from the beach, where I soaked up some sun with the locals and peeked at the annual sand castle contest on display.
I took my first SPb metro ride- so much easier than Moscow! The English names make all the difference. Went to a funky modern art gallery in an old bread factory and had dinner on the terrace.
My roommate, Gundrun, and I decide to check out the seasonal raising of the drawbridges. The one closest to us is scheduled to rise at 1:35am. Since this only happens during the summer, I asked how the boats get through during the rest of the year. Obvious to most, I guess...the river's frozen!
In the meantime, I check out the nearby international bear exhibit: My Aunt Lilly would love this! The bears benefit UNICEF and are displayed hand in hand to symbolize a peaceful world. I took photos of my favorites.
I've never seen so many people out at 2 in the morning! They're releasing these beautiful, paper lanterns into the sky- like little, hot air balloons. There's a definite skill involved. Many have very short flights and end up fizzling out in the river.
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