We had the second day in St. Petersburg to ourselves, so Kathie and I decided to see the Peter and Paul Fortress. We took the bus to the Hermitage and walked across two bridges over two branches of the Neva River to get to Hare's Island where the fortress was located. We probably should have taken the bridge further east across the Neva because when we reached the citadel we found the entrance was located beyond a long stretch of beachfront. As Kathie complained about the trek over sand in the windy fifty-degree weather, a group of people with a man using two canes to walk passed us by.
Inside the Peter and Paul Fortress we found a park-like setting among several buildings. They included a mint, an old printing house, a political prison, and the Peter and Paul Cathedral.
The Cathedral was named after the city's patron saints Peter and Paul, and is the location where the Russian tsars and their families were buried. Once inside, I saw that it was another stunning architectural interior. While the colors and details directed my eyes upward, my proximity to the greatest Russian leaders brought my attention back to the floor. The tsars were arranged on both sides of the cathedral and I studied the map to see if I recognized any names. Clusters of people lingered around certain coffins, but the largest crowd formed in front of Peter the Great and Catherine the Great.
Off to the corner of the cathedral, the last of the Romanovs were buried in a separate room. In 1918 Tsar Nicholas II and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks, but their bodies were only moved here in 1997. After almost a century their deaths still felt tragic, but this small area that lacked the grandeur of the rest of the building seemed to finally capture the quiet serenity that their inhabitants did not find in life.
We walked outside to hear the cannon being fired at noon but that really wasn't necessary. As we headed toward the cannon’s location people were already gathered over the fortress walls. The bells chimed at twelve o’clock and the cannon fired so loudly we jumped as the echo carried on for miles.