A “bridge” to Western Europe

Trip Start Jun 30, 2013
Trip End Sep 17, 2013

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Flag of Russia  , North-West Russia,
Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July 10-15: Saint Petersburg was founded by Peter the Great in 1703, and it was the Imperial capital of Russia for long periods of time. It was renamed Petrograd in 1914 and Leningrad in 1924 and reverted to Saint Petersburg in 1991. St. Petersburg has a long history of being the most Western city in Russia, as well as the cultural capital. Prettily situated along the Neva River, the iconic Tsars' Winter Palace, home of the Hermitage Museum, lies on one side, and Peter and Paul Fortress and Cathedral on the other.

Visiting in midsummer gives the opportunity to witness White Nights. Interesting to see a sky at midnight that looks more like dusk.

We did a river tour and also visited the Jewish Synagogue, Yusupov Palace and a vodka museum (with tastings). The splendid Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood was built on the site of the assassination in 1881 of Tsar Alexander II.

Next day were two wonderful palaces: Catherine’s Summer Palace, where the famous Amber Room is (photos not allowed), and Pavlovsk Palace (of Emperor Paul). What can one say but "Wow!" Several venues we visited didn’t allow photographing unless one bought a permit, so sometimes Erja bought one and took photos to share with the rest of us later. [I haven’t seen hers yet.]

Three of us attended an opera at the Mariinsky Theatre – a fabulous production of Puccini’s Turandot..

And the lovely grounds and fountains of Peterhof – more “wow factor” with its water show to music, treed grounds for strolling and a very interesting Tsars’ Bath House. The hydrofoil ferry back to the city was fun. BC Ferries vessels don’t have lounge chairs like these!

Our last full day in St. Petersburg was reserved for the Hermitage. They pronounce the museum’s name as though it was a French word [air-mee-tazh]. The building was the winter palace of the tsars. There are ballrooms, a Throne Room and now paintings by famous artists – much to see.

Our hotel was across from St. Isaac’s Cathedral with its big, photogenic dome. We climbed the many stone steps to its colonnade, where we viewed the city lights at night and the opening of lit-up bridges over the river.

I feel like I’ve only scraped the slimmest of surfaces of this vast, intriguing country, but for now, it’s farewell to Russia and on to Finland.

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