Sunday, July 24, 2011

St. Petersburg - 2 days of pictures, palaces and performances

St Petersburg is a relatively new city in Russia being founded by Peter the Great in 1703. It contains many statues and monuments to Peter (the bronze horseman), Catherine the Great,  Pushkin the writer and many others. Its main cathedral is Saint Isaac's, which is an ornately decorated museum today. There is no high rise in St Petersburg as no building can be higher than St. Isaac's.

The dome of St Isaac's

Many of the buildings are designed by an Italian architect Rastrelli, so there is a fairly uniform appearance. There was obviously significant wealth in pre-revolution St Petersburg, as many of the surviving buildings were originally owned by the nobility.

Classical streetscape designed by Rastrelli

The pink mansion was owned by the Stroganoff family
The Hermitage is a collection of galleries - once a series of royal palaces and decorated accordingly - which contains a massive collection of works by major artists. It is also a prime place for pickpockets, and one of our group had an unsuccessful attempt on a wallet in his pocket. The thief  disappeared fairly quickly when he was discovered by the others in our group.

Part of the Hermitage Palace and Museum

One of many decorative ceilings in the Hermitage

One of several works by Monet
On our 2nd day we had 12 hours of touring. We started with a tour of the magnificent  Catherine Palace. Some of the palace has been restored after it was used, abused and then booby trapped and burnt by the Nazis in WWII. Its most amazing feature was the Amber Room whose panels were stolen and have been recreated at a cost of $10 million. No photos are allowed in that room, and once again we had to wear the protective booties to reduce damage to the floors.

The central part (about a quarter) of the main facade of the Catherine Palace

The gold encrustd throne room. Notice the blue booties

A small dining room with specially commissioned dinner service

A specially commissioned secretaire with coded opening sequence
After the tour we had an adventure ordering lunch in a restaurant with Russian speaking staff, followed by a canal tour of the city and its waterways: St Petersburg is built on a number of islands.

The Peter and Paul fortress where the Romanov Tsars are buried, including those assassinated in 1917

The evening was spent at a cultural performance of traditional a capella singing and dancing. It was an excellent performance, with some of the dancing too fast to capture adequately.

One of the very expressive and talented male dancers

The female dance group in national costume
This was our last full day in  Russia. Next Tallin, the capital of Estonia. 

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