A Visit to St. Petersburg…a magical and historical city

A Visit to St. Petersburg

The Winter Palace home to the Hermitage Museum

Early in the morning we cruised down the Neva River into the magical and historic city of St. Petersburg. Founded by Peter the Great in 1703 this city was and is the artistic and cultural center of Russia.

The city of 5 million inhabitants sits where the Neva River meets the Baltic Sea… Russia’s port onto the world. For over three hundred years this was where the Romanov Rulers held sway over their vast empire. Beautiful palaces, churches and public buildings were constructed in a uniquely Russian style…Petrine Baroque, Neoclassical and Romanticist all in vivid colors and highly decorated in the most lavish taste.

A Visit to St. Petersburg

Opulent gallery in the Hermitage Museum

I was ecstatic…A visit to the museums and palaces of St. Petersburg has been at the top of my travel bucket list for years. The Hermitage, housed in the Winter Palace, with its beautiful Baroque architecture and stunning collection is one of the Top 10 museums in the world. Like the Louvre in Paris, it is impossible to view this museum in one day. The collection is vast and the quality so superb that it one is forced to linger in each room awestruck by discovery upon discovery.  It is said, that if a person visited the Hermitage and took one minute to look at each exhibit it would take 11 years to see it all.  And I had one day…damn.

A Visit to St. Petersburg

Throne room of the Tsar’s in the Winter Palace

On the first day in St, Petersburg we started out with a visit to the Hermitage. The building is immense…1057 elegant and lavishly decorated halls and rooms fill with the treasures of an empire. Although I had seen many coffee table books filled with pictures of the interior of the Winter Palace I was gobsmacked by the grandeur, richness and vastness of the interiors…gold leaf, malachite urns, doors of rare woods and frescoed ceilings…it was almost too much of a good thing.  The staff of the cruise ship had arranged a private viewing for a small group to visit the behind the scenes section of the museum.  Housed in a separate location, the storage and restoration facilities were fascinating. Everything from Coronation Carriages to nomadic tents from the Steppes of Asia were here in storage and on display. The Romanov’s saved everything and the Bolsheviks preserved it which is a never ending gift to the visitors to St,Petersburg.

A Visit to St. Petersburg

Golden Domes on the Palace of Catherine the Great

This is a grand city built to dazzle and impress. When 17th and 18th century foreign rulers and dignitaries came to visit the rulers of Russia they were, without a doubt, impressed by Peter the Great and Catherine the Great’s city by the sea . I know that I was! As we drove around the city passing churches and palaces, each one grander than the last, I would be captivated by the play of light glinting off the golden domes of churches and thousands of windows meant to capture any ray of light during the long Russian Winters.

As befitting a city of such culture and brilliance there are over 50 theaters to showcase the music and dance so singularly rooted in the psyche of a people. Certainly the most famous of these is the Mariinsky home to the Kirov Ballet. Many of the most famous classical ballets of the 19th & 20th century were choreographed and performed here. In the city of Tchaikovsky is was only right that we should head to the theatre on our first night for an evening of fantasy and dance…Swan Lake. My taste in dance runs more to modern than the old war horses like Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty, but how could I resist the lure of seeing the most Russian of dance forms performed in the city of it’s inception.

A Visit to St. Petersburg

In the gardens of Tsarskoe Selo

Our next morning started out with a 30 km drive to visit Tsarskoe Selo…the summer palace of Catherine the Great…elegant with its blue and white painted Rococo facade and formal gardens. More than 100 Kilograms of gold leaf were used to gild the sophisticated stucco facade and statues on the roof and I am sure the 18th century ambassadors were as stupefied as I was by the opulence. Walking perfectly manicured  classical gardens was a treat and it was easy to imagine a life lived in the court of one of the greatest rulers of her day.

A Visit to St. Petersburg

Catherine the Greats gown in a room of the Palace

I will tell you that the staff of the Viking Cruises went all out to make sure we were able to visit the “must see” sites plus some unexpected treats but it is not enough. I plan on coming back to St. Petersburg for another couple of days in the Hermitage so I can feel that I did it justice.

Disclosure: I was a guest of Viking River Cruises during my Waterway of the Tsars cruise.  However, the receipt of complementary services will never influence the content or post in this blog.  I write the truth, even if it means biting the hand that feeds me.




About Larry Bosco

In 2010 I had one of those “Is this all there is” moments and so in January 2011 I retired from Real Estate Appraising, sold off all my worldly goods and headed out as a solo traveler in search of a new place to live. Since then I’ve traveled around the world, made new friends and had many great adventures and some not so great. After staying almost a year in Cuenca, Ecuador I have headed back to South East Asia where I began the journey in 2011. Currently I am living in Chiang Mai, Thailand
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6 Responses to A Visit to St. Petersburg…a magical and historical city

  1. Thank you. We are enjoying your travelogue.

  2. Lindarose says:

    Boy, that´s a beautiful place!!!!

  3. Jim says:

    I am so enjoying your travel through Russia. I have never been interested in cruises, but this one appears to be a great way to visit the country. This post is your best with beautiful photos and a very descriptive narrative. It is astounding that all of the history of Czarist Russia was not utterly destroyed by the communists. I suppose like in China, the communists use such palaces for propaganda purposes to show how the aristocracy lived at the expense of the people. I can’t wait for your next post. Continue to enjoy.

  4. Ed Tohid says:

    A nice blog Larry. Enjoyed reading it.

  5. What a treasure of a trip you had! I am really enjoying reading about your trip.

  6. Paula Wong says:

    Great blog, Larry……now I REALLY want to visit Russia. Your article was entertaining, informative and you are getting more concise.

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