Exploring More of St. Petersburg, Russia

Exploring more of St. Petersburg, Russia

Peterhof Palace

On the last day of our stay aboard the Viking Ship Akun we continued with the exploration of St. Petersburg with its palaces, canals and beautiful Baroque architecture.

I suppose I could go out on a limb here and say that it takes a strong person with a singular vision to create great cities, art and architecture…in this case we had two, Peter the Great and Catherine the Great. Both had a eye for beauty and an idea to make Russia a modern center of art, architecture and power. St Petersburg was to be their seat of power for 300 years.

Peter set out to construct a city that rivaled the great 18th century capitals of Europe. One such challenge was his summer palace “Peterhof” now a UNESCO World Heritage site. It has been called the Russian Versailles, and Peter set out to make it as splendid as any of the Royal residences of its time. On this day, as I traveled out of town to see what was to be one the highlights of my visit to St. Petersburg, the sky was gray and overcast…typical for October in the far north. However it was still warm enough to enjoy a walk through the gardens of Peterhof.

Exploring more of St. Petersburg, Russia

The fountains of Peterhof Palace

The gardens at Peterhof Palace are a technical wonder and a visual delight. They represent the most extensive waterworks of the Baroque period. The palace when it was finished in 1725 was not on a grand scale, having only 30 rooms..it is the gardens that engage the visitor. One can imagine in 1725 when ambassadors came to pay their respects to the Tzar how they marveled at the beauty. From the terrace of the palace the gardens step down to the baltic sea and along the way fountains of every description comprise the “Grand Cascade”… allegorical figures gilded in gold leaf, spray water in every direction. The technological beauty of the fountains is that all of them operate without the use of pumps. Natural springs feed a reservoir in the upper garden and in turn the fountains are gravity fed. The water then flows from the Grand Cascade to a channel and onto the sea.

We had a half a day to enjoy the Palace and its grounds before heading back into town and of course it was not nearly enough time to explore all the the different aspects of the gardens. Spring would be a glorious time to return and explore the gardens of both Peterhof and Catherine the Great’s palace.

Exploring more of St. Petersburg, Russia

The canals of St. Petersburg

After lunch I was taking a tour of the city from the water…through canals and channels that in the 18th century were the main way goods and provisions were transported. Beautiful palaces and homes turned into museums line the waterways as well as breweries, warehouses and government buildings..

Exploring more of St. Petersburg, Russia

Peter & Paul Cathedral

Peter and Paul Fortress, built on a small island overlooking the city, houses the oldest buildings in the city. It functioned more as a prison than a line of defense.  Today it is a museum and one can visit the prison which houses a city museum and SS Peter and Paul Cathedral, the oldest church in St. Petersburg, with its odd Dutch design and elegant golden spire. The Cathedral houses the tombs of almost all of the Romanov rulers of Russia from Peter the Great onward. In the small Catherine chapel off from the main church I found the tomb of Nicholas II the last Tzar whose bones were moved here in 1998 eighty years after he and his family were murdered by the Bolsheviks. The church is very opulent and has a unique design…the Iconostasis (screen that separates the nave from the sanctuary) which in Orthodox Religion is normally a flat wall with three doors is in this church more of a tower rising over the altar.  And of course there is plenty of gold leaf covering almost everything.

Exploring more of St. Petersburg, Russia

Interior of Peter and Paul Cathedral

I visited the Russian State Museum…housed in the Mikhailovskiy Palace, which had been purchased by Nicholas II in 1895 to house his father’s art collection, and now holds over 400,000 works of art. It is an amazing collection spanning from the 11th century to the present. If one is a museum fanatic, like myself, it is well worth a visit

Exploring more of St. Petersburg, Russia

Russian State Museum in St. Petersburg

As I look back on this trip, I would tell you that even though I do not think of myself as a cruise person I really enjoyed it. The Viking staff really went out of their way to offer great hospitality and food. Now I would tell you I have mixed emotions about Russia which was never a travel priority. I was intimidated by Russian cities…intimidated by their scale and lack of warmth and connection. The scale of everything in Russia, but Moscow in particular, was very large…buildings ran for blocks and streets were often 6 lanes wide. Even Red Square was larger than I could have imagined although I had seen the news footage of  May Day parades with tanks and missiles rolling by the reviewing stands filled with dour old men in fur hats and great large coats. Moscow, from a historical perspective of the 20th century, was a place to visit once. St Petersburg, on the other hand, is a city to visit over again. The cruise gave a great overview but now I would like to come back and spend another week in the Hermitage and Royal Palaces…there was far too much to see and take in over the course of three days so St. Petersburg is going back on the Bucket List for another time.

Exploring more of St. Petersburg, Russia

Gallery in the Russian State Museum

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
This entry was posted in Where's Bosco Now? and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Exploring More of St. Petersburg, Russia

  1. Jim says:

    Wow, I very much enjoyed your cruise exploration of Russia. I too would greatly enjoy St. Petersburg. It sounds like you had a fabulous trip. I don’t keep a bucket list per se. However, if given the opportunity after more traveling to Europe, your blog presentation has put Russia on my list of possibilities. Definitely looking forward to wherever you are traveling next.

  2. Paula Wong says:

    Thank you, Larry, for the great post…..I waited a long time for this, and the wait was worth it. I am so glad you liked St. Petersburg ; it is now on my bucket list.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>