2012 Trip #5 - Saint Petersburg, Russia

06:55 Alyson Tart 0 Comments

I do not know when it came to my head that I wanted to go to Russia. Besides the fact that I want to go everywhere, when it comes to planning trips, there is usually something that drives me to visit a place. It may be just one specific site, an excitement about the country or a story from friends about their fantastic trip.

All I know is that when Paul's brother and wife visited this month and told us they wanted to take a little side trip while over here, I was all of a sudden stuck on Russia.

A month later and a bit of hassle with our visa, we were there! It ended up being perfect timing for the trip. It was the opening weekend of the Festival of the White Nights in St. Petersburg. This festival is for the summer solstice where the sun is out for most of the day. It was also the Anniversary (or Birthday which sounds more fun) of Saint Petersburg being founded as a city. What a lucky coincidence, because it meant the city was even more full of life than usual and we got to see it at its best.

We were pleasantly surprised by the city - the canals remind you of Amsterdam, the buildings of old Europe, the people were as friendly as they come. Even with only two full days in the city, the sunlight allowed us plenty of time to soak up the sun and sights.

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood - my favorite architecture of St. Petersburg

And the church again (I told you it was my favorite)

Inside the church is all mosaic - there are more than 6,000 sq. m of mosaics

Outside the Hermitage - I think the horse drawn carriage makes it feel circa 1800's

Inside the Hermitage

Nevsky Square at night

With the city birthday celebration, there were balloons everywhere. 
Balloons with balloons inside the balloons.

View of the Neva and bridges at night

View of the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood at night

Hermitage at night

Quick History
- The City was founded in 1703 by Peter the Great after he defeated the Swedes. He built the city on what is now Peter and Paul's Fortress.
- Originally swampland, Peter had the land drained, filled in and built up the sea walls and canals that now are an important part of the cityscape.
- St Petersburg (or Piter as its called by the locals) has also been named Petrograd and Leningrad throughout its history.
- Three emperors (Peter III, Paul and Alexander II) were assassinated, Alexander II's assissination was memorialized by the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood.
- See the Romanov family tree and a history of tsars here

What to see
- Neva River and its bridges: best time to see? At night. You can join the crowds of locals who hang out among the river at night and watch the bridges open up to allow ships through. Best to make sure you are on the correct side of the river so you don't get stuck!
- Hermitage Museum: one of the largest museums in the world. We saw everything from Egyptian artifacts to tapestries to famous French paintings. Try to join the tour if you can figure out the tour times in advance; this way you can be sure to hit the main attractions.
- Church of our Savior on the Spilled Blood: as ominous as the name sounds, this church is amazing and everything you think of when you think of a Russian Church. The church was built on the spot where Alexander II was killed and is filled with amazing mosaics.
- Nevsky Prospekt: this is the busy street in Saint Petersburg. Take an afternoon to shop or stroll down it in the evening to see the buildings lit up at night. Don't be surprised by the groups around you who are enjoying a beer during their stroll.

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