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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars

 

Russia - 2 September, 2003

 

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Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start St. Petersburg (home stay on Gorokhovaya) N5956.353' E03018.898' 7 meters .
-  Walking tour of city . . . .
Finish St. Petersburg (home stay on Gorokhovaya) N5956.353' E03018.898' 7 meters .

Total (by train):

13,036 km

Total (Mongolia):

2,880 km

Total (Kamchatka):

1,339 km

Total (other):

1,089 km

Total:

18,344 km

 

Weather: Cloudy and cold.  In the evening partly cloudy, occasional sun and cool/cold.

 

 

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Our objective today is to explore on foot as much of the city as possible.  After getting ready, we head out to a cloudy and cold day with a biting wind.  First priority is a coffee and breakfast at a nearby cafe.  Then, passing by the Winter Palace, we make our way across the Neva on the Dvortsovvy Bridge to the part of town called Vasilevskiy.  First we take a look at the Kunstkammer - a beautiful building with a white and blue restrained Baroque facade.  From there we decide to check out the Zoological Museum, housed in a former customs warehouse.  Our primary purpose of visiting the museum is to check out the extensive mammoth collection, in particular the complete carcass - hair, tusks and all - that was found in the frozen steppes of Siberia in 1902.  It is around 44,000 years old.  Well, while it is interesting to see, it is a bit of a disappointment as the display is poorly done so we cannot get a good look at it.

 

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Once back on the street, we head over to the two tall, red Rostral Columns that originally served as lighthouses, guiding ships through the port of St. Petersburg.  The columns, with the three dimensional figures jutting out of them, stand 32 meters tall.  From here, we make our way across another bridge to Petrogradskaya.  As we are walking there, we hear the boom of the noon gun being fired.  We spend little time on Petrogradskaya, as we take another bridge to reach the Peter and Paul Fortress, which dominates this small island.

 

We walk around on the outside of the fort to the Neva Gate, which was also known as the Death Gateway.  This gate leads to the Commandant's pier, from which prisoners left on their way to either execution or exile.  As we enter the fort through the gate, we take a look at the flood levels that have been recorded here.  That was one thing Peter the Great did not plan for when he built here - there have been some massive, devastating floods over the years.

 

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We wander around the interior of the fort and take a quick look inside the mint (really only a shop) and then head over to the SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral, the highlight of the fort.

 

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This magnificent church was designed by Domenico Trezzini and construction began in 1712 and was not completed until1733.  The soaring tower was built first (to test the foundations) and Peter the Great used it to observe the construction of his new capital.

 

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The church broke away from the traditional Russian church designs and was a masterpiece of Baroque design.  The interior is light and airy with glittering chandeliers and pink and green columns reaching up to the overarching vaults.  The cathedral, after the death of Peter the Great in 1725, became the final resting place of the subsequent Tsars.  The tombs are actually rather simple and elegant.

 

We exit the church through the Grand Ducal Mausoleum, added to the cathedral at the end of the 19th century, where the relatives of the tsars were buried.  We check out the usual souvenir stand at the exit to the church.  We were interested in one item and tried to bargain - but when the response was that to us, as tourists, it was inexpensive, we just moved on.  From the cathedral, we headed over to the Engineer's House where we checked out a small, but interesting, museum with exhibits on items from day-to-day life in St. Petersburg before the revolution.

 

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We leave the fort through the Peter Gate, which is under restoration, so we did not get a chance to see some of the emblems adorning the gate.  We depart the island over another bridge taking us back to Petrogradskaya.  We decide to walk up along the Neva and take a look at a number of sites. First is the Cabin of Peter the Great.  While it is closed today, it is still interesting to see the exterior of this simple pine-log cabin built for Peter the Great by his soldier carpenters in just three days.  The simple two room cabin housed Peter the Great for six years while he oversaw the construction of his new city.

 

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Next we walk the length of the embankment to the Cruiser Aurora.  This historic ship signaled the start of the communist revolution, and the storming of the Winter Palace, at 9:40 PM on 25 October, 1917 by firing a single blank round from its bow gun.  The cruiser came into active service in 1903 and later served as a training ship.  In the Second World War during the siege of Leningrad, it was sunk to protect it from German forces.  After it was raised in 1944, it was turned into a museum in 1956.

 

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We board the ship and are amazed to find out that it is free - one of the first free things we have found in Russia.  We explore the ship's deck and take some pictures at the famous bow gun.  Then after a quick look at some of the exhibits below decks, we leave the ship and walk back the way we came along the embankment on the Neva.  We cross back over to the palace embankment via the Troitskiy (or Trinity) bridge.

 

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Our next goal is the Stieglitz Museum. We walked along the edge of the Field of Mars and then turned left at the Engineer's Castle and crossed over the canal to Tsentralnyy Rayon.  It is only a short walk after crossing the canal, but finding the museum was a bit of a challenge.  It turns out that the school founded by the millionaire industrialist Aleksandr Stieglitz is still in operation.  We could not find the entrance to the museum and entered through the school entrance.  We told the security guard that we were trying to visit the museum, but he could not really tell us anything or did not understand us.  But he did not stop us from entering the school.  We wandered through the depilated corridors, getting the occasional glimpse into a student filled classroom.

 

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We passed into an area that was under renovation.  There were some very nice hallways and then we came upon a grand staircase.  We went down and checked it out.  At the bottom, we tried the door, and we were into the museum.  Found our way there by blind luck.  The museum had some very interesting pieces, but it certainly needs additional work and money to get it into good shape and to better exhibit their very interesting collection.

 

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We finish our visit to the museum by finding our way back into the school and to the Grand Exhibition Hall with its stunning curving Italian marble staircase and glass roof.  We walk all the way around the hall on the upper level and then go and check out the staircase.  It must have been awesome place to hold a ball or reception in the pre-revolutionary days.

 

After about an hour in the museum, we head back out to the streets and continue our walking tour.  We make our way back to Gostinyy Dvor and to the Mikhaylovskiy Castle and then on to Nevskiy Prospekt, having a snack at one of the bliny stands along the way.

 

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Once on Nevskiy, we go and check out the Anichkov Bridge and palace.  The bridge has for dramatic bronze statues of horse tamers with their rearing horses.  The palace was built by Tsarina Elisabeth as a gift for her lover.

 

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Heading up the street, we go and check out the Kazan Cathedral, which is once again a working church.  It is quite a stunning building with its 96 Corinthian columns forming an extended arc radiating out from the church facing Nevskiy. We enter the church, passing by the usual large group of elderly women and young children begging on the front steps.  Inside it is dark and full of shadows, but this cannot hide the majestic nature of this church.  The 80 meter high dome and the massive pink Finnish granite columns supporting the high roof are the most impressive features of the church.

 

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We then walked to St. Isaacs Cathedral via the Bank Bridge, adorned with its four gold winged cast iron griffons.

 

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We approach St. Isaacs via St. Isaacs Square and this is certainly another very impressive church.  It is one of the largest cathedrals in the world and it's gilded dome can be seen from a great distance.  It was a massive undertaking to built the church and thousands of piles had to be sunk into the marshy ground to support it's massive weight.

 

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We arrive just in time to enter the cathedral, which is now a museum, but in time to visit the dome for it's views over the city.  But seeing the interior is impressive enough.  The ceiling painting in the center dome is magnificent.

 

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The Iconostasis, with its royal doors and stained glass windows and malachite and lapis columns framing it all is awesome.  We spend quite some time wandering around the interior taking in all the sights.

 

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Back out on the streets, we check out the exterior of the church with all its decorations, columns, statues and reliefs.

 

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We then walk to and through Decembrists Square (interesting to see the square where this movement had its pivotal moment after seeing the homes of the exiled Decembrists in Siberia) to the Bronze Horseman.  This is a statue of Peter the Great, astride his horse, trampling the serpent of treason.

 

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After getting another view of the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral aglow in the late afternoon sun, we back track a bit, passing by St. Isaacs Cathedral and then on to the Mariinskiy Palace (now city hall) and finally to Sennaya Ploshchad, a huge square full of shops and restaurants.  We decide to have dinner her.  We find a diner with its food on display and a helpful staff that assists us with our ordering.

 

The rest of the evening is spent on Nevskiy Prospekt shopping and checking our emails at the internet cafe.

 

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