mobile version

 

 
Home > Blogs > Russia > 223
PreviousNext

 

 

Exploring St Petersburg

Exploring St Petersburg
 
   
   
   
   
 
 

THE MORNING dawned fine so I left the hotel early on a walk around the old area of St Petersburg. Within a few minutes I had reached one of the city’s numerous canals. The stone buildings were steeped in history, having stood for hundreds of years. Once the capital of Russia, this city has stood largely unspoilt by the glass and concrete structures of modern architecture.

A canal in St Petersburg

A canal in St Petersburg

After passing numerous stone buildings along the canal, I reached a large white cathedral, one of many churches in the city. The Trinity Cathedral was one of the last examples of the Imperial Russian style. It has been neglected over the years, but was reconstructed following the end of communism. A major fire during construction in 2006 resulted in the collapse of the dome, but the restoration was finished in 2010. It was built between 1828 and 1835 to commemorate the victory in the 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish war, with the highest of its five distinctive domes standing an impressive 80 metres above the ground.

Trinity Cathedral

Trinity Cathedral

A strong Arctic wind was blowing now and the sky was quickly covering with cloud from a cold front coming through. At 60 degrees north, I was only 730 kilometres short of the Arctic Circle. It was so far north that the sky remains light all day and night in summer, and the sun skims only a few degrees over the horizon in mid-winter.

Stone buildings over the canal

Stone buildings over the canal

Following the canal, I soon reached the towering stone Kazan Cathedral, a Russian Orthodox church built between 1801 and 1811. An artist was rugged up outside beside the canal doing an oil painting.

Artist

Artist

Inside the grounds in front of the building a wedding was taking place. A small fountain stood at the focus of the concave arc created by the cathedral’s sweeping wings. It was a spectacular stone building with a large copper dome in the middle between the two wings.

Kazan Cathedral

Kazan Cathedral

The cathedral was built to model St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It functioned as the head church of St Petersburg until it was closed in 1932 following the 1917 Russian Revolution when it became the pro-Marxist Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism. The museum was returned as a church in 1992 and handed back to the Russian Orthodox in 1996 to once more be the mother cathedral of St Petersburg.

Kazan Cathedral

Kazan Cathedral

Following the road through the old town centre, I reached an apricot coloured building with a gold-plated spire towering above it. This was the Admiralty Building, the former headquarters of the Admiralty Board and the Imperial Russian Navy. It is now the headquarters of the Russian Navy. A big fountain stood outside the building, where another couple getting married were getting their photos taken. The building adjacent to Senate Square, a large park where towering oak trees with foliage turning yellow with the autumn stood.

Admiralty Building

Admiralty Building

I walked along the road outside the park, passing another cathedral with its spire wrapped up probably under repair. This was St Isaac’s Cathedral, the largest cathedral in St Petersburg and the fourth largest in the world. Built over forty years between 1818 and 1858. There were a bunch of tour buses parked outside, filling the cathedral with tourists.

St Isaac's Cathedral

St Isaac's Cathedral

I walked through the park eventually reaching the Petro Catharina Bronze Horseman Statue. It was a spectacular statue of a Peter the Great on his horse and a large snake trailing behind. It was set on the Thunder Stone – the largest stone ever moved by humans. It was moved here from Latvia in 1768 and the statue placed on top of it.

Petro Catharina Statue

Petro Catharina Statue

Across the road from the statue was a very wide canal, the Neva River. About a block away a large old bridge spanned the canal, heading to Vasilevskiy Island dividing the river into two channels before completing the crossing to a large fortification – the Peter and Paul Fortress.

Peter and Paul Fortress

Peter and Paul Fortress

I reached the road and crossed over to the island. The wind was blowing strong now and large clouds were gathering.

Reaching the island, a large red totem with green nautical figures stood as a centrepiece beside the busy road. These are two Rostral Columns built in 1810 to mark the division between the two channels for navigation around Vasilevskiy Island. A large gas flame still lights on top of it on public holidays. The columns have four statues at the base each representing one of Russia’s four major rivers, all of which I have crossed on my journey across the country on the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Rostral Column

Rostral Column

I continued crossing to the other side of the canal, passing a large sailing ship restaurant before reaching a small bridge across a narrow canal to the Peter and Paul Fortress.

Sailing ship restaurant

Sailing ship restaurant

Upon reaching the fortress I decided to explore the coast around it before heading in. A path extended around a large lawn with old oak trees before reaching the wall which sheltered a small sandy beach. Quite a few people were gathered on the beach, so I walked along it passing under the fortified stone walls which built in 1785.

Beach at Peter and Paul Fortress

Beach at Peter and Paul Fortress

Upon reaching the end of the beach I returned to the other side of the fortress where I found an entrance through the complex. Once a military fortification, it now stands as a collection of museums, mostly of medieval torture and other strange things. The centrepiece of the fortress was a cathedral with a disproportionately tall golden spire.

The Square

The Square

The weather closed in and biting cold rain fell for a while before clearing again. After exploring the fortress, I found an exit on the other side. From there a bridge headed back across the canal into the main city.

Peter and Paul Fortress

Peter and Paul Fortress

The wind blew very hard as I crossed the canal, but became surprisingly calm once I was back amongst buildings. I reached a large memorial park Field of Mars, containing an eternal flame war memorial built in 1957. The park was so named after Mars, the god of war. It became a war memorial with soldiers buried from the earliest days of St Petersburg.

Field of Mars

Field of Mars

The entire park was converted into a huge vegetable garden in 1942 when the entire city was besieged, but was eventually turned back into the well landscaped memorial it was supposed to be. I explored this for a while before discovering the beautiful domes and spires of the Church of our Saviour of the Blood.

Field of Mars

Field of Mars

Following a small canal between the Field of Mars and Mikhailovsky Park, I reached the church and explored its outside before heading in for a while as the next big squall hit.

Church of our Saviour of the Blood

Church of our Saviour of the Blood

Built between 1883 and 1907 on the site where Emperor Alexander II was fatally wounded in March 1881. It was built by his son Alexander III as a memorial to his father. Unlike the Baroque and Neoclassical architecture of the rest of the city, this church is built in medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism, representing the 17th century Yaroslavl churches like St Basil’s cathedral in Red Square. It has 7500 square metres of mosaics, probably the most of any church anywhere in the world.

Church of our Saviour of the Blood

Church of our Saviour of the Blood

The church was completed in 1907, but never consecrated as a public place of worship. It was badly looted and ransacked following the Russian revolution of 1917. The Soviet government closed it in 1932. During World War II it was used as a morgue for those who died directly in combat, or those who died of starvation. Following the war, it became a warehouse for vegetables, giving it the nickname “Saviour on Potatoes”.

Church of our Saviour of the Blood

Church of our Saviour of the Blood

In 1970, restoration began in the church, but wasn’t opened until it was completed 27 years later in 1997. It hasn’t been re-consecrated, so technically it isn’t a church, instead being a museum.

Church of our Saviour of the Blood

Church of our Saviour of the Blood

The storm eventually cleared, so I returned outside having explored the spectacular cathedral and continued walking around the city. I reached a large pale pink building housing the Russian Museum. Outside the museum near a bar stood the Yellow Piano, where anyone could play, but as expected the harsh weather had wreaked havoc with its sound. Apparently there were a few of these scattered around St Petersburg to encourage people to take up playing it. What a brilliant idea.

The Yellow Piano

The Yellow Piano

With the afternoon drawing to a close, I returned to one of the canals and followed it passing old elaborate stone buildings back to the hotel. Following the long walk around the city, in Russian style I settled into a nice European meat and vegetables meal with a vodka.

PreviousNext

 

About this Page

Date:

 

Location:

Country:

 

Latitude:

Longitude:

Altitude:

01 October 2016

 

St Petersburg

Russia

 

59°55'N
30°20'E
0 - 5m ASL

 

Google Maps Link

 

 

 

Jeff

Today's Tip...

 

 

 

Who is Walkabout Jeff?

Jeff

Any normal person's idea of going out involves going to the local pub for a drink with a few mates.


Walkabout Jeff isn't normal.

 

Read more...

 

 

 

Follow Walkabout Jeff

 

 
 
Home - The Photography - The Travel Diary - The Blogs - The Superblogs - The Treks
© 2001-2016 walkaboutjeff.com - Copyright - Disclaimer - Who is Walkabout Jeff?