St. Petersburg & Moscow, Russia
Aug. 29 – Sept. 4, 2012
This is the continuation of my previous travel blog which included the countries of Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia on the “The Baltic Capitals & St. Petersburg” trip with Overseas Adventure Travel from Aug. 13 – Sept. 4, 2012. We drove by coach from Tallinn to St. Petersburg, then flew from St. Petersburg to Moscow. (The map below is from the O.A.T. website.) Jim & I were in St. Petersburg and Moscow ten years ago, but are glad we repeated these two cities.
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St. Petersburg, Russia was built at the mouth of the River Neva on the Baltic Sea in the early 18th Century by the Tsar Peter the Great. He wished to create a Russian capital to rival the splendor of Paris. Before the monarchy was overthrown in the Russian Revolution, they had built opulent palaces, and beautiful architecture throughout the city. St. Petersburg was and remains one of the treasures of world art and architecture, and a city of picturesque islands, canals, and bridges.
St. Petersburg Picturesque Canals:
Peter & Paul Fortress and Peter & Paul Cathedral: In 1703 Peter the Great built this fortress to protect the area from possible attack by the Swedish Army & Navy. In the middle of the fortress stands the impressive Peter and Paul Cathedral, the burial place of all the Russian Emperors and Empresses from Peter the Great to Alexander III. On top of the cathedrals’ gilded spire stands a magnificent golden angel holding a cross. This weathervane is one of the most prominent symbols of St Petersburg, and at 404 feet tall, the cathedral is the highest building in the city.
Hermitage Museum: The main building of Hermitage Museum is located in the Winter Palace, which from 1760 onwards, was the main residence of the Russian Tsars. Magnificently located on the bank of the Neva River, this Baroque-style palace is perhaps St. Petersburg’s most impressive attraction. The green-and-white three-story palace is a marvel of Baroque architecture and boasts 1,786 doors, 1,945 windows and 1,057 elegantly and lavishly decorated halls and rooms. The Winter Palace and four more buildings arranged side by side along the river embankment, houses the extensive collections of the Hermitage. Today, the Hermitage boasts over 2.7 million exhibits and displays a diverse range of art and artifacts from all over the world and from throughout history.
The Hermitage is so massive, that it would be impossible to see it all. Our local tour guide provided by O.A.T. gave us a wonderful sectional tour of the Museum. We toured the main opulent rooms of the palace along with the art gallery of some of the most famous paintings. We entered through the Main Staircase of The Winter Palace.
The Field Marshall’s Room: This room is the first in the Great Suite of State Rooms in the Winter Palace. Placed on the walls between the pilasters are portraits of Russian field marshals.
The Peter the Great (Small Throne) Room: The room is dedicated to the memory of Peter the Great – its decoration features the Emperor’s monogram (two Latin letters P), double-headed eagles and crowns.
The Armorial Hall: The Armorial Hall of the Winter Palace was intended for grand receptions. The entrances to the hall are flanked by sculptural groups of early Russian warriors.
The War Gallery of 1812: Its walls carry 332 portraits of generals who fought in the war of 1812 and the foreign campaign of 1813-14.
St. George (Large Throne) Hall: The columned hall with two tiers of windows is finished with marble. The hall has a parquet floor made from 16 varieties of wood. The grand decorated hall was the setting for official ceremonies and receptions.
The Pavilion Hall: The interior is a combination of light-colored marble with gilded moldings and the gleam of the crystal-glass chandeliers. A mosaic is set into the floor, a copy of one found during excavations of ancient Roman thermae.
The Italian Cabinet: Its walls are adorned by frescoes from a villa on the Palatine Hill in Rome that depict the story of Venus, the goddess of love. This room is home to one of the Hermitage’s masterpieces, Michelangelo’s sculpture of a Crouching Boy.
The Small Italian Skylight Room: is one of three enormous interiors lit from above. The 16th- and 17th-century paintings to be seen here are part of the display of Italian art, one of the largest in the Hermitage. The room is also adorned by the works of 19th-century Russian stonecutters.
The Raphael Loggias: The prototype for the Loggias that was created for Catherine II in the 1780s was the celebrated gallery in the Vatican Palace in Rome that was frescoed from sketches by Raphael. The vaults of the gallery contain a cycle of paintings on subjects from the Holy Scriptures, that are collectively known as “Raphael’s Bible”.
To complete this fabulous day of touring we attended a performance of the Ballet “Swan Lake.” This is my all time, forever favorite production to watch. We had splendid seats, front & center.
St. Isaac’s Cathedral: The dome of St. Isaac’s Cathedral dominates the skyline of St. Petersburg and its gilded cupola can be seen from all over the city. The cathedral was under construction for 40 years (1818-1858), and was decorated in the most elaborate way possible. The columns of the porticos are made of single pieces of red granite and weight 80 tons each. The cathedral which can accommodate 14,000 people, now serves only as a museum. The interior of the church is one of the most beautiful Jim & I have had the privilege of seeing.
The Church of our Savior on the Spilled Blood: This Russian-style church was built on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated in 1881, with the church being built between 1883 and 1907. Both the interior and exterior of the church is decorated with incredibly detailed mosaics, designed and created by the most prominent Russian artists of the day. The church was closed for services in the 1930s, when the Bolsheviks went on an offensive against religion and destroyed churches all over the country. It remained closed and then under restoration for over 30 years and was finally re-opened in 1997.
Catherine Palace: Located near Pushkin, The Catherine Palace is named after Catherine I, the wife of Peter the Great, who ruled Russia for two years after her husband’s death. Originally it was a modest two-story building commissioned by Peter for Catherine in 1717. Their daughter, Empress Elizabeth, had the Catherine Palace changed into awesome grandeur that we see today. In 1743 the Empress instructed the architects to completely redesign the building on a scale to rival Versailles.
The interior of the Catherine Palace are as spectacular and the outside. The Palace is one of the best examples of Russian baroque. It’s also famous for housing the world famous Amber room, a complete chamber decoration of amber panels backed with gold leaf and mirrors. (No pictures allowed.) The palace was occupied by the Nazis during World War II and extensively damaged. It has been completely rebuilt.
We enjoyed the walk through the formal gardens of Catherine Palace
Moscow, Russia: Moscow is the capital city of Russia and it is home to over 11.5 million residents. About 80% of the population in ethnic Russian. The form of currency in Russia is the Ruble. Moscow holds a top spot in the world’s most expensive cities. With the Moscow Kremlin located in the heart of the city, Moscow is the seat of Russia’s government. Just as the tsars once ruled over Russia, so now does the Russian president. Visitors to Moscow today can see architecture that dates to the reign of Ivan the Terrible and gain insight into how Russia’s way of life has long differed from that of the West. The Kremlin is featured in the following picture.
We flew from St. Petersburg, Russia to Moscow. Our hotel was located less than a mile away from Red Square. We all walked down to Red Square the afternoon of our arrival in Moscow. There were huge festivities going on in celebration of Moscow’s 864th anniversary. Only special tickets holders could get into Red Square because of the evening performance which would take place there. More than 100,000 spectators attended a music, light and fireworks event that evening. We watched the festivities on TV that night.
The State Department Store called GUM, faces Red Square, so of course we needed to tour that also. The façade of the big shopping mall extends along the eastern side of Red Square. The mall was built around 1890.
Cathedral of Christ the Savior: Built in 1817, demolished during the Soviet period and reconstructed during 1990-2000.
The monument “300 Years to Russian Fleet” known as the Monument to Peter the Great was erected in 1997.
Novodevichy Cemetery: is the most famous cemetery in Moscow. It lies next to the southern wall of the 16th-century Novodevichy Convent, which is the city’s third most popular tourist site. Under Soviet rule, burial in the Novodevichy Cemetery was second in prestige only to burial in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis.
This is a view of the Novodevichy Convent from a park in Moscow. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This sculpture is given in love and friendship to the children of the Soviet Union on behalf of the children of the United States. It is based on the beloved American children’s story “Make Way for Ducklings.” Presented by Mrs. Barbara Bush, 1991.
The Moscow Metro: Was one of the USSR’s most extravagant architectural projects. Stalin ordered the metro’s artists and architects to design a structure that embodied radiance or brilliance. With their reflective marble walls, high ceilings and grandiose chandeliers, the metros in Moscow are indeed worth seeing. We rode the metro and got off at several metro stops to view the underground stations.
Moscow Circus: We had a fun evening at the circus. The Nikulin Circus is one of the oldest in Russia, and the traditional home of the world-famous Moscow State Circus. The original stone building was founded on Tsvetnoi Bulvar in 1880.
Red Square: Nestled next to the Kremlin, Moscow’s Red Square is a part of the capital’s historic center. Accessible on most days, Red Square teems with tourists and Russians alike. The name “red” square didn’t come about as a reference to communism, or large amount of red brickwork around the square, instead it was originally a reference to St Basil’s. The Russian word “krasnaya” can mean either “beautiful” or “red”. It then shifted in meaning and location to become Red Square. On one end of Red Square stands the symbolic St. Basil’s Cathedral, built by Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century, and on the other stands the white-roofed Russian History Museum. Towards the middle of Red Square is Lenin’s Tomb and directly opposite, is the long-sided facade of GUM, the State Department Store. Red Square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Red Square has been the site of public ceremonies, grand parades, and even assassinations and executions. Red Square remains, as it has been for centuries, the heart and soul of Russia. From the 16th Century Red Square has been rich in symbols of Russian’s turbulent and intriguing past. As mentioned previously, Red Square is used for public ceremonies. It was serving as the location of Moscow’s 864th anniversary while we were in Moscow. Ten years ago when Jim & I stood in Red Square we could clearly see from one end to the other, this time the clutter from the celebration was everywhere and we certainly couldn’t see from one end to the other.
On Saturday we skirted Red Square because we couldn’t get into it due to the Anniversary Celebration. However, on Sunday and were able to enter through the gates. Horses and riders were still preforming in Red Square.
St Basil’s Cathedral: Many say that St. Basil’s is the iconic building in Russia and one of the most famous pieces of architecture in the world, and we will agree. Jim & I have come to the conclusion that St. Basil’s has the most beautiful exterior of any church we have ever seen. The cathedral is old, having been built between 1555 and 1561 to commemorate Ivan the Terrible’s defeat of the Tatar city of Kazan. This style of church is uniquely Russian. There are nine separate chapels, one under each of the onion domes, but the tall central tower unifies the structure into a single whole. The Cathedral is now a museum.
The Kremlin: Is an historic fortified complex at the heart of Moscow, overlooking the Moskva River (to the South), Saint Basil’s Cathedral and Red Square (to the East) and the Alexander Garden (to the West). The Kremlin includes four palaces, four cathedrals (Assumption Cathedral, Archangel’s Cathedral and the Deposition of the Robe Cathedral) and the enclosing Kremlin Wall with Kremlin towers. The Kremlin encloses an area of over 70 acres next to Red Square. The walls are about half a mile long, up to 62 feet high and 21 feet thick, with 20 towers and gates. The complex serves as the official residence of the President of the Russian Federation. The Kremlin, as in centuries past, is the center of government in Russia.
And thus my travel post on a fantastic trip to Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Russia is completed. It’s a great life! Praise the Lord!