TRAVEL PICTURES of

SARA and MACK in

RUSSIA

July 11-26, 2006

 

ST. PETERSBURG (PART 1)

St. Petersburg is Russia’s second largest city with a population of about 4.4 million. Founded by Peter the Great, it was built on marshland won from the Swedes in 1703 during the Northern War from 1700 to 1721. It became Russia’s chief port, providing direct sea access to the west and replacing the ice-locked port of Arkhangelsk (or Archangel) on the White Sea. The city was officially founded by a cannon shot from the embryonic fortress on May 16, 1703 and served as the capital of the Russian Empire from 1712 to 1918. As the new capital and the scene of feverish building for more than a century, St. Petersburg caused a drain of wealth and talent from central Russia. As a new port, it caused trade patterns to shift to the west, affecting the economy of the cities on the former Upper Volga trade routes to Arkhangelsk. St. Petersburg’s conception and architecture were Western. Its street plan was rational, geometrical, and designed by foreign architects with Western-style neoclassical buildings that broke with Russian architectural traditions. By the end of the 18th century, these influences had spread to Moscow and the provinces as “modernization” took root. Once again, St. Petersburg is one of the cosmopolitan centers of Russia.


ST. PETERSBURG BRIDGES

The Venice of the North boasts over 500 bridges ranging from the very narrow pedestrian Lions and Bank chain bridges to the unique Medieval and Modern styled Bolshoi Okhtinsky Bridge and the giant drawbridges, which span the wide Neva River.

Anichkov Bridge (pictured above) was the first bridge across the Fontanka River, and combines a simple form with some spectacular decorations. As well as its four famous horse sculptures, it has some of the most celebrated ornate iron railings in St. Petersburg.

The first bridge was built in 1715-1716 by order of Peter the Great, and named after its engineer, M. Anichkov. The bridge was made of wood with several spans built on piles of supports lying just above the Fontanka River. Nothing remains of this first bridge.

St. Petersburg was built on the delta of the River Neva and is spread out over numerous islands of varying sizes, frequently prompting the nickname the "City of 101 Islands". Over the centuries numerous bridges were built to connect these islands across the various tributaries of the Neva and the city's many canals (Moika, Fontanka, Kanal Griboyedova, etc.).

During the summer months when the river isn't frozen, the bridges across the Neva open at night to allow ships to pass up and down the river. Bridges open from May to late October according to a special schedule. Make sure you check the schedules and don't get caught on the wrong side of the river after 2 a.m., or you will be stranded on the wrong side of the river until the drawbridges are lowered between approximately 4:30 a.m. and 5 a.m.


ST. ISAAC'S CATHEDRAL (LEFT)

The dome of St. Isaac’s Cathedral dominates the skyline of St. Petersburg and its gilded cupola can be seen glistening from all over the city. You can climb up the 300 or so steps to the observation walkway at the base of the cathedral’s dome and enjoy the breathtaking views over the city.

The church itself is an architectural marvel. Built by the French-born architect Auguste Montferrand to be the main church of the Russian Empire, the cathedral was under construction for 40 years (1818-1858), and was decorated in the most elaborate way possible. When you enter the cathedral you pass through one of the porticos - note that the columns are made of single pieces of red granite and weight 80 tons (about 177,770 pounds) each. Inside the church many of the icons were created using moaic techniques and the iconostasis (the icon wall that separates the altar from the rest of the church) is decorated with 8 malachite and 2 lapis lazuli columns. The cathedral, which can accommodate 14,000 worshipers, now serves as a museum and services are held only on significant ecclesiastical holidays.

PYOTR KLODT'S STATUE OF TSAR NICHOLAS I (RIGHT)

Overlooking St. Isaac's Square.  The reliefs on the pedestal depict episodes from his reign -- the suppression of rebellions.

 


THE PETER AND PAUL FORTRESS

When Peter the Great re-claimed the lands along the Neva River in 1703, he decided to build a fort to protect the area from possible attack by the Swedish army and navy. The fortress was founded on a small island in the Neva delta on May 27, 1703 (May 16 according to the old calendar) and that day became the birthday of the city of St Petersburg. The Swedes were defeated before the fortress was even completed. For that reason, from 1721 onwards the fortress housed part of the city's garrison and rather notoriously served as a high security political jail. Among the first inmates was Peter's own rebellious son Alexei. Later, the list of famous residents included Dostoyevsky, Gorkiy, Trotsky and Lenin's older brother, Alexander.

The impressive Peter and Paul Cathedral, the burial place of all the Russian Emperors and Empresses from Peter the Great to Alexander III. The Cathedral was the first church in the city to be built of stone (between 1712-33) and its design is curiously unusual for a Russian Orthodox church.

Peter the Great's Tomb

Catherine the Great's Tomb

The chapel honors the last Czar Nicholas II and his family members.

The tomb at left contains bones of all the family members

who were murdered during the Russian Revolution in 1918.

SHEMIAKIN STATUE (Monument to Peter, the Great)

Controversial statue of Peter the Great (unveiled 1990) by the Russian-American sculptor Mikhail Shemiakin. In contrast to the heroic and dynamic Bronze Horseman image, this statue portrays a Peter sitting solidly in his place and exaggerates the features of his legendary physique, including his elongated, spidery fingers. Some see this statue as an image of the tsar out of public view. Having returned from some official function and removed his hat and wig, Peter sits down in his chair, exhausted and alone.

The actual mask of Peter, the Great after his death


CHURCH OF THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST

This church is known to Petersburgers as the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood - or even just the Church on the Blood - as it marks the spot where Alexander II was fatally wounded in an assassination attempt on March 1, 1881. Designed by Alfred Parland in the style of 16th and 17th-century Russian churches, the Church of the Resurrection provides a stark (some would say jarring) contrast to its surroundings of Baroque, Classical and Modernist architecture.

Alexander II died of wounds inflicted in an attack by the terrorist group People's Will. Immediately, his heir, Alexander II, declared his intention to erect a church on the site in his father's memory, and moreover to have this church built in "traditional Russian" style - in distinction to what he saw as the contaminating Western influence of Petersburg.

Nikolai Suslov, Deaf Russian College Professor

volunteered his service in guiding a private city tour.

Street vendors near the Cathedral


 


RUSSIAN FOLK SHOW

Refreshments were served during the intermission


CRUISER AURORA

Travel back in time by stepping on board the memorial ship Aurora, which played an important role in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. The cruiser Aurora was built between 1897 and 1900 by the "New Admiralty" in St. Petersburg and joined Russia's Baltic fleet in 1903. The ship measures 126.8 meters (418 feet 5 inches) in length, 16.8 meters (55 feet 5 inches) in width and weighs a staggering 7,600 tons. Maintaining a speed of 20 knots (23.3 miles per hour) it can travel independently for up to 1,440 sea miles.

During the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 the cruiser took part in the Battle of Tsusima. Amongst the ship's exhibits visitors can see a portrait of the ship's captain, who was killed during the battle. The crew used part of the Aurora's penetrated armor to frame Captain Yegoryev's photograph.

In 1917, as the main training ship of the Baltic fleet, the Aurora took an active part in the Revolution. On the night of October 25-26 1917, it fired a blank shot at the Winter Palace (then the residence of the Provisional Government), giving the signal to the rebellious workers, soldiers and sailors of the city to storm the palace. That moment triggered a dramatic episode in Russia's history and was the start of over 70 years of Communist leadership.

The Aurora is now maintained by cadets from the nearby Nakhimov Navy School.


THE STATE HERMITAGE MUSEUM

From the 1760s onwards the Winter Palace 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. Many visitors also know it as the main building of the Hermitage Museum. The green-and-white three-storey 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, many of which are open to the public.

The Winter Palace was built between 1754 and 1762 for Empress Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great. Unfortunately, Elizabeth died before the palace’s completion and only Catherine the Great and her successors were able to enjoy the sumptuous interiors of Elizabeth’s home. Many of the palace’s impressive interiors have been remodeled since then, particularly after 1837, when a huge fire destroyed most of the building. Today the Winter Palace, together with four more buildings arranged side by side along the river embankment, houses the extensive collections of the Hermitage. The Hermitage Museum is the largest art gallery in Russia and is among the largest and most respected art museums in the world.

The museum was founded in 1764 when Catherine the Great purchased a collection of 255 paintings from the German city of Berlin. 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 (from Ancient Egypt to the early 20th century Europe). The Hermitage’s collections include works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian, a unique collection of Rembrandts and Rubens, many French Impressionist works by Renoir, Cezanne, Manet, Monet and Pissarro, numerous canvasses by Van Gogh, Matisse, Gaugin and several sculptures by Rodin. The collection is both enormous and diverse and is an essential stop for all those interested in art and history.


BALLET AT THE HERMITAGE THEATRE

Taking pictures is prohibited during the live show.

The stage of this theatre is distinguished by a special beauty, graceful decorations, and a unique historical tie to the Imperial past of the Hermitage that hosted performances attended by Catherine the Great. Today the best artists of the St. Petersburg and the Moscow ballet perform annually from April till October. Almost every evening the curtain rises and the ballet performances begin. The performances are known for their adherence to the past glory of Russian ballet. Each traditional ballet is truly beautiful and the theater resonates with live music of the great composers performed by a fine symphonic orchestra. These presentations boast the participation of masters of the highest order and are treasures of ballet art. The music of great composers, the high level of acting and sincere welcome that greets every patron make every visit to the theater a special event. Audiences see brilliant artists and react accordingly. It is important to note that the revival of the Hermitage Theater makes it possible to step back in time to see a performance as did the previous crowned heads of state during the days of Imperial Russia. It is all the more remarkable that these ballets are again being performed along the historic Neva Embankment and it is as if the patron has stepped back into a time once thought to have been lost forever. We cordially invite anyone truly interested in world class ballet to attend a performance in our historic jewel of a theater. The repertoire of ballet performances consist of "Giselle", "Swan lake", "Sleeping Beauty", and also Gala-concerts (Evenings of stars of ballet). Gala Concerts celebrate fragments of famous ballets such as "Sleeping beauty", "Giselle", "Swan lake", "Raymonda", "Silphida", "Esmeralda", "Corsair", "of Don Kihot", "Spartaka", "Markitanka", "the Bahchisaray fountain", "Karmen", "Sheherezada", "Legend of Love", and the masterpiece of Russian ballet - "The Dying Swan" and many others.


THE ALEXANDER PALACE

Quarenghi, the famous Italian architect, designed the Alexander palace in 1792. It was a present from Catherine the Great to her favorite grandson, the future Tsar Alexander I. The palace became the preferred home of Tsar Nicolas II and his family.  It was the place where the family was arrested and sent to Siberia.  Later, they were murdered.

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