|In the evening, we head out towards the Ballet.
I bought a formal travel jacket a couple of years ago from Rohan, and I had always wanted a legitimate reason to wear it.
Unfortunately, my bag was winding its way to our hotel, so I attended the Ballet in the decadent attire of a North Face polar tech fleece.
As we arrive, I have my first (and only) drink of Vodka, a must do activity in Russia.
|Swan Lake was really rather good.
Some of the other people on the trip, said that the performers weren’t as good as they could have been, but then they had been to the ballet before, and I hadn’t.
I took a few pictures (without flash). An old hag (I would meet 4 on my trip and they all looked like sisters) punched me in the back and proceeded to lambaste me in a language I couldn’t understand.
To be honest, I was sick and tired of being endlessly polite to people who treated me at best with indifference and at worst downright insulting or threatening.
I told her to go away, and reading the expression on my face she did.
|Ultimately, this is johnsunter.com
I was enjoying the ballet, but I know that the Swan dies in the end, and was a bit culturally overloaded.
I decided to leave at the intermission and go for a pint in a nearby Irish bar.
Shane an Australian lawyer living in London decided to join me.
After a couple of pints, we headed back to the Theatre, just in time to see the closing credits.
I later learned, that the dying swan, was a part created specifically for the prima Ballerina Anna Pavlova, who later trained many of the countries best dancers.
|We went back to our hotel in the coach and a Sushi bar next to the hotel served us a couple of drinks and allowed us to round of our evening.
To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy this trip at all, and from this evening, I don’t come out with the group and join the festivities as I was pretty miserable and just didn’t want to bring the evening down.
They were all nice people though, and Id like to thank them. Without their company, I think I would have gone home.
The good news was that the bar sold the excellent Japanese Asahi beer which I had so enjoyed in Tokyo.
|The following day there is a “proper” tour of all the major sights of St Petersburg, but this is an extra £75.
I decided I would just wander around with my guidebook.
First problem was getting the underground. I don’t think anyone reading this will be surprised to hear Chester doesn’t have one and I’m not as used to this sort of thing, as people from say London.
After asking the woman at the ticket office for help and being spoken to as though she had caught me breaking into her house, I photographed the section of the map, with the place I wanted to go and just held the camera screen up to the window.
Turns out, its the same price wherever you want to go on the network, but I wasn’t to know.
|It was raining as I set out around the city.
Nevesky Prospekt is the lifeblood of the city, and the first place I wanted to see.
My first stop was the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan.
96 Corinthian columns arranged in four rows, were inspired by Bernini’s colonnade for St Peters in Rome.
Occupied (ironically) during the Soviet era as the Museum of Atheism.
|The Lutheran Church was set quite far back from the Road.
I really was glad that I had my guidebook I would have been left wandering aimlessly in the poring rain.
Converted into a swimming pool during the Soviet era, it once again functions as a church.
|Whilst preparing for the trip, one place I had read about and really wanted to see was the literary cafe.
Previously called the Wolf and Beranger, it was know for its fashionable clientele.
It was from here that Pushkin left for his his fatal duel in 1837.
The cafe was a popular haunt for St Petersburg writers and frequented by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
|The entrance to the Palace of Stroganov, who lent his name to the dish Beef Stroganov (the eating of which, is another must do activity in Russia).
Stroganov Palace was built in 1753. The Stroganov’s amassed an enormous fortune, mainly due to their monopoly of Salt.
Today it belongs to the Russian museum for temporary exhibitions.
The Stroganov’s collection of antiquities were moved to the Hermitage.
|The famous Bronze Horseman designed by Etienne Falconet shows Peter the Great with his horse trampling the serpent of treason and is said to capture the spirit of the city’s uncompromising and wilful founder.
The Statue is brought to life in Alexander Pushkin’s epic poem the Bronze Horseman, written 42 years after the statue was erected in December’ists square.
It took 12 years to complete and newlyweds are frequently photographed in front of it (as they are, just about everywhere else in St Petersburg) as it is said to bring luck.
|The Naval museum had previously been a stock exchange.|
|I wander around the Peter and Paul fortress.
Towards the front is this sand bank (apparently in summer it is filled with people sunbathing !).
It was hard to imagine on this bleak day, but It was nice to be able to walk along a wide open space with nobody else around and look out across the water.
On the left is the outer fortress wall.
|The famous Neva gate on the bank, not surprisingly, off the Neva river.
Many political activists had been imprisoned at the fortress including Leon Trotsky.
Sometimes they would be moved to the even more notorious Schlusselburg Fortress for execution, and its from this, that the gate earned the nickname death gate.
|Cathedral of St Peter and Paul.
The Tsars family are all interred here.
In the eyes of many Russians, the Romanov’s are Gods representative’s on earth. Before heading for Russia, I watched a program called Revealing the Romanov’s, that proved finally that the 2 missing children had actually died, and that their line was ended.
A few other people on the trip had watched it, but our guide had never heard of it.
The spire on the top of the Cathedral, is visible from all over St Petersburg, was the tallest structure in the City, until the 1960’s.
It was about 3pm and I had about 8 hours to kill before I met up with the rest of the group and headed for the train to Moscow.
I met up with 2 other people from the course by chance, and we wandered around some of the other sights.
|The commandants house.
Many political prisoners were incarcerated, interrogated and imprisoned here over the decades (among them Leon Trotsky in 1905 and Fyodor Dostoevsky in 1849).
It took the Royal joiners just 3 days to build and Peter lived here for the following 6 years, while he oversaw the building of the Fortress.
|At 9:40pm on 25 October 1917, the cruiser Aurora signalled the storming of the Winter Palace by firing a single blank round from its bow gun.
It was sunk during the Leningrad Siege to protect it from the Germans and then raised in 1944, 950 days later.
It has been maintained as a museum since 1956.
We weren’t able to go on ship, as a building next to it houses the Naval college and they were about to come aboard for some sort of Naval ceremony.
|We wandered through the winter garden, which for some reason I had completely missed off my walking list.
It had originally been constructed by French gardeners in a Versailles style. After a flood, Catherine had it rebuilt in an English style to reflect her more sober tastes.
|As we pass through the gates of the summer palace to leave, we get this view of The Russian museum.
Regretfully, with the cost and time constraints, I didn’t actually go into any of the museums aside from the Hermitage.
Its a shame as the museum holds one of the largest collections of Russian art in the world.
|The Cathedral on spilled blood (also known as the Resurrection Church of Our Savior) was built on the spot where, on the 1st of March 1881, Tsar Alexander II was Assassinated, and its from this that it takes its name.
It re-opened in 1998 after more than 20 years of restoration.
The market on the right, across this bridge, sells the cheapest Matroyshka Dolls in the City.
|As I wandered around to meet the rest of the group, I saw this building. I really love architecture like this, and there were dozens of buildings just like it.
Its still impossible to drink the tap water in Russia as it contains large amounts of metals.
You can see in the lower section of the picture, that the road had been dug up, to replace them.