Russia - cultural St. Petersburg
St Petersburg truly deserves its reputation as the Venice of Russia. We awoke to glorious weather and spent the day walking the city.
Thirty minutes walk from our hotel was BMW St Petersburg. Both the 1100 and 650 were in need of front brake pads (Autodom in Moscow had been out of stock). Natalie welcomed us and our bikes were booked in for 10:00 the following morning. 15mins later we were off again making our way through this beautiful city on our way to the Winter Palace where for one and a half centuries the Tsars had ruled Russia.
Using the golden dome of St Isaac’s cathedral as a ”beacon’ we made our way through the city. Looming just south of Ploshchad Dekabristov the huge dome dominates the St Petersburg skyline. 30 mins and two ice creams later we were standing on the steps of St Isaac’s cathedral. The cathedral is truly magnificent and huge! Work began on the cathedral in 1818 and was only finished in 1858. To give you an idea of its size, special ships and railways were built in order to carry the granite for its pillars all the way from Finland. These granite pillars are not jointed in any way – they are one solid column of granite and there are well over a dozen of them on each external side – we didn’t go in as there was a ‘special’ booth for all those individuals who are not Russian and this was inside the museum. Had we not spent our money on a guide in Moscow we may well have paid to go in but didn’t feel like we were missing out on anything as we felt that it was enough just to view the outside of this wonderful building.
Behind the cathedral lies the Admiralty gardens and the temptation to stop here for a cold beer was just too strong, so the Winter Palace was going to have to wait just a few mins longer!
A short while later we finally arrived at Dvortsovaya Ploshchad (Palace Square) where the stunning green, white and gold Winter Palace is situated. The Palace and the square immediately in front of it has an impressive and sometimes gory history. The Palace is now part of the Hermitage Art Museum, a collection so big that it spans 5 massive buildings and is still only able to display 10% of its entire collection of Russian art.
We were now quite happily wandering in the square taking pictures on the very spot where Tsarist troops had fired on workers who had peaceably gathered in the square, it was this shooting that had sparked the 1905 revolution and led to the storming of the Winter Palace by the revolutionaries. It was amazing to actually be in the very spot that both of us had learnt about in our history lessons at school. With our eyes bulging and our feet a little sore and having enjoyed the Palace and its surroundings we started our walk back to our hotel. We made our exit from the square through the grand arches at the end of Bolshaya Morskaya, which are topped by a huge chariot of victory, a monument to the Napoleonic wars. Through the arches we were once again standing on Nevsky Prospekt.
St. Petersburg allowed us to live our history lessons – an amazing privilege.