Sunday, February 28, 2010

Step 2: Petrograd, the Metropolis of the North

We woke up before we were due, around 8:15. We did our various routines, and had breakfast in the café again (oatmeal, drinkable yogurt, juice, and coffee). We once again boarded our bus with Anatoly once again at the wheel. We also had with us a tour guide for the day. We took a brief break of about five minutes or so in St. Isaac’s square, which is in front of the St. Isaac’s cathedral, which was damaged heavily during the Second World War. Pat-Joseph and I drifted over to a bridge with a pillar that marked the water level for the worst flood in the city’s history (4m I believe the pillar noted). In front of the cathedral there was an equestrian monument of Nicholas I, this Czarist statue survived the Soviet era on the marvel of its design (only two of the horses legs touch the pillar).

Our first stop was the Hermitage Museum complex, which is made up from several interconnected buildings, a palace, an actual museum, and other such royal buildings. The interior of the Hermitage although some of it is undergoing restoration…

I think “wow” just doesn’t cut it... The Hermitage is filled with paintings and statues bearing the origins from all over Europe. It has over three million pieces, making it the largest art museum in the world.
I took many pictures of the paintings that I could; I especially like the religious paintings in the Hermitage.

The paintings had come from all over the powers of Europe of the time: Holland, Italy, England. There was, in fact, a gallery in which we were prohibited from taking pictures in. I believe the reason was that the paintings were lifted from the Soviet occupied Nazi territory (the Nazis probably lifted it from the territory that they took). The Soviet government didn’t admit to having these works of art until after the perestroika, so the exhibition of the paints was slightly controversial.

After the Hermitage, we went back on the bus. One of our next leg-stretcher was at the Cathedral of the Savior of the Spilled blood, which was built by a Czar on the spot of the assassination of the previous Czar, his father. It is supposedly on the exact spot, and stretches slightly out into the canal, as the Czars, blood flowed onto the cobble-stones of the canal wall. I did my first amount of souvenir shopping at some street shops just across the street from the Cathedral. I bought a lacquer box for my youngest sister which had a design painted by artists of a former icon painting school and a music box shaped like the cathedral for Emma-Riley (my young niece I hope she’ll enjoy it when she grows older).

We ate luch an this lovely little restaurant, I ate the Pelmeni dumplings (a Siberian food). It was fantastic; I should learn later how to cook this. Our next stop was the Peter-Paul Fortress, which was built on an island in the middle of the river Neva, and essentially helped sprout the city. The complex was meant to be a fortress against Sweden, but wasn’t used because a second one was built closer to Sweden.

Because of that, the complex was partially converted into a prison for political prisoners (it held the Decembrists after their failed revolution). We visited another cathedral, which houses the graves of the Romanov Czars, including Peter, Chatherine I, and II. Off to the side, there was the Chapel to St. Catherine the Martyr. This chapel also housed the remains of Czar Nicholas II, the last Czar, and his family.

My camera started to run out of batteries, but I managed to get a picture of the vessel that sounded the start of the Soviet assault on the Winter Palace by cannon.

Bonus Time! Various Pictures of us in the Hermitage and Around St. Peters.
Chelsey, Alina, and Jill

The group contemplating a floor mosiac.

Ethan playing the goof and Joanna checking here picture.

Emily standing in a hallway that was painted to rival the vatican.

Same hallway; Joanna taking Ethan picture, as seen by mirror.

Group listening to guide in the Dutch collection.

Group under the watch of angels.

Political egg-dolls at a street shop outside of the Savior of Stained Blood.

Academy cadets on snow-shoveling duty (or so we joked).

Us in the Cathedral in the Peter-Paul fortress.

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