Saturday, November 10, 2012

28 октября в Санкт-Петербурге

If you missed a recap of our first two days in St. Petersburg, here are the links:
Day One
Day Two

On our final day in St. Petersburg, we visited Tsarskoe Selo and the Catherine Palace.

The Catherine Palace was commissioned by Peter the Great for his wife, Catherine.  Originally, the building was a modest two stories.  However, when Peter and Catherine's daughter, Elizabeth, chose Tsarskoe Selo as her summer residence, four different architects redesigned and reconstructed the building to the magnificent structure we had the opportunity to visit on our tour.

The Great Hall, also called the Hall of Light, occupied the entire width of the residence.  A mammoth fresco entitled "The Triumph of Russia" adorned the ceiling.

A vain person's dream.
Another highlight of the Catherine Palace was the Amber Room.  We weren't allowed to take pictures, but I surreptitiously snapped one.

In 1941, when German troops sieged Tsarskoe Selo, the Amber Room was dismantled; the true fate of the original panels remains unknown.  Russia began reconstructing the Amber Room in 1982.  Twenty years and $12 million later, the Amber Room reopened in 2003.

After touring the house, our guide allotted us thirty minutes to explore the grounds.  On such a lovely winter day, of course we went over our time budget.  Thus, we only had "one minute to take pictures" of the statue of Pushkin and "four minutes to walk to the bus."  Our guide was a bit high-strung. 
Sharia, Jenny, and our guide


Five minutes later, we hopped back on the bus and returned to St. Petersburg and, to our disappointment, Da Vinci's (the exact same restaurant that we ate at yesterday) for another extensive, but unsatisfying lunch.

We thanked our guide, the "Dragon Lady," and set off to explore St. Petersburg for ourselves.  While having a guide was a great way to explore the city; our guide did not "click" with our group.  She had a different set of priorities than we did.  Nevertheless, I appreciated the information she shared with us during our time in St. Petersburg.  

Matt's guidebook led us to Barrell, a bar supposedly tended by the most famous bartender in Russia to warm up with a few drinks.  I get such a kick out of being of legal drinking age in Russia.
Ron and Matt in Barrel
Ron requested a virgin mojito, but when the check came, our waitress had charged us for an alcoholic beverage.  After speaking with the waitress, we found out that Ron's drink had actually been alcoholic! 

Sufficiently warmed up, Annie, Patrick, Stephanie, and I went in search of the Seige Plaque, which reads "Citizens!  This side of the street is more dangerous during an artillery bombardment."
Annie and the siege plaque
This plaque was put up during the worst days of the siege of Leningrad.  Last year, I read the memoirs of women who lived in St. Petersburg during the siege.  The World War II years were truly devastating for the Russian people.  Millions of people starved to death and endured gruesome hardships.  However, the Russian people refused to surrender their homeland.

After sharing a history nerd moment, we went to the Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood.

This church was built on the location where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated in March 1881.  Alexander II initiated a number of reforms during his reign.  He freed the serfs and reformed the judicial system.

As our final day in St. Petersburg drew to a close, we walked most of the way through the city back to our hotel. 

St. Petersburg is an amazing city.  While the guided parts of our tour could have been more relatable, our hotel could have been in a better location, and our dining could have improved, I thoroughly enjoyed our excursion to St. Petersburg.  I would like to thank the Bing Family for their generosity!  

I understand why people call St. Petersburg the "European Capital" now.  With its canals and neoclassical architecture, St. Petersburg evokes the romanticized cities of Western Europe.  Moscow, on the other hand, is an incomparable amalgamation of Asia and Europe.  It is exciting, it is unlike anyplace I have ever been before, and it is the place that I will always think of as мой дом в России.

1 comment:

  1. We almost didn't make it to Catherine Palace, but my dad was so persistent and so we went (and I'm glad we did)! More importantly, I'm gad that you were able to experience St. Petersburg and all its beautiful sights and locations. Isn't it fantastic? I loved your final paragraph describing the difference between Moscow and St. Peter - it really is a city unlike any other in Russia.