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Happy Bergday Anna! (By Alex)

by on July 17, 2017

As today was Anna’s birthday, we had a birthday breakfast with egg cubes and pastries.


 

Egg cubes


Today, we took a tour of St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg was called ‘Leningrad’ during the Soviet times.

On the train yesterday, we saw some sights in the countryside that created a very distinct first impression. Look at the photos below for what I mean.​

St. Petersburg is very different from those photos. Here is the basic layout of the city:

  • There are long blocks and short blocks
  • Long blocks are incredibly long (Open Street Map says that the nearest long block to us is 447m long from center of intersection to center of intersection)
  • Short blocks are approximately a normal city block
  • Buildings are almost always 6 stories or shorter
  • Most buildings are built in a semi-ornate style. There are no giant glass skyscrapers
  • Rivers and canals are everywhere, and approximately 600 bridges go across these rivers and canals

Our guide started with a very unusual and special treat, by showing us the neighborhood around our hotel that she grew up in. She took us into a building that was a good example of how the average (slightly wealthier) Russian lives in St. Petersburg and also explains how Communal Flats worked during the Soviet era. Our guide grew up in a communal flat during the Soviet time, but does not remember a lot as she was quite young then. Each family got one room, and there was a kitchen and bathroom shared between 5-6 families. Apparently, no one had lots of space. She did mention that all communal flat owners had to exchange communal flat rights for an actual flat after the Soviet era ended, which ended up being very expensive for the owners.

[What happened was, a rich person would want to own the whole floor of a building, which was occupied by many families.  He would buy apartments around town or in the suburbs, and then trade those to the people who lived in communal flats, the ownership of which was given to them when the soviet era ended.  -David]

We then went to a market where Mom bought honey. They had millions of matryoshka dolls, some very interesting…

After that, we went to the St. Nicholas Cathedral. I liked the blue outside a lot, even if it was moderstely ornate.

The inside was very ornate. However, we were not allowed to take photos. I can tell you that there were idols everywhere and there was lots of gold.

We then went to a synagogue. The outside was incredibly beautiful, and a very pleasant orange color.

Once again, no photos were allowed inside. However, this was a lot less ornate, and mostly white plaster. There was an altar that had some gold, but not insane amounts.

Speaking of insanity, our next stop was St. Isaac’s Cathedral. This place had a lot of ornate interior design. I should probably start out by mentioning that this is all real gold. It seen as deceiving God to use fake gold paint in the Russian Orthodox religion. There is also restoration going on to convert frescoes to mosaics, as frescoes are not designed for the St. Petersburg climate. I will stop talking, and give you a collection of photos from the church. Enjoy.

After that, we went to a square with the headquarters of the Russian military and the Hermitage museum. We did not go into the Hermitage, as we are doing that tomorrow.

There was a sign warning about the Hermitage cats, and we saw one of them. They scare off rats and mice, and the babies of Hermitage cats are apparently very valuable.

For lunch, we had Russian food. I had some amazing dumplings.

In the evening, we went to the Fabergé museum. They had some amazing eggs and other jewelry. The Fabergé House was the jeweler that Czar Alexander III and Nicholas II went to for all of their jewelry needs. I have added lots of photos of the museum, so enjoy.

This is what we did today.

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2 Comments
  1. joe shelton permalink

    Have you heard or read how many buildings were destroyed in the city during WWII.

    Just amazing. And it’s no wonder the city is for the most part architecturally bland, they had to build and build quickly.

    joe

    Sent from my Macintosh

    >

  2. Edith Gong permalink

    Happy Belated Birthday Anna! I meant to email you guys earlier about St. Pete! Looks like you’ve done all the things I did. I can’t believe how crowded it is – wow! I went in 2009 in late May, so maybe less busy. Here’s a link to some small blog postings i had done –> http://edithgong.blogspot.com/2009/05/happy-306th-st-petersburg-may-27.html

    I loved the dumplings too; I think they’re called Pelmeni.

    Loved St. Issac’s Cathedral. Hermitage was HUGE, didn’t have a guide, but was picky about what to see, even though I had 3+ hours to visit.So, I skipped a lot of stuff. Have you seen any baby bears on leashes? There were several around the Hermitage on along the canal.

    If you can, try a boat tour, one in the late afternoon or dusk is very nice. A great way to see even more buildings and cool architecture around the city. I stayed on Vasilievsky Island, so it was a bit quieter than the other side of the Neva.

    I recommend Peterhof, the fountains are spectacular. Not a ton to see in the palace itself as it was completely bombed during the war and they’re still doing a lot of reconstruction – can’t take photos inside. It’s a lot like Versaiiles, so maybe boring for the kids, but I liked the boat ride there. If you arrive before 10-10:30, the large gold fountains are turned on accompanied by music – very regal. Bring a picnic lunch and/or snacks – don’t remember too many vendors being there.

    I did a ballet as well, but overpriced if you’re a tourist. The other thing I loved, going into huge flower shops that are open til midnight with rows and rows of buckets of flowers in a giant fridge/store.

    Have a fantastic time!!
    Edith

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