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Don’t cry over spilled blood – by David

by on July 20, 2017

OK, the title is a little harsh, but sometimes you just have to let the puns fall where they fall.

We got in line early to go in the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood…  the church that is on the cover of every single St. Petersburg tour book.  

To understand it, you need to dive into Russian history… which teaches you that everything in Russia has layers of complexity just like the stacking dolls. So…..

<begin history lesson>

Right around the time of Abe Lincoln, Tsar Alexander II “The Liberator” was a very liberal guy on civil rights, doing lots of good things like empowering courts, creating local government councils, etc.  He was for a while very popular with the serfs because he signed a proclamation ending their slavery. (He wasn’t so popular with the barons, because they lost their slaves, and also their sons now had to be drafted into military service for the first time).  But it’s not that easy…  although he did land reform, the serfs had to pay the barons for the land, and they didn’t have much money, so they had to borrow from the barons, so they owed their soul to the company store and had to work the barons’ remaining land to earn the money, so they didn’t have time to work their own land. So there was a big famine, and resentment built up because the serfs really wanted to be given the land, not to pay for it, and besides, the acreage they were allowed to buy wasn’t enough to farm profitably.    So opening the door to their freedom just engendered more resentment, and radicals started trying to assassinate the Tsar.  He survived a few times, but they finally hit their target with a bomb.    His son became Tsar and, not wanting to be assassinated himself, pushed back hard against the radicals, and also rolled back many of the reforms.  Which just annoyed the people more, which built up over time into the revolution(s) and the overthrow of the last Tsar, Alexander’s grandson.

</end history lesson>

So, here’s a guy who tried hard to do all the right things, but unintended consequences just sent things down a different path.  No good deed goes unpunished.

But he did get a big church.  This church was built on the site of his assassination to honor him, and the cobblestones on which his blood was spilled are still there under a special altar.   Thus the very unusual name of the church.

Today we saw the interior…. 7,500 square meters of mosaic.  Pretty wild… 


One tour book said “Why go to St Petersburg and see Italian artists in the Hermitage museum?  If you’re going to go to Russia you should see Russian artists.” So we actually, intentionally went to an art museum to see the art!  Not quite first time ever on our trips, but close.   And…. it was pretty good.  The audio guides were very informative but not overly-detailed, and we pretty much just picked the one painting in each gallery that was most eye-catching and learned all about it.  So we saw a lot of interesting Russian art over 600 years and learned a lot.   Anna and Alex both took a lot of art classes in middle school, so they had some context for understanding the skills of the painters and improvement over the years

They liked doing really big paintings with many characters and lots of complicated and subtle themes

Sadly, we still couldn’t do a boat tour because the water level was too high. So we went to a famous donut shop that’s been making the same donuts on the same equipment (and it looked like the same donut-making ladies) since the 1930s.   About half of our 40,000 friends were in line for donuts.

And we found a very cool open air street market with lots of people selling lots of stuff and hardly any tourists.  Fun to walk through.

So… that’s all for St Petersburg.  In 4 days we saw 14 of the top 16 sights-to-see, plus a whole bunch of other stuff.   On the train tomorrow to Moscow, and home on Tuesday!

Some PS’s:

– We’re amused that just about EVERY mid-20s female (is it OK to call them “girls”?) wears the exact same outfit… black or blue jeans, Nikes or Adidas, long white shirt untucked, and very short leather or leatherette jacket.  Anna may bring this “look” to Woodside High School.

– Stacking dolls!

– More stacking dolls!  From Peter the Great to …. Angela Merkel?????

– Baskinh Robbhhc


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  1. Janet Howes permalink

    You guys have an amazing amount of energy. Love reading the blogs!

  2. joe shelton permalink

    When you were in the Hermitage, do you remember seeing a fairly large painting, I think it was on a wall to the right of a doorway to the next hall.

    A wooden rate or flotsam from a ship in heavy seas with one or more sailors holding on?

    I saw it many years ago and it’s burned in my mind. Amazing painting.


    Sent from my Macintosh


  3. Dave Howes permalink

    Home on Tues, tennis on Thurs?

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