visiting st petersburg was a dream come true for me. i have always been intrigued by its history. the aristocratic opulence of the tsars and the rigidity of communism fuels my curiosity. formerly known as leningrad until 1991, st petersburg is now a tourist magnet not only for its interesting past but also for its cultural and architectural wealth, charm and beauty.
i hope that my friend Pete will re-visit this beautiful city. here is a post regarding his first trip to the country: https://beetleypete.wordpress.com/2013/11/16/holidays-and-travel-soviet-union-1977/
i was with a group and after passing through immigration, we were pleasantly greeted by maria, our tour guide who warmly welcomed us into her country. she spoke about russia and st. petersburg, its people, history and culture with love and great pride. though russia may remain enigmatic, maria slowly dispelled my ambivalence towards her country.
as we drove into the city, it was impossible to ignore rows upon rows of tenement buildings, the urban relics of the soviet union. we weaved through the islands, drove on the nevsky prospect along neva river and had a glimpse of museums, cathedrals, notable buildings and opulent palaces including the winter palace and the hermitage of lavish architecture and luxury. we passed through historic bridges and saw boats with tourists ply the river and charming canals teeming with life. there were the famous twin rostral columns, all lighted up because it was a holiday and the cruiser aurora, a historic russian submarine turned museum open to the public for free. what a vibrant city!
sts peter & paul cathedral, the oldest church in st petersburg was simply magnificent from floor to ceiling. it is also the burial place of the tsars of russia, from peter the great to nicholas II, the last tsar to rule over russia.
st petersburg’s landscape is dotted with statues, victory monuments and commemoration of those who gave their lives in service of their country.
the onion-domed church of our savior on spilled blood, also called the resurrection of Christ church was one of the highlights. now a museum, this grandiose church was built on the spot where the emperor alexander II was fatally wounded in an assassination attempt in 1881. it was built in 1883 during the reign of his son alexander III and was completed in 1907 during the reign of the last tsar, nicholas II. (my close-up photo of the church here)
the church of st catherine, the oldest catholic church in the russian federation.
capping our st. petersburg tour was an evening treat to a russian folkloric show, a sixty-minute music filled and action-packed entertainment resonating russia’s patriotism and culture through traditional dances and songs.