10.06.2011 - 10.06.2011 28 °C
Train arrived just after 9am. We had to catch the subway one stop and then walk a couple of blocks here to the hotel. WOW is all I can say about the architecture here in St Petersberg. The city was built in the 1700s (so is fairly new for a European city) and was based loosely on Amsterdam. Peter the Great took advantage of his ability to build a brand new city and so every building here in St Pb is just superb!
We took a walk down Nevisky Prospekt (the main route to the Winter Palace) to the river Neva. St Pb is actually built on 40 odd islands so there is small water ways everywhere with ornate bridges.. Just beautiful. The entirety of the Prospekt is just amazing.. so many beautiful churches and buildings and then at the end of the street is the crowning glory (literally) the Hermitage (Winter Palace). Hermitage is pronounced "Ermiitaszh" in Russian and it is just glorious! No words can describe how beautiful this building is.. Huge columns, sky blue walls, gold trim... just awesome.
We decided not to try and tackle the Hermitage today (by the time we got there it was well after lunch time and we knew it was going to be an all day affair to walk thru the museum) so we decided to continue across the Neva to the Peter and Paul Fortress.
The Peter and Paul Fortress was the original part of the city built by Peter the Great. He built the Fortress to protect the fledging city of St Pb from potential attacks from the Swedes (to whom he had just won the land that St Pb is on). The fortress is built on an entire island and the main attraction is the St Peter and Paul Cathedral. This cathedral is the one that all of the Romanov Tsars are buried in (since Peter the Great)-- prior to Peter the Great the Tsars were buried in the Assumption Cathedral in the Kremlin. The interior of the church is almost entirely gilded in gold! So mind blowing. Lining the cathedral is almost 50 sarcophaguses that house the remains of all of the Imperial Family since Peter the Great. The last Romanovs have also been lain to rest in the cathedral in the mid 90s after their remains were exhumed in Yekaterinburg (all except the young Nicholas and Olga, who have not been found).
The remainder of the island encompasses other museums related to maritime history, space exploration (believe it or not) and a prison museum. We decided to only view the prison museum (as we didn't have heaps of time and the weather today is HOT). The prison housed the most notorious political prisoners since Peter the Great. Each prisoner was deprived of the ability to communicate in any way to anyone. No prisoner ever saw anyone except their jailer. They were unable to write letters or receive letters and were not allowed any reading material. Speaking was banned and all transgressions were punishable by being put in a completely dark cell with no food, light or heating for more than 3 days. Must have been a really tough environment! More than one inmate committed suicide. I was surprised to see that women were also kept in the prison and were treated the same as their male counterparts!
After the prison we decided to call a day and made our way back to the hotel for a well deserved night's sleep!
Off tomorrow to the Hermitage!