Traffic jams as the city prepares for Victory Day. The Victory in WWII is celebrated in Russia every May 9. This day marks the significance of St. Petersburg’s strength as it endured 872 days of the Seige and never gave up to the enemy. It was awarded the title of Hero City for this act of bravery.
What a blessing to be back in St. Petersburg, Russia. We arrived just as they were preparing for their most important event – May 9 marks the city’s Victory Day. In its relatively short history – the city is younger than New York – St. Petersburg has witnessed the rise and fall of Imperial Russia, three shattering revolutions, and civil war. Their most significant – Victory Day commemorates how they survived a long and tragic siege during World War II. Indeed St. Petersburg has become a symbol of Russian resistance to Nazi invasion.
Singer House. The building was designed for the Russian branch of the Singer Sewing Machine Company initially, but house changed several owners after that. Is is also known as House of Books – the most famous bookstore in Saint Petersburg nowadays. On the second floor there is Café Singer – a small cozy place with a beautiful view of the Nevsky Prospekt.
A view of the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood from the Griboyedov Canal.
The commanding Hermitage Museum across the Neva River. The site of tomorrow’s – Day 8 agenda.
Russia’s “Window on the West,” St. Petersburg remains one of the world’s most beautiful metropolises. Perched on the banks of the Neva, the city is crisscrossed by canals. The rich architecture is a mixture of styles from ornate Russian Baroque churches to neo-classical palaces. St. Petersburg has also been the cultural soul of Russia, a repository of priceless art and a home to poets, musicians and composers.
The resultant palace, completed in 1756, is nearly 1km in circumference, with elaborately decorated blue-and-white facades featuring gilded atlantes, caryatids and pilasters designed by German sculptor Johann Franz Dunker, who also worked with Rastrelli on the palace’s original interiors. In Elizabeth’s reign it took over 100kg of gold to decorate the palace exteriors, an excess that was deplored by Catherine the Great when she discovered the state and private funds that had been lavished on the building.
Further on in the Catherine Palace, the most noteworthy interiors are those in the so-called Cameron Rooms, the suites decorated in the reign of Catherine the Great by her favourite architect, Charles Cameron. His penchant for classical symmetry and his superb taste for colour are evident in the charming Green Dining Room, originally fitted for Catherine’s son Paul, and the delightful Blue Drawing Room, with its blue-and-white painted-silk wallpaper and superb painted ceiling. More flamboyant but equally charming, the Chinese Blue Drawing Room also boasts exquisite painted-silk wallpaper featuring intricate Chinese landscapes.
We missed the Catherine Palace during our first visit so it was our primary objective to experience Rastrelli’s grandeur most especially the famous Amber Room. We fascinated on Empress Elizabeth’s lavish lifestyle then as we strolled past ornate walkways and grand halls. Everything was tacky excessive yet intricately put together. The whole experience was transcending. The lush gardens – 1,400 acres of it – was as a reflection of the Tsars’ “larger than life” standards.
Such was a feast to our senses, we then enjoyed lunch at local restaurant. We were treated to a sample of favorite dishes including Russian wine, vodka, red caviar as we were entertained by a traditional Russian folk group. The mood was festive – happier after those shots!
A sight of the Kazan Cathedral along Nevsky Prospekt. This neoclassical cathedral, partly modelled on St Peter’s in Rome, was commissioned by Tsar Paul shortly before he was murdered in a coup. Its 111m-long colonnaded arms reach out towards the avenue, encircling a garden studded with statues. Inside, the cathedral is dark and traditionally orthodox, with a daunting 80m-high dome. There is usually a queue of believers waiting to kiss the icon of Our Lady of Kazan, a copy of one of Russia’s most important icons.
The iconic Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood. This marvelous Russian-style church was built on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated in March 1881. After assuming power in 1855 in the wake of Russia’s disastrous defeat in the Crimean war against Britain, France and Turkey, Alexander II initiated a number of reforms. In 1861 he freed the Russian serfs (peasants, who were almost enslaved to their owners) from their ties to their masters and undertook a rigorous program of military, judicial and urban reforms, never before attempted in Russia. However, during the second half of his reign Alexander II grew wary of the dangers of his system of reforms, having only barely survived a series of attempts on his life, including an explosion in the Winter Palace and the derailment of a train. Alexander II was finally assassinated in 1881 by a group of revolutionaries, who threw a bomb at his royal carriage. Both the interior and exterior of the church is decorated with incredibly detailed mosaics, designed and created by the most prominent Russian artists of the day.
St. Isaac’s Cathedral was originally the city’s main church and the largest cathedral in Russia. Its central gold dome is one of the largest in the world, and covered with 220 pounds of gold. It was commissioned by Alexander I in 1818 and took more than three decades to complete.
The rest of the afternoon was a leisurely City Drive revisiting landmarks we toured in detail before. A great way to update our albums and picture frames – as our families grow in pride 🙂
The Palace Square was crowded with participants and spectators of the Victory Day Parade. The Russian Infantry was preparing for their Military Exercise. It would have been a sight to behold – we just heard the mock explosions while we were inside.
With over three million artworks to discover, A day at the Hermitage Museum is obviously not enough. And so it was a must for the whole family to pay homage to this National Treasure – rival the Louvre.
No matter how many times we visit the Hermitage, I don’t think I’ll get over this grandest of staircases. They call it The Jordan Staircase – Originally built by Bartolomeo Rastreeli, it remains astoundingly magnificent with its gilded wall mouldings, dazzling white marble statues, and an enormous plafond depicting the Greek Gods on Olympus.
In earlier times, it was known as the Ambassadors’ Staircase, later the Jordan Staircase, since the imperial family used it to descend to the Neva at Epiphany for the ceremony of the Blessing of Waters (in which the river symbolized the Jordan).
The 18th century ceiling painting by Gasparo Diziani depicting Mount Olympus visually enlarges the interior that is transfused with light, gleaming gold and mirrors.
Field Marshal’s Room. The decoration of the ormolu chandeliers and the grisaille painting incorporates military trophies and laurel wreathes. Placed on the walls between the pilasters are portraits of Russian filed marshals. Hence the name of the room. Hermitage Official Website
“The Peter the Great (Small Throne) Room was created in 1833 by Auguste Montferrand and restored after the 1837 fire by Vasily Stasov. The room is dedicated to the memory of Peter the Great – its decoration features the Emperor’s monogram (two Latin letters P), double-headed eagles and crowns. In a niche that is designed like a triumphal arch is a painting of Peter I with Minerva. Set into the upper parts of the walls are paintings (by Pietro Scotti and Barnaba Medici) depicting Peter in major battles of the Northern War. The throne was made in St Petersburg in the late 18th century. The room is embellished with panels of Lyons velvet embroidered with silver thread and silver articles by St Petersburg craftsmen.” – Hermitage Official Website
Portrait Gallery of Heroes from the 1812 War .
Chandelier Opulence at the Hermitage.
Stained glass window depicting the death of Jesus Christ.
Russian Bone and Ivory Carvings.
A peek into one of the courtyards.
I am always in awe with this Mosaic Floor at the Pavilion Hall. If you look closely, you will see Medusa and other Roman Mythological Scenes.
I got to see the Peacock Clock again. The clock was made by the famous British jeweller James Cox in the 1770s and purchased for the Hermitage collection by Catherine the Great. It is the world’s largest timepiece. It is still in working order, with the figures of a peacock, a rooster and an owl coming into motion every hour.
There are around 14 Leonardo da Vinci paintings, according to recent art history sources. The Hermitage boasts of two of these Da Vinci masterpieces. This one is Madonna with a Flower (commonly known as Benois Madonna) of 1478,
and the second one is the Madonna and Child (or Litta Madonna) from the 1490s. Da Vinci’s style evolved in time. In contrast to the earlier Madonna, Leonardo da Vinci presents here an idealized version in which she epitomizes ultimate maternal love and devotion for a child. This is the humanist dream of Ideal Life, with pure love and idyllically peaceful surroundings.
The Hallway of Frescoes reminds me of the loggia at the Vatican Museum.
Tapestries were an important part of Western European interiors from the medieval period and the Hermitage’s collection of Western European tapestries is the largest in Russia, covering five centuries of development. The earliest items are fragments of German wall-hangings of the 15th and early 16th centuries and French tapestries of the same period. A series of tapestries showing The Life of the Virgin Mary is rightly regarded as among the masterpieces of the collection.
Portraits of beauties on so-called “Bella Donna” italian majolica pottery.
The Ancestral Hall
This room contains a unique collection of paintings by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606-1669). The Hermitage’s Rembrandt collection includes 23 works, representing both the artist’s early and late periods (among them Flora, The Descent from the Cross, The Sacrifice of Abraham, Danaë, David and Jonathan, The Holy Family, Portrait of an Old Man in Red and The Return of the Prodigal Son).
Love the Ceiling’s ornate details.
By a Green Malachite Vase.
Portrait of an Old Man by Rembrandt
View of the Neva from one of the Galleries.
As we descended down a less grand staircase.
Beautiful Marble Columns provide a striking distraction to the actual exhibit of Classic Antiquities dating back to the 12th century.
Adi in contrast to the Kolyvan Vase – The biggest vase in the world. You could drown inside.
A fitting exit to our grand tour.
How many thousand steps did we cover – I wonder – as we explored the Tsar’s Old Winter Palace plus four other buildings. It was a morning of intense Art and History appreciation, which worked us up an appetite. Our brains were overloaded, we needed to recharge and revive with another kind of favourite therapy – Retail.
Drove past the Catholic Church of St. Catherine.
Savouring these iconic canal views. Dotted landmarks on this Venice of the North.
This Art Nouveau Building is a Main Attraction along Nevsky Prospekt. The Cafe Maiasmokk is one of Europe’s oldest food halls.
Whimsical characters on Display.
The Cafe is an ideal place to enjoy the ambiance and typical Russian treats.
Ended up in the same souvenir store we visited last time. Already on display at home, its hard to resist these colourful Matryoskha Dolls.
People watching and shopping along Nevsky Prospekt.