St Petersburg was created in 1703 by the iron will of Peter the Great. He made it the capital of Russia and ensured that it should rival any other European capital in spendour, beauty and distinction.
We were all very happy to see our coach and driver outside our hotel this morning. Cosmos had to pay 2000 euros bribe money to release our driver and bus. No reason was given for the this other than " It is Russia and they can do what they want".
We left our hotel at 9.00 o'clock for a City Coach Tour. We passed many palaces, parks, monuments, squares, wide boulevards and numerous bridges over the Neva river which added to the city's charm. We stopped at the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. This Church was built on the site where Emperor Alexander II was fatally wounded in March 1881.
We saw Saint Isaac's Cathedral which is the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city. It is the largest orthodox basilica and the fourth largest (by the volume under the cupola) cathedral in the world. It is dedicated to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, a patron saint of Peter the Great, who had been born on the feast day of that saint.
We had some time to ourselves in the centre of town so a few of us had lunch at Stolle. I had Salmon and Potatoes and Pete had their famous Rabbit Pie. After lunch we met our local tour guide at Palace Square which connects Nevsky Prospect with Palace Bridge leading to Vasilievsky Island and is the central square of St Petersburg. There many significant events took place, including the Bloody Sunday (1905) massacre and parts of the October Revolution of 1917. The earliest and most celebrated building on the square, the baroque white-and-azure Winter Palace gives the square its name. The opposite, southern side of the square was designed in the shape of an arc by George von Velten in the late 18th century. These plans came to fruition half a century later, when Alexander I of Russia (reigned 1801-1825) envisaged the square as a vast monument to the 1812-1814 Russian victories over Napoleon and commissioned Carlo Rossi to design the bow-shaped Empire-style Building of the General Staff (1819-29), which centers on a double triumphal arch crowned with a Roman quadriga. In the centre of the square stands the Alexander Column (1830-34 This red granite column is 47.5 metres high and weighs some 500 tons. It is set so well that it requires no attachment to the base. The eastern side of the square comprises Alessandro Brullo's building of the Guards Corps Headquarters (1837-43). The western side, however, opens towards Admiralty Square, thus making the Palace Square a vital part of the grand suite of St Petersburg squares.
We walked to the State Hermitage Museum which is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world, it was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and has been open to the public since 1852. Its collections, of which only a small part is on permanent display, comprise over three million items including the largest collection of paintings in the world. The collections occupy a large complex of six historic buildings along Palace Embankment, including the Winter Palace, a former residence of Russian emperors. Apart from them, the Menshikov Palace, Museum of Porcelain, Storage Facility at Staraya Derevnya and the eastern wing of the General Staff Building are also part of the museum. The museum has several exhibition centers abroad.
This museum was truly a magnificent place to visit. The paintings by Rembrandt, Da Vinci, Raphael, Michalangelo to name a few were brilliant. I had shivers down my spine walking through the palaces because I have never seen so many masterpieces under one roof before.
Our guide was very informative and guided us to the main areas of the palace.
After we left the Hermitage we went to the Nikolaevsky Palace for a true Russian evening out. The Palace was originally built for Grand Duke Nicole Nikolaevich in 1853. On entering the Palace we were greeted by soft music from a string quartet and a complimentary glass of champagne. I had quite a few more than that, so I was in a very festive mood. We were seated in the front row and enjoyed a Russian show performed by a folklore group. The lyrical dances and original Russian songs were spectacular and the quality of the dancers was amazing. During interval were had more refreshments, caviar and canapés and more Russian Champagne. It was a great night out. I bought myself a Russian doll to add to my collection.