Founded by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703, Saint Petersburg had been the capital of Russia on and off several times (currently off). In fact it changed its name several times too, from Saint Petersburg to Petrograd to Leningrad and back again. With its strategic location on the Baltic Sea, it is also the most European influenced city in Russia.
Built around the banks of the Neva River, the city is actually criss-crossed by many canals making it a pleasant stroll across old bridges and waterfronts, or by boat too. Some even consider the city “Venice of the North”, since Peter the Great designed the city after Venice and Amsterdam.
With so many canals, naturally there are numerous bridges. 342 to be exact, built over different periods. Each is unique, some even decorated with fancy lamplights and statues of griffins, double-headed eagles and sphinxes!
Kazan Cathedral stands impressively on the city’s main street; Nevsky Prospekt. Built in 1811 and modelled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, its large central dome is flanked by half-circular colonnade wings. In fact, some say there was the intention to build a similar church as a mirror image directly opposite to “close the circle”. Unfortunately those plans never materialised (though that would have been REALLY cool).
The Church of the Saviour on Blood (or Church on Spilled Blood) is one of Saint Petersburg’s main sights. It was built beside a canal, between 1883 and 1907, on the site where Tsar Alexander II was fatally wounded by an anarchist conspirator with a grenade.
Inside, the church was filled top to bottom in colourful intricately detailed mosaics, reputedly more than any other church in the world. Every available section of wall, ceiling, column, arch (much like most Russian churches we had visited by now) were filled with various biblical scenes or figures. So many photo ops, so little space to post them all here…
And if that wasn’t enough, Saint Isaac’s Cathedral is the largest Russian Orthodox basilica and fourth largest cathedral in the world. It took 40 years to build from 1818 to 1858 and its shiny golden dome has sweeping views over the city and its waterways. During World War II, the golden dome was even painted grey to avoid attracting attention from enemy aircraft!
Once through the cathedral’s bronze doors covered with reliefs, the huge dome towers high above. Lots more painted scenes amongst columns of granite and marbles. The central iconostasis was decorated with many precious stones in gold.
After a long day of cathedral and canal hopping, we tucked into some traditional Russian food at a local buffet at lunch rush hour. A highlight was Borscht, a hearty beetroot soup. (Not pictured here unfortunately. Probably because it got eaten first!)
Visited 9th September 2014.