Monday, September 24, 2012

9/24 - Санкт-Петербург (Saint Petersburg)

At noon today, I just returned from one of the most amazing, and breathtaking adventures thus far. A group of 9 including me took an independent journey to Saint Petersburg, (Санки-Петербург) this past weekend. We left on Friday morning on train that left at 2AM, and returned to Moscow today at noon. We were able to successfully navigate the major sites within the city, in only about three and a half days time. So my first impressions of the city were much different than Moscow. St. Petersburg is extremely Westernized and definitely benefitted more from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. It also inherited a much younger population, and more people speak English as their second language. However, almost an hour into our arrival after an overnight train, we were struck by confusion. Our friend, Seth, had booked a hostel nearly a week before, but (in typical Russian fashion), we could not find the place. Thinking it was a scam, we settled on a hostel, which allowed all 9 of us to live in one room for two nights. And it was only $50 per person!

Our first adventure on Friday took us to the famous "Church on Spilled Blood," or Собор Спаса на Крови. It was built in 1883, to commemorate the death of Tsar Alexander II, who was murdered at that spot in 1881. Other than the bloody history of the area, the church is as beautiful as St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square. Secondly, we walked to the most famous tourist attraction in the area - Tsar Peter I's Winter Palace, or Зимий Дворец. The history of the palace dates back to 1732, when it officially became the residence for the Russian Tsar. It also was the site where the Soviet Red Army stormed it in 1917 during the revolution, leaving it heavily damaged. Today, it remains a Russian State historical site and art museum. It was truly beautiful. 

Church on Spilled Blood - "Собор Спаса на Крови"

Winter Palace - "Зимий Дворец"

On Saturday, we did our best to see the top exhibits in the Winter Palace. As it is one of the largest museums in the world, this was nearly an impossible feat. However, my favorite part of the weekend was our trek to St. Isaac's Cathedral, or Исаакиевский Собор. From the top of this building, we could see nearly every point in the city. Reaching the top wasn't easy, we had to climb over 200 steps to get up and down. Elevators were not an option here. 

Dan, Brooke, and I on the colonnade of St. Isaac's Cathedral (Исаакиевский Собор)

Top to Bottom (Bridget, Dan, Duncan, Me) - Staircase at St. Issac's

The last day in Petersburg was extremely rainy and cloudy, but that did not stop us. Even with the thought in mind that we had to board another train at 2AM on Monday morning. We made our way to the Russian State Museum or Российский государственный музей to view more beautiful Russian imperial, Soviet, and modern art. At this point, I had seen enough paintings for the whole weekend! Then we made our way across the Neva River to the Peter and Paul Fortress (Петропавелская крепость), which was built under the guidance of Tsar Peter I as a defense post in 1703. Later in its history, it became better known for housing prisoners, and as a burial place for some of the Tsars, including the last Russian Tsar, Nicholas II. 

Outside the Peter and Paul Fortress (Петропавелская крепость)

Overall, it was a fabulous weekend in St. Petersburg. I wish I was still there. In many ways, it has some of the attributes that are missing from Moscow. But it also made me appreciate the cultural education and linguistic gain that benefits me living in the capital city. I hope to go back later in the semester, we are aiming for early November! 

Countdown to returning home: 86 days

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