Russia’s second largest, and most beautiful city on the Baltic Sea St Petersburg is rich in history, sights, culture, commerce and a natural setting surpassing all others in this vast country.
Tourists visiting Russia owe it to themselves to travel to this extraordinary city after spending a few days in Moscow, or first, stop at St Petersburg to continue to the capital.
Of the two major Russian cities, St Petersburg, to my mind, is more attractive and interesting.
St Petersburg served Russia from time immemorial as the gateway to the Baltic Sea, connecting east to the west.
in the 8th and 9th centuries, long before the city was established, trades used to travel via river routes to the Black Sea.
After many years of fierce battles between Sweden and Russia, Peter the Great realized towards the end of the 17th century that a fortification on the banks of the Neva River was a just to control and defend the territory. On May 27, 1703 the cornerstone was laid of the Peter and Paul Fortress, which led to the evolution of ST Petersburg. Eventually, a port was built. Thousands of farmers and skilled workers were brought in from many parts of the empire to lay the foundations of a planned city.
The Neva River, however, proved to be a bad-tempered “beauty” flooded the fortress shortly after it was erected. Undeterred, Peter the Great continued the work, taking all the precaution possible at the time.
Eventually, shipyards were created to establish a navy and merchant marine. Smolny (tar) Prospekt, Liteiny (metal casting), Pros, Kantanya (rope), Street, Gallernaya (galley), Vesehnya (oar) Streets are all remnants of the beginnings.
St Petersburg was declared the capital of the Russian Empire in 1712, and by 1726 it was the largest sea trade centre of the nation. It was developing to become the science, art and commercial centre with a number of schools of higher education, museums, art galleries and research laboratories.
All important Russian writers (A. Puskin, N.Gogol, L.Tolstoy and F. Dostoyevsky) devoted several pages to St Petersburg in their novels.
The city has always been the centre of revolutionary thought in Russia starting December 1825 until the Socialist revolution of 1917, after which the capital was moved to Moscow.
Today the city is undergoing a restructuring to preserve its long and glorious history.
St Petersburg is best seen on foot. Start out at the Peter and Paul Fortress, around which the city evolved. Cross the Ionnovsky Bridge, the city’s,oldest, which leads to Petrovsky Gate and then proceed to the Peter and Paul Cathedral , one of the best architectural creations of Domenic Trezzini, who was commissioned to build many of the government offices.
From the Cathedral, cross over to the Petrovskaya Embankment to visit Peter the Great’s cottage built in three days by army carpenters, and painted to appear as if it was made of stone.
From here you can admire the minarets and blue dome of the only mosque in St Petersburg, built at the beginning of the 20th century.
While, in St Petersburg a visit to the Czar’s Winter Palace is an absolute must. It is 230 metres long, contains 1057 rooms, 117 staircases, over 2000 windows, and 170 sculptures created by another Italian architect (B. Rastrelli) in 1762. After the Great Fire of 1837, the interiors were restored within two years.
Today. The Winter Palace is part of the Stet Hermitage Museum. This immense museum may be considered one of the richest in the world housing paintings of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Ayvazovsky, just to name a few.
The Alexander Pillar (1829-1834) commemorating the founder of the city, Peter the Great, is located on the Senate Square. The sculpture on the top was carved by Etienne Falconet (1766-1778).
St Isaac’s Cathedral on the same square should be a must for every tourist interested in religious architecture.
For those interested in libraries and architecture. The Russian national Library contains 29 million books is well worth visiting.
There is no shortage of restaurants and teahouses. After a few hours of sightseeing, a short stop for refreshment will help you regain your strength. (By the way, a well-versed guide is highly recommended. First explain what you are interested in and then obtain and approximate duration along with a honorarium requested. This will save you time, provide a good feel of the city, and enable you to see as much possible in the shortest time.)
Some of the restaurants: Metropol ( 22 Sadovaya Ulitsa), Petrovsky (near Peter and Paul Fortress on the floating pier), Café Literaturnoye (18 Nevsky Prospekt), Austeria
(Peter and Paul Fortress), Neva (Nevsky Prospekt), and Café Tete a Tete (65 Bolshoi Prospekt).
Now refreshed, and energies restored, proceed to the Field of Mars and the Summer Garden. Walk along the Zimnyaya Kanavka from the Hermitage Museum to reach the Millionaya Street, famous for its fashion boutiques. From here you can walk to the Marble Palace, Field of Mars, and Summer Garden (the oldest in the city). The oak tree in the garden dates back to Peter the Great!
While there, make an effort to walk along the many canals that connect the islands, all planned by Italian architects brought in to lay out the city. Needless to say, no expanse was spared.
If you have time for more than four days, make a point to visit the summer residences of czars close by to admire a bevy of memorable architecture and opulence, which the rulers of the empire lavished on themselves.
The subway system is relatively simple and can be mastered easily with its four lines and six transfer station. It is efficient and economical, and will give you an opportunity to see Russians going to work.
If you go: Reserve accommodation before arrival.
Astoria Telephone 2105757 39 Bolshaya Morskya Ulitsa
Pribaltiiskaya Telephone 3560263
14 Ulitsa Korablestroitelei
Pulkoskaya Telephone 2645122
1 Polshchad Pobedy
Moskva Telephone 2744001
2 Ploshchad Aleksandra Nevskaya
Evropa Grand Hotel Telephone 1196200
1/7 Ulitsa Mikhailovskaya
Nevsky Palace Telephone 275200
57 Nevsky Prospekt
|Writer – Hrayr Berberoglu – E-mail – Read his books?
Professor B offers seminars to companies and interested parties on any category of wine, chocolates, chocolates and wine, olive oils, vinegars and dressings, at a reasonable cost.