I’m still not over the beautiful buildings. Get used to it, because I’m going to be referencing them a lot. Sorry.
Saint Petersburg is known for being a city of canals and bridges. The reason, as I’ve previously mentioned, is because this area near the Baltic Sea was originally marshland and swamp in the 1600s. Peter the Great founded Saint Petersburg in 1703 (you can tell by the name how humble of a guy he was). Boisterous, six-and-a-half feet tall, colorful, which a penchant for “oddities” and all things European, Peter became king of Russia when his older brother died in 1682. Peter was obsessed with Europe and the grand enlightenment age. He returned to Russia with new ideas, such as building beautiful baroque buildings, shaving off beards, wear trousers instead of tunics, create a navy, and create a culture of art and music that could rival even Vienna.
Unfortunately for him, Sweden had control of the Baltic Sea. Thus, the Great Northern War began and didn’t end for 21 years until Peter had wrested control of the land and Neva River and sea into Russian control.
During the war, the Peter and Paul fortress was built.
Formerly a Swedish settlement on a small island, Peter turned the outpost into a military garrison and then eventually the cornerstone for his grand European city in 1703.
Unfortunately for Russian aristocracy, they weren’t excited about shedding their robes and beards. They especially weren’t excited about being forced to move up north and pay to cart all the stone from Moscow to the new city. Even worse, however, was the Swedish prisoners, Russian peasants, and any other criminals. Around 100,000 laborers died building his magnificent city due to harsh conditions and malnutrition.
Today, the fortress houses multiples museums, former prison, and a cathedral.
Inside the cathedral, all of Russia’s monarchs after Peter the Great are buried there, as well as a few stray cousins of the ruling Romanovs.
Near the iconostatis are the graves of Peter the Great and his wife.
Nearby, in the back, Nicholas II and his family were buried in 1998. After most of the family’s bodies were discovered in the 1970s, they were hidden by the Soviet regime. However, in 1998 a grand state funeral was given, and the relatives of the family attended.
On our way out of the fortress we admired the cityscape.
The Admiralty building, built in the early 19th century, overlooks the Alexander Gardens. It is still the head of the Russian navy.
Just across the street is St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the largest Orthodox church in the city. Turned into a museum after the Soviets took over, today tourists can go to the top of the tower and overlook the city.
We weren’t able to go in because of the time we stopped by, but we enjoyed the view.
We strolled along the canals and came across the Stroganov Palace, near one of the main streets in town. It was here that a chef prepared a beef, potatoes, and gravy dish that was a huge hit and became known as as Beef Stroganoff.
Our last stop at the end of the day was the Kazan Cathedral. Its style is neoclassical, very different than the rest of the cathedrals we’d seen so far in Russia.
And they’re setting up the Christmas tree! We were so happy to see it take shape. The cathedral was built from 1801-1811, just in time for the War of 1812 against Napoleon. Portraits of many war generals were displayed on the walls. Designed in part after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, it was closed by the Soviets and reopened as a museum to “Religion and Atheism.” We weren’t allowed to take photos inside, so we just strolled around and looked at the icons.
After that, we had to grab our bags and jump on our last train headed to Moscow.