Like Amsterdam, Saint Petersburg has rings of canals and rivers to help drain the land. English-speaking tours stopped for the year on September 30, our first day in Saint Petersburg, so we took that boat cruise. The weather was cold, and leaves were turning yellow.
Saint Petersburg‘s Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood impressed us — we had not seen such an ornate, fanciful church. The church was built as a memorial on the site where the Russian tsar was assassinated in 1881. From wikipedia, “On March 13, 1881 (Julian date: March 1), as Tsar Alexander’s carriage passed along the embankment, a grenade thrown by an anarchist conspirator exploded. The tsar, shaken but unhurt, got out of the carriage and started to remonstrate with the presumed culprit. A second conspirator took the chance to throw another bomb, killing himself and mortally wounding the tsar.”
Wanting to see a ballet in Russia, we saw one at Saint Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater. The theater and dancers were wonderful. At first we didn’t know about selecting seats and transportation, but everything worked out well.
Shown above is the stage showing “Les Saisons Russes“, French for “The Russian Seasons”, which seems to be a theme of the Mariinsky. In Soviet times, the Mariinsky Ballet was known as the Kirov Ballet. Rudolph Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov danced for the Kirov Ballet before defecting to the West.
The Fabergé Museum in Saint Petersburg has the world’s largest collection of imperial Easter Eggs, crafted by the House of Fabergé for Easter gifts from the tsar to his family.
The eggs were scattered in the tumult of the Russian Revolution. Malcolm Forbes “assembled the Forbes Fabergé collection over several decades”, and his son sold the eggs in 2004 to a Russian who set up the Fabergé Museum on the Fontanka River.
The art of the Hermitage Museum would be a highlight of our vacation to Russia and Greece, and we took steps to have enough time at the museum. Friends said that a cruise doesn’t allow enough time at the museum, so we rented an apartment within walking distance of the Hermitage and obtained Russian visas for a land visit. We stayed in Saint Petersburg six nights and visited the museum at the beginning our stay, to allow a return visit. We purchased a 2-day ticket online to bypass ticket queues at the museum. After all this preparation, we visited the Hermitage only on our 2-day ticket and didn’t go back.
We visited Russia primarily for the Hermitage Museum, and we wound up enjoying the Winter Palace as much as the art. The main building of the Hermitage Museum, the Winter Palace was the seat of the Russian tsars for 180 years until the Russian Revolution. It’s the fourth palace built on this site facing the Neva River.
When we visited Russia and Greece this fall, we struggled with signs, since both languages use letters unfamiliar to many English speakers. Consider this street sign for Nevsky Prospekt, a major street in Saint Petersburg. The top two lines show the street name in Russian Cyrillic, while the third line shows the street name in latin alphabet based on the corresponding sounds.
In ΠΡOCΠEKT from the sign, the Π is a capital pi, and the P is a capital rho, where both letters are from the Greek language. Substituting the sound for each letter yields PROSPEKT. Happily for us, Russian incorporates some French words spelled out in Cyrillic — Hermitage, cafe, restaurant, for example.