DAY 1 – St Petersburg
Weather = Overcast with Rain:
Day one (1) marks the start of our three (3) full days in the WONDERFUL city of St. PETERSBURG, also referred to as, “THE VENICE OF THE NORTH”. In 1914 the name of the city was changed from St. PETERSBURG to PETROGRAD. then in 1924 to LENINGRAD, and then in 1991, back to St. PETERSBURG. Now it holds the monology of being the 2nd largest city in RUSSIA and is located on the NEVA RIVER, at the head of the GULF of FINLAND on the BALTIC SEA.
The CROWNE PLAZA HOTEL in St PETERSBURG (where we stayed) from the outside was pretty much a glass and concrete conglomeration, HOWEVER, once inside it was a very different perspective – very comfortable, modern and well appointed, right throughout, not to mention fabulously located in relation to it’s handiness to everything.
After waking up I rose and raised the large blind. (the windows were double glazed so there was no sound at all from the outside) On the other side of the road was a HUGE shopping complex called the “St. PETERSBURG’S GALLERIA CENTRE”. Down below traffic was buzzing along the very wide two dual lanes, of Ligovsky Ave in both directions. It was really quite interesting to just watch the cars coming & going, to/from parked spaces and the tourist coaches doing likewise.
The weather today was pretty much a duplicate of yesterday, with heavy rain clouds just drooping, waiting to break. Breakfast was down on the 2nd floor and what a buffet – NOTHING AT ALL LEFT TO THE IMAGINATION! We had to be downstairs, in the main reception, (@10am) to meet our guide Mariya and driver for the next three days. Mariya introduced herself and outlined today’s planned movements. The first port of call was a 20 minute drive to the legendary PETER & PAUL FORTRESS. Enroute we passed some interesting vessels, moored in the canal, which had been converted into lavish restaurants. Then appeared (on our left) a HUGE RUSSIAN TANK & ARMY MISSILES all part of the MILITARY HISTORICAL MUSEUM OF ARTILLERY, ENGINEERS & SIGNAL CORPS, located on the southern shore of PETROGRADSKIY ISLAND. Again rain started on the windscreen so we headed straight to the ISLAND/FORTRESS.
THE PETER & PAUL FORTRESS is a historical nucleus of St. PETERSBURG’S, military, engineering, architectural and historical complex. The founding of this area was initially created by PETER THE GREAT in MAY 1703 to protect the lands along the NEVA RIVER from possible attacks by both the SWEDISH ARMY & NAVEY. All the construction work on the fortress was carried out under the close supervision of St. PETERSBURG’S first architect DOMENICO TREZZINI and the TSAR himself. The Swedes were defeated before the fortress was actually completed, and from around 1720 the fortress also served as a political jail. Among the first inmates to the TRUBETSKOY BASTION PRISON was PETER’S own rebellious son ALEXEI. Parts of this former jail is now open to the public.
In the middle of the ISLAND/FORTRESS we visited the PETER AND PAUL CATHEDRAL which serves as the burial vault for PETER THE GREAT and other RUSSIAN TSARS/EMPERORS. INTERESTINGLY, the Cathedral was the first church in the city built of stone and is also the highest building in St. PETERSBURG (more than 120 meters). On top of the gilded spire of this Cathedral stands the figure of an angel holding a cross, which is one of the most popular/photographed symbols of St. PETERSBURG. Other buildings the fortress house are: THE CITY HISTORY MUSEUM, which carries, “THE HISTORY OF St. PETERSBURG”, and the HISTORY OF THE IMPERIAL MINT, “THE PECHATNYA” (PRINTING WORKSHOP) and the MUSEUM OF SPACE EXPLORATIONS. (COSMONAUTICS & MISSILERY)
It was after midday that we left there, (regrettably, the rain was setting in) and were taken to a MASSIVE SOUVENIR WAREHOUSE. This unfortunately was also when I became very ill. Somewhere along the line I contracted a bug which took me to the point of retching. Needless to say we headed straigft back to the hotel and regrettably cancelled the afternoon arrangements, which was primarily a walking tour. We arranged to meet up with Mariya again the next morning at 10am. I’m of the opinion that whatever the bug was that it came from the sausages which I ate.at breakfast. Surprisingly, I slept most of the afternoon while Cas just spent the time organising our bags, along with the souvenirs & cards we had amassed to date.