St Petersburg, Russia - January 2018 (Part 2)
We had thought at one point of doing two days in the Hermitage, but one long one was enough for us and we welcomed the chance to see more of the city and get outside.
We hopped on a Metro to Goríkovskaya, where we walked along the snowy streets to the Cruiser Aurora.
Reputed to be the ship that sparked the October Revolution, when the crew refused an order to leave port and later fired a blank to indicate the end of the deadline to the Interim Government appointed after the Tsar had abdicated, it has been extensively refurbished (in 2016) and is in lovely condition, sitting amongst a frozen sea of jagged ice.
The Aurora, amidst the broken and refrozen ice of the Neva
Unfortunately, there are parts (the stern, the bridge) we werenít allowed on (fenced off), maybe they always are, maybe because of the slippery decks, but it was worth a visit, although Mandy couldnít help but compare the identical entry fee (700 Roubles) with the Winter Palace and other museums the previous day!
Me and the ship's bell
Mandy on the starboard bow
Most of the information was in Russian only, but there was some in English and you can get a gist for what itís all about from doing a bit of research on the Web first. The Ship fought the Japanese before WW1, was instrumental in the Revolution, provided disaster relief in Italy and was involved in the defence of Leningrad during WW2 - All this is covered in displays onboard.
The Cruiser, Aurora - The ship that sparked the Revolution - Perhaps...
I like ships, so I enjoyed it, but an hour was enough to see it allÖ
Next we wandered along the Neva Embankment to the St Peter and Paul Fortress, which sits on an island directly across from the Winter Palace.
Chilly by the Neva
This fortress consists of a fortified wall, surrounding the island, containing a Cathedral and many other historical buildings. Being enclosed, itís a little time capsule and very little inside looks out of place for one or two hundred years ago.
The walls of the fortified island
Impressive cathedral spire
The island is a step back in time
This was well worth a stroll around in the snow and we spent a while here, before moving on along the Embankment to the Menshikov Palace.
Old ship now a restaurant
This was the home of Prince Menshikov, close friend of Peter 1 and first governor of Petrograd (Has any city had so many names?). This was a lot grander than Peter 1ís Winter Palace, but a lot more modest than the Tsar Nicholasí Winter Palace.
It was interesting to wander through the rooms and whilst very modest next to the Winter Palace, it felt more like a home, than a palace and we were both happy to have visited it - If you have time, itís also included in the 700 Rouble day ticket with the Winter Palace, so you could come here on the same day - As a one off visit, it cost us a modest 300 Roubles.
Sadly Prince Menshikov fell foul of Russian court politics (nothing is new!) and ended his days in exile in Siberia! Not that much changes...
Broken channel in the river ice from one of the lifting bridges
Memorial to sailors
By the time we left it was well past lunchtime and we were hungry, so we walked across one of the lifting bridges over the river and on past the St Isaacís Cathedral museum. We decided against going in, opting instead to visit the Church of the Spilled Blood on the following day.
St Isaac's Cathedral
Admirality Building, near Palace Square
Horse and carriage outside the Winter Palace
We found a beer house called the Craft Brew Cafe , which served a wide selection of Russian and international craft beers (I had a very nice Russian Stout) and excellent burgers for a reasonable price, a short walk from Nevsky Prospekt and St Isaacís.
Kazan Cathedral on Nevsky Prospekt, by night
We walked back to our hotel, pretty tired and Mandy had developed a sore throat, so we didnít venture out again that evening.
The final day we had planned to visit the Church of the Spilled Blood, the Engineerís Castle and, time permitting, the Faberge Museum, before heading off to the airport.
It was a chilly -10C, but although it was gently snowing, it didnít feel damp, so was bearable in a way that snowy, warmer days in the UK often arenít.
'Church of the Spilled Blood' Ticket
We walked down Nevsky Prospekt as far as the Griboydeov canal and then walked along it to the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood.
Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
Very much in the style of St Basil's in Moscow, but much younger
Very much modelled on St Basilís in Moscowís Red Square, the church (now a Museum, rather than a place of worship) was built on the spot where Tsar Alexander II was fatally wounded by assassins. It was actually only built in the late 19th Century.
My first view of the inside and it was quite breathtaking!
Model of the church
Outside, itís very much like St Basilís, with bright onion domes a plenty, whilst inside the walls, ceiling and floor are completely covered in bright mosaics.
Mosaics, floor, wall, ceiling, everywhere!
Part of the ceiling
Itís a pretty remarkable site, which I hadnít really expected, despite reading about the mosaics - They are everywhere!
The shrine on the spot where Alexander fell
The spot where Alexander was wounded (by a bomb) is protected with a (quite modest) shrine, but the church is riot of colour and decoration.
On leaving the Church we headed through the adjacent Mikhailovsky Garden, past the Russian Museum and visited the ďEngineerís CastleĒ, which was really just another grand building, built around an internal courtyard with a slightly odd statue of a crowned man sitting in a chair!
Last view of the Church of the Spilled Blood
Mandy fights -10C outside the Russian Museum
The Engineer's Palace
The Engineer, I presume!
We carried on and found the Faberge Museum. This cost 450 Roubles each, so was pretty poor value by the standards of the Hermitage (and weíd seen Faberge items in the General Staff Building), but it was still worth a look and some of the Faberge eggs and silverware items were pretty remarkable.
Faberge Museum Ticket
Some of the work in the Faberge Museum
Some of the work in the Faberge Museum
This egg clock with snake was my favourite
The place, though, did come over a bit self-important and we didnít stay very long. Most people, there, though seemed pretty impressed.
After a warm drink in a Starbucks on Nevsky Prospekt (That would never have happened on our previous visit to Russia!), we collected our suitcases from the hotel and jumped on the Metro to Moskovskaya, where we boarded a cramped minibus for a 15 minute ride to the airport. The total cost of our return trip from the hotel to the airport was £3.50 and took less time than the taxi had.
OK, it wasnít rush hour and it was Sunday, but taxis arenít the quickest or cheapest way to get around St Petersburg.
Getting out of Russia proved no harder than getting in (again, if you had the right bit of paper - They give you a loose piece on arrival, donít lose it! - itís a quick process) and we found the terminal eerily quiet.
Very quiet at St Petersburg airport
We ate a very decent lunch in the TGI Fridays in there and then boarded our plane, which was about 30 minutes late departing, but we were back home by 7PM.
Weíd enjoyed our trip to St Petersburg.
Our accomodation was a little strange, but perfectly comfortable for our stay, and excellently located.
The sites had lived up to our expectations and the snowfall and frozen river gave us that ďDr ZhivagoĒ experience that weíd wanted.
As a positive side-effect of going in January, most of the museums were quiet and we never felt hemmed in by crowds or had to wait in line to see anything or buy tickets.
If you donít mind a bit of a chill in the air, weíd recommend it!