Thursday 6 May 2010

Good morning St Petersburg

Like the early birds we started into the morning on our second day. But our night enhusiasts had still rather small eyes- and that for a good reason: each night the bridges of St Petersburg open at a set time and are beautifully lightened. A wonderful scenery over the old capital of Tsar Peter.

One excursion stared with a city tour towards the Peter and Paul Fortress, the birthplace of the city and place of the Peter and Paul Cathedral. Here you also find the Aurora- from here came the signal of the start of the revolution in 1917 by firing a single blank shot from the bow gun. But the hightlight of this excursion was definately the visit of the world famous Hermitage Museum- the "Crown Jewel" of the museums of St Petersburg. Founded in 1764 as a private museum of Catherine the Great it is now displaying an unbelievable selection of about three millon pieces of art. To see all of them you would spent an estimated 17 years!

The Neva river cruise gave us a great sense why the city is called "Venice of the North". St Petersburg is situated on 42 islands with more than 60 small rivers and canals crisscrossing the city. Our open boat went past the magnificant palaces facing the Neva, beautiful parks and garden and the onion-shaped domes of the Smolny Cathedral. This tour also brought us to the Yusupov Palace, an outstanding historic and architectural monument of the late 19th, early 20th century. It presents a fine example of the Russian classicism. The Yusupovs resembled a rich family and they were great collectors of art as well. The palace is in addition one of the most mysterious places of the city, full of occult memories. It was here that Grigory Rasputin, a peasant monk (also the "Lover of the Russian Queen",) who had gained control over the Tsar`s family through his alleged supernatural powers, was murdered by the young prince Felix Yusupov. And in the cellar of the palace there is a display of wax figures re-enacting the whole event (a bit like "Madame Tussauds").
In the early afternoon it was time to say "farewell" to this great place and we sail out the river and passed Kronstadt.
And Helsinki- here we come!