Cyndi and our absolutely fabulous Russian guide, Anna The flooring of of the Church of our Savior on the Spilled Blood...Beautiful mosiacs on the floors as well. In the 1930's the Bolsheviks closed the church. The were part of a movement to stamp out religion in the people of the area. They used this beautiful church to store piles of potatoes. Can you imagine?? Rich in front of the Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood Cyndi in St. Petersburg. Evidently if you kiss going over this bridge, you'll come back to St. Petersburg someday! These are the actual cobblestones where Russian Tsar Alexander II was mortally wounded. A bomb was thrown at his coach. He survived and exited the coach to check on his servants. A second bomber through a bomb at his feet and when it exploded, he lost both of his legs. He was not killed instantaneously. Obviously a very bloody spot, these are the cobblestones were that took place. His surviving servants took Alexander II to the Winter Palace, where his family surrounded him and he finally died. This was in 1881. His son, Alexander III, has this church built and named for his father. These are all mosaics...it was overwhelming! The beautiful interior with millions of little tiles making gorgeous pictures around us This is on the ceiling...it is a mosaic of Christ as a child. The mosaics start at the floor and go all the up the walls and cover the ceilings. There are 7,000 sq meters of mosaics in this church. It was mind-boggling. One of the mosaics Anna, our fabulous Russian guide The interior of the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood A bride and groom....the shiny cloth for the groom's suit is very typical of "Eastern block" styles. The graves of the Russian Imperial families The beautiful architecture of the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul One of the graves of the great Tsars of Russia There are two graves that are not of white marble. The green one is for Alexander II and the red is for his wife, Maria The Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul So these are some really big doors! (St. Isaac's Cathedral) The doors from the inside. These doors weigh 20 tons and are carved with scenes of the Russian history. Rich and Cyndi in St. Isaac's Cathedral Christ's Ascension mosaic Mosaic of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary How's that for a pulpit? One small part of the ceiling The inside of St. Isaac's Cathedral This was spectacular...see that tiny dove in the window at the very top? It has a wingspan of 3 meters! Spectacular just doesn't seem to encompass the experience of entering this cathedral. This is a mosaic...meaning it is comprised of thousands of tiny colored tiles...of the last supper. This one was rather small compared to others. Rich and Cyndi in front of St. Isaac's Cathedral. Peter the Great (the man who really was the burning fire behind the building of St. Petersburg into a major port city, was born on the feast of St. Isaac and wanted this cathedral made in honor of his patron saint. It took 200 lbs of gold to decorate the inside with gold. Rich and Cyndi in the front gardens with the Peterhof Palace behind us. The very impressive Peterhof Palace. Cyndi, along the golden statues on the front steps of the Peterhof Palace. The beautiful chapel at the Peterhof Palace The view of the front gardens and fountains at the Peterhof Palace, also known as the Russian Versailles The arch of St. Petersburg - the entryway to St. Petersburg. It was built as a celebration of the victory over Napolean in 1812. We had wonderful weather for our second day in St. Petersburg. Anna felt that it was a good omen that the weather was so nice that day for our final day of visiting her nation. We started off by driving 26 km outside of St. Petersburg to Petrodvorets. There we were able to see Peterhof Palace and it's spectacular grounds and fountains. Because we were on a tour, we were able to tour the palace and the grounds before they actually opened to the public. That was great for us because there weren't big crowds. However, we didn't get to see the fountains on...they only come on around 10 or 11 a.m. We were there at 8 a.m.! There was no photography allowed inside the palace - the first place we really encountered this. (I thought we were pretty lucky with all we got to photograph!) There were glorious rooms gilted with gold and many different artifacts from the 18th and 19th century. Anna told us that people washed their hair about once a year during that time....they would have elaborate wigs and hairdos and would sleep sitting up to keep up their hair. The people that were in higher classes at the time would have these tiny black boxes they would have on their shoulder and on their beds that were flea catchers. Bugs ran rampent. (Doesn't that just make you feel like you need to scratch?) :o) There were also different kinds of make - up...with false beauty marks worn mostly by women. There was an unwritten language dealing with these false beauty marks. If a woman wore one on her left cheek, that told her lover (or possible lovers) that her husband was home. If on the right cheek, that meant her husband was away and men could come calling. Interesting, eh? After touring the palace, we walked the grounds. We walked down to the Gulf of Finland, where the palace is situated near. Craig and Mayra were there the day prior with their tour and learned some things we didn't get to see...that there were secret benches to sit on that would start a fountain flowing (and totally soak anyone nearby) - talk to a water-logged Craig about that one....Mayra recalled it with quite a big smile! :o) The Peterhof Palace was destroyed, pillaged, etc, by the Nazis during WWII, like much of St. Petersburg and the surrounding area. The Peterhof Palace was the first national treasure to be refurbished after the war and was completed in 1947. After the war, the Russian people abandoned the name Peterhof (meaning Peter's court/house) because of it's German roots. They began calling it Petrodvorets, after the small town it is near. Over the years, the orginal name took hold again. Peterhof is on 300 acres of lush gardens with many different fountains and statues dispersed about. Peter the Great's granddaughter, Elizabeth, was the one that really made Peterhof the gorgeous place that it is. If a young couple would like an extravagant wedding reception, they can rent one of the ballrooms at the Peterhof Palace. It costs 200,000 Euro per day to rent. That's about $380,000! Yikes! Better make sure that marriage is going to last! Evidently there was a famous Russian prima ballerina that had her reception there and then the marriage broke up shortly afterwards.... We then moved on to St. Isaac's Cathedral. It has a wonderful gold dome and huge columns made of single pieces of red marble weighing 80 tons. This was actually the 4th St. Isaac's Cathedral that has been built. The original was built to be the main church of St. Petersburg and at the time, was the largest church in all of Russia. Anna often mentioned the phrase "true believers." Evidently after WWII and the rise of the communist party, there was a huge drop off of true believers. Before the revolution, 80% of the Russian population were true believers. As I mentioned before, the Bosheviks took over the Cathedral in the 1930's and turned it into a museum about Atheism. By going to all of these Russian Orthodox Churches and Cathedrals, I was able to learn a bit more about this faith...with is a cousin to my own faith as a Roman Catholic. The women are supposed to wear scarves over their heads when worshipping. Also, the worshippers all stand throughout the entire service. St. Isaac's Cathedral holds 14,000 standing people. The cupula of St. Isaac's Cathedral is a gorgeous gold. It was made with a gold and mercury mix (which is highly toxic). There were three layers of this mixture layers on the cupula. 65 of the 100 workers that did this work died of mercury poisoning. This is the third largest dome in Europe. Due to the humidity in St. Petersburg, paintings did not last very long. Therefore, Catherine the Great opened a mosaic school during her reign and many of the artwork thus turned from painting to mosaics. St. Isaac's Cathedral is no longer used as a place of worship, unless there is a special event or holiday (mainly Christmas, Easter and the Feast Day of St. Isaac). It is considered a museum now. Another interesting place we went on that day was the Ss. Peter and Paul Fortress. (finished in May of 1703) This was a big walled area that was supposed to be an area for soldiers to protect the port area of St. Petersburg. Almost immediately after it was built, it was realized it wasn't needed and became a prison for political prisoners. Peter the Great's son from his first marriage was a prisoner there, as was Lenin's brother and the author of "Crime and Punishment."This fortress remained a prison for 200 years.
There is also the Cathedral of Ss. Peter and Paul. Being built originally in 1704, this is the oldest church in the city and the 2nd tallest building. The golden spire is 400 feet tall. All of the members of the Russian imperial family from Peter the Great to the Romanov family (the last of the tsars of Russia) are entombed here in this great cathedral. Speaking of the Romanov's...two of the family members' remains were unable to be located after their assassinations (order by Lenin - the Russian people were only told of his deception and his order to kill the Romanov family in 1991 when records were unsealed.) You may have heard of Anastasia...the movie Disney made about 10 years ago about the Romanov tsarina that had escaped the slaughter and got amnesia. This is totally fabricated and seemed to upset Anna somewhat that Walt Disney misinterpreted Russian history in such a flambouyant way. Anastasia was killed that night. The bodies of Maria and Alexis were missing but were found recently in the Urals and it was proved by DNA testing as to their identities.
We also went to the church that represented in my mind what a typical Russian Orthodox Church should look like, The Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood. There is more on that in the captions of the pictures above. The onion-shaped domes are what most people think of. St. Alexander II was one of the most beloved tsars. He freed the serfs in 1861 but was still assassinated in 1881.
As we leave Russia..here's some quick facts: Russia is the largest country in the world with nearly 6.6 million sq miles. The population is around 141.4 million people. Russian is the official language but many others are spoken from neighboring countries such as Belarus, Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Moscow is the capital and the government is a republic. The currency remains the ruble.