On a mission to see as many of St Petersburg’s iconic landmarks as was comfortably possible within 36 hours, it was The Cathedral of the Resurrection I first made my way to.
This unusual building had been on my bucket list for a while and I couldn’t believe I was finally going to cross it off. But as keen as I was to see this stunning work of art I didn’t want to miss out on anything else on the way there, so when an outdoor craft market caught my eye, I had to investigate.
So very Boho and vibrant with colourful wares and characters to match, filled with handmade jewellery, artwork – and of course, the famous Matryoshka dolls! Some of the stalls were selling intricately hand-painted dolls and boxes depicting wonderful scenes from Russian life, alongside the typical tourist items. The dolls in the middle of the second row down, might just have found their way home with me!
Russia is full of surprises and you never know what to expect around the next corner. In the middle of a busy main road this building caught my eye; humble maybe, compared to the lavish architecture found elsewhere in St Petersburg, but delightful all the same.
I wasn’t sure exactly where to find the famous cathedral I was looking for but was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to miss it. What I hadn’t expected was the ordinariness of its surroundings. There, amongst the congested traffic, the shops, the electric overhead cables and people, I unexpectedly saw it.
More commonly known as ‘The Church on Spilled Blood’, this masterpiece of architecture was constructed on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated – hence the name. Inside is as intricate and as stunning as the exterior, full of uniquely formed mosaics, marble, glazed bricks and tiles in an almost endless array of colours, shapes and designs. No wonder it took 24 years to build! Visitors were visibly in awe of the splendid opulence and the sheer intensity of the grandeur. So was I.
Marking the point where the Tsar Alexander II was assassinated is the Jasper Canopy. Befitting an emperor, the monument was lavishly constructed from jasper and rhodonite and embellished with topaz and lazurite and other semi-precious stones.
The intricate mosaic designs cover a staggering 6,000 square metres inside the cathedral and another 1,050 square metres on the exterior. The mosaic of Christ in the central dome is very eye-catching… literally, because where-ever you stand to look at it, the eyes appear to be watching you!
The view from the back of The Church on Spilled Blood is equally breath-taking.
A short stroll alongside the Griboedov Canal and I found a stunning view point to admire the church.
And then there it was, looming up in all it’s glory in front of me. Such a magnificent building…
Craft stalls galore were positioned in the canal road leading up to the Cathedral, but then, where better to catch the many visitors? As I was browsing the local tourist wares, singing and chanting began to waft through the air drowning the noise of the traffic. The street became crammed with beautiful people in colourful costumes, all swaying and dancing in true Hare Krishna style. A regular Sunday occurrence apparently. Loved it!
The Winter Palace and the Hermitage Museum were next on my list. It was already late in the afternoon by the time I got there, and with only 45 minutes before the Hermitage closed, I literally had to fly around the place inhaling as much of the splendour as was physically possible in such a short time!
Being so late in the day the crowds had thinned out making it much easier to fully appreciate the beauty of the Raphael Loggias. It was Catherine the Great who commissioned the copies below of Raphael’s famous frescoes;
Though maybe some of the visitors found all the resplendence a little too much…
To see the Hermitage properly, you really need at least a whole day to take in and absorb the regal sumptuousness of the buildings. Sadly time was not a luxury I had. I managed to take a quick shot of the majestic Jordan staircase as I was being politely escorted out of the closing building. Shame, because this photo just doesn’t do the staircase justice.
Back outside again and a little chill-time in The Palace Square was definitely in order.
Wandering through the streets and over one of the many bridges in the city, I eventually sighted The Peter and Paul Fortress on Hare Island. It was too late in the day to explore it but I was happy to have caught sight of the famous Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul. The 3.2 metre high angel perched on top of the bell tower suppousedly blesses the entire St Petersburg! Peter the Great himself was buried in this Cathedral, along with many other monarchs and royalties that came after him.
St Petersburg is built on the marshlands of the Nova River and has a network of around 100 canals and tributaries running through the city. As early evening approached and the light began to fade, I fully appreciated why St Petersburg is referred to as the Venice of the North.
The following morning with only a few hours to spare before catching the train back to Moscow, I decided I just wanted to chill and enjoy the ambiance of St Petersburg – just to wander the streets a little, have coffee and relax. The receptionist at my hotel suggested I tried Cafe Singer.
Cafe Singer is situated on the second floor of the old Singer sewing machine factory and in order to enter the cafe, I had to first make my way through the famous Dom Knig bookstore. I was beginning to wonder where exactly I was going to end up…
But I was in for a pleasant surprise! The cafe, with its large windows had the glorious advantage of over-looking the Kazanskey Cathedral. What a superb view to have while enjoying a cup of local coffee!
Time was ticking but there was still a little time left for some random exploring. I managed to stumble upon The Admiralty – one of the city’s many architectural delights;
Then St Isaac’s Cathedral;
And also some quirky shop windows selling local culinary delights;
One day I hope I’ll be able to return to this beautiful, amazing city. But next time, I’m going to make sure I have the time it takes to properly explore, experience and enjoy all the lavish treasures and mysteries this city has to offer.