A Travellerspoint blog

From Russia with love! PART 2

St. Petersburg and Victory Day Parade


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It was a 4 hour drive today from Novgorod into St Petersburg, after we dropped our things off at the hotel we went for a walking tour. Our Intrepid guide Ksenia lead the tour as it's where she lives, nice to have a local show you the sights for sure! I was surprised at how beautiful it was, I mean I was expecting beautiful but this was simply stunning. There were gorgeous bridges and canals, mostly decorated with Victory Day colours and banners.
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St Petersburg was established in1703, sounds old but remember Novgorod (from the last blog) was settled int 859!
It is the Port of the Baltic and Russia's largest city outside Moscow with approx 6.5 million registered residents (probably higher though).
Also known as the cultural capital of Russia it's slightly more liberal then the other cities visited on this trip but still very heavily governed.

Some of the most stunning buildings are part of the Hermitage Museum which includes the Winter Palace. It's the 2nd largest art museum in the world behind the Louvre, out of interest the National Gallery in Victoria is ranked 48th (Australia's highest entry). It was commissioned by Catherine the Great in the 1760's to house her art collections and has been open for public viewing since 1852. The Hermitage Museum is spread over 6 buildings (5 open to the public) and is one of the most magnificent places I've visited on this whole trip!
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The exhibit I was most looking forward to was the Fabergé Memorial Rooms, it was stunning. Carl Fabergé was a young jeweller who came to work at the Hermitage in the 1870's restoring, cataloguing and repairing items. In 1885 the first Fabergé egg was gifted to Maria Fyodorovna from Tsar Alexander III, it's called 'the hen' and contained a small golden chicken as its surprise. A total of 50 'imperial eggs' were made, these were commissioned by Tsar's Alexander III and then his son Nicholas I, between 1885-1916. It's unclear the final amount of eggs made in total ranging from 63-69. Most are on displays at various collections and museums around the world and few to private collections. On display are not only the famous eggs but 100's of other pieces made by Fabergé throughout his career. Another of my favourites is the miniature set of Crown Jewels, so small and delicate. Even today you can buy jewellery by the Fabergé limited TM selling little egg charms.
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Many famous painting hang in the Winter Palace, but honestly I was just as taken with walking around the grand rooms of the palace. The floors and ceilings in particular, sounds odd I know, but it's more the details and effort level put into them that I stare at in appreciation.
Flawless parquetry work and use of different types and shades of wood gives the most beautiful effects. Here's a few of my favourites:
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The work on the ceilings were also varied from simple, yet stunning gold leaf work, to paintings and story telling across the room. Magnificent uses of colour and ornate plaster work.
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And don't forget the furniture and everything else in these grand rooms! Don't even start me on the use of all the different marbles and columns
I think I was in a time lapse for about 4 hours in there just wandering around in awe. Especially the age of the building and its pieces in this gorgeous condition. So I better cover a view of the art pieces that I liked! Big names of course but I didn't like them all but here's a few that I couldn't not mention, my top 3!

Leonardo DaVinci's Madonna and Child
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Auguste Renoir's Roses in a Vase
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Claude Monet's Poppy Field
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Something I didn't see but if you're ever visiting you might like to watch the opening of the bridges, if you're a night owl! St Petersburg has hundreds of bridges but 9 that open every night to allow ships/boats through. They work on a timetable from 1:30 am until 5:45 am, and if you get stuck on one side of the bridge from your hotel find a bar for the night because you can't get across until they close! A few of the UK girls went to see some of these on our tour and here's a couple of pics they shared.
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OK, enough on the art and culture experience of St. Petersburg not that it wasn't amazing but, I really want to get to tell you guys about the Victory parade! Previously I've posted about Anzac Day in New York and the importance to me about paying respect and thanks to those who gave all and those still that serve all of us on active duties around the world.
Victory Day is celebrated in Russia and many of the 15 republics that were once part of the Soviet Union.
It signifies the surrender of Nazi Germany to end WWII, it was actually signed on the late evening on the 8th but with the time difference in Moscow after midnight it was announced in the morning that the war was over on May 9th.
Each of the ex Soviet Countries celebrates differently, it's a public holiday here in Russia with festivities across the country.
I went down to the main streets called Nevsky Prospect which leads down to the Palace Square. Many people were waiting at the barriers along the footpaths to see the procession. First the armed forced with marching soldiers and tanks rolling down the street. It was actual surreal to see one up close and moving, I mean I've seen them at war memorials etc but seeing manoeuvre down the street was unbelievable!!
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A collective of jeeps and trucks followed with war veterans and families.
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What followed next was beautiful yet haunting also. Families of those who lost their lives at war marched with placards containing photos and details of their lives and where they died. Whenever I think of WWII things like Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, Pearl Harbour and of course at home the Darwin Bombing are front of mind. But did I also receive an education being here for Victory Day. The USSR (known in those days) suffered the biggest loss of life world wide with an estimated 27 million, of those nations Russia was the highest at just under 14 million (second to China at 18 million as the highest single nation). Many civilians also died in concentration camps and from starvation. I guess it hits you though when a precession of families walk past clinging to their placards for 3 hours... unfortunately I'm not even joking for 3 hours these families walk past me stationary of the street... that's a lot of people just in this march let alone events held nation and even world wide!

A very different experience to add to my WWII visits, I've been very lucky to also visit Pearl Harbour, Hiroshima, Darwin and on my next Europe adventures in a few weeks the UK, Germany, Poland and France.

Russia has been a wonderful surprise in so many ways! And I ticked my 3 must do's: see the ballet, see the Fabergé eggs, and buy a hand painted babushka doll!

Next stop Amsterdam!

Signing off from Russia with love,
L xx

Posted by mslaurajade 08:39 Archived in Russia Tagged bridges art boats history travel tour holidays adventures war russia wwii blog loss

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