Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Highlights from Russia's gilded age in St. Petersburg

Architecture, history, and heritage have given St.Petersburg, Russia the title of “Grand City of the Czars.” Lavish residences, opulent palaces filled with beautifully intricate tile work, magnificent inlaid wood flooring, gilded walls, and glorious paintings give today’s visitors a look at the extravagant lives of the Russian rulers that eventually led to the revolution.
Catherine's Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia
The best way I know to share these reminders of the glittering days of Russian imperialism is through pictures. Wrapped within the walls of several cathedrals are historic stories of czars, religion, and wars. Topped by traditional onion-style domes, these buildings have been an integral part of Russian life and culture from ancient to modern times.

Gilded room and exquisite tile work inside Catherine's Palace
Considered the most European of Russian cities, a real downside is that there are fewer than 60 days of sun a year. True to form, rain was a constant companion during our eight-hour tour. Our guide said they can tell who the tourists are because they smile--they haven’t succumbed to the dreariness that often plagues natives of the city.
One of many canals in St. Petersburg
Although we spent two full days exploring St. Petersburg, situated on the banks of Neva River, it’s a city that can be overwhelming. It is the largest seaport in the country, a maritime center built on a series of islands spread over a wide area. A network of 60 canals and rivers criss-cross the city, which is spanned by 400 bridges. Its large squares, parks, and boulevards seem to be best consumed in small bites.

Rain is a constant companion when visiting St. Petersburg, Russia

Intricate designs in blue tiles
As we explored classical St. Petersburg our first stop was at Catherine’s Palace, summer home of the imperials. Catherine the First was actually named Martha. She lived in Latvia and worked as a servant in the home of a priest. When the Russians invaded, she was taken as a military prize and worked as a laundress in a nobleman’s home. She became a mistress of the Czar, who eventually married her in 1711 because he could recognize her children as his own. After Peter’s death in 1725, she ran the country for two more years.
Formal garden in front of Catherine's Palace, St. Petersburg
The palace and gardens were a gift to her. Because of this “rags to riches” story she is called the Russian Cinderella.
Cavalier's Dining Room in Catherine's Palace was spectacular.
Next we visited the fabulous Peter and PaulCathedral, which was completed in 1733 as part of the fortress built by Peter the Great to protect the area from attack by the Swedes. Gilded walls and murals are simply breathtaking. Many Czars and members of the royal family are buried in that cathedral.
The gilded age is also represented in Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg.

Ceilings are also gorgeous in
Peter and Paul Cathedral.
My first impression was that Russia still seems somehow undiscovered and not well understood despite the fact many cruise ships dock at St. Petersburg and there are plentiful tours throughout the country. With dissolution of the Soviet Union in December, 1991, visitors have been allowed to explore this large and diverse country. I’m glad we had the opportunity to go to St. Petersburg and Moscow—and I expect many changes to take place in coming years.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier


No comments: