Friday, November 30, 2012

Saint Petersburg: the Las Vegas of Russia

St. Petersburg is not in the desert  and the gambling casinos are not as gaudy, but the wedding chapels are definitely as full here as in Vegas.  

In our two days in St. Petersburg we couldn't help but notice a constant parade of young Russian brides and grooms traveling around the city in chauffered limousines celebrating the tieing of the knot by having their pictures taken at major tourist spots.   You could often tell the wedding limos as they had flowers on the hood.  This one was parked on the river near The Senate Square.

In some cases it was the bride and groom and the attending couple snapping photos.  In other cases there was a contingent of still and video camera operators and even flunkies with light reflectors.  This bride was posing outside of the Cathedral of "Our Savior on the Spilt Blood."  I don't think I am going to go near analyzing that.

This couple was in the Palace Square and they were the most informal of the lot. The groom was just in a sport shirt and she wore a short dress.  The maid of honor's dress was even shorter and the best man was in camo. The red sash and golden slippers were pretty neat too.


Legs always appear to be in style. 


And some of the groupies seem ready to join in. 

This was the most stylish couple.  They had just finished posing in front of the Peter the Great statue in the Senate Square. We loved her parasol and his blue suit and matching fedora.  

This one is in the garden just off the Senate square.  No parasol and a nice conservative black suit. The color was left to the mother-in-law who was trying to keep stray tourists out of the shots.

In our visit to Saint Nicolas Cathedral we literally had to wait outside for the wedding to finish.  When they emerged they did not look too pleased with what had apparently gone on inside.

Even after they re-assembled for their formal family portrait the mood did not seem to have taken an upswing.   Very Russian I guess.  

   At the end they all piled into this little jalopy.    C'est la Vie!  
So much for the sociology of weddings in St. Petersburg.  We're heading back to Helsinki in the next entry.  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

More of St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg is a city of the sea and the great Neva River.
It is criss-crossed by channels and spits and islands and canals that are all teeming with watercraft.

Whether outdoors or indoors your eye is often called upward.
High over the arch of the General Staff Building in the Palace Square is the massive Chariot of Glory sculpture group advertising a Russian victory over Napoleon 
And what can you say about the vibrant colors and onion domes of the Cathedral of  "Our Savior on the Spilt Blood"  which was built over the spot where the Emperor Alexander II was assassinated in 1881. 

Every bit of the busy exterior is echoed down to the smallest detail of tiling on the walls. 
The interior is alive with gilt and mosaics.

The sliver of land named the Spit of Vasilyevsky Island was in walking distance of our hotel and it  captivated us. 

Here you see the Greek temple like Stock Exchange and the imposing Rastral Columns

If you stand at one of the columns and look over the river you see the Peter and Paul fortress and the golden spire of the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral. 

Rastral Colemns were erected in ancient Greece and Rome to commemorate major naval victories.

The projections are called Rostra and represent the prows of enemy ships captured in the battle.

The largest cathedral in town is St. Isaccs, which was finished in the mid-nineteenth century.  It is more than monumental and set in an equally massive square. Unfortunately our time ran out and a visit to the interior had to be sacrificed.  Maybe next time we'll get inside.    

And everywhere there are photo ops for the smaller details of this city's life. 

Smile for the camera.

You need to buy at least one set of nesting dolls while in Russia.
The front columns of St. Isaacs

A striking building detail

Natural History Museum with the Neva River and a garden in the foreground

And finally a parfait back at the hotel.  Yummmmmm!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Touring St. Petersburg

While waiting for our room to be ready at the Sokos Palace we visited the Concierge desk and arranged for a private visit to the Hermitage.   Our guide was a Russian student named Olga.  She spoke excellent English.  Our driver, with another suitably Russian name, Sergei, didn't seem to know much English but he was spiffily togged in black suit, tie, and mirrored shades.

The Hermitage we knew was one of the great art collections of the world, but we didn't know that it spilled out into at least four connected buildings along the magnificent Neva River esplanade.

Our tour was a pricey but turned out to be practical as this was the line to get in if you were not in a VIP channel.  

Once inside,  it was a grand staircase and then room after room of  Baroque grandeur.

The ceilings glittered with gilt and every doorway seemed to be an entry into a palace of gold.

  Every niche and ceiling seemed to radiate embellishment.

The throne room was primed and ready to receive the royal derriere.

and crystal chandeliers sparkled above us.

Obviously the buildings themselves are works of art, but the interior is also full of almost three million additional works.  Only a fraction of them are on display but what is there could clearly occupy the visitor for weeks.

There were delicate golden miniatures on blue porcelain.

and green Malachite vases that stood taller than a man

There were lots of classical statues

And plenty of priceless paintings.

One of the truly moving areas was The Raphael Loggias. It is an exact copy of a huge pictorial cycle that was created by Raphael for the Vatican Palace.  Catharine the Great commissioned the copies of the frescoes in the 18th century and they are now a central feature of the New Hermitage.

After over two hours of walking through the Hermitage's palatial halls, we were ready to sit and see  a few more of St. Petersburg's sights.

 We went by the Kazan Cathedral

and the Stroganov Palace on Nevsky Prospect.  It's now a huge shopping mall.

We saw Peter the Great's  statue in Senate Square.  This dynamic sculpture was created in 1768 and embodies the city, its founder, and the rock of its namesake Saint. 

The Palace Square has plenty of room to spare as well.
Cathedrals are a dime a dozen in St. Petersburg and each one is more resplendent then the next.  
Cathedral of "Our Saviour-on the-Spilt-Blood

and St. Isaacs Cathedral

More on St. Petersburg trip in the next entry.
Thanks for looking.