Cathedrals, Empresses and Tsars

Last day in St Petes dawns, gloomy and overcast So what to do? Well a quick visit to St Isaacs cathedral and a side trip to the statue of Peter the Great seemed in order. 🙂 St Isaac’s is a big sleeping mastiff of a building, crouching on 11,000 oak pilings it looms, brooding, above the St Petersburg city-scape. The views from the rooftop are great although in winter it’s … Continue reading Cathedrals, Empresses and Tsars

Zayachy Island and the Petropavlovskaya Fortress

The second last day Our room was cold in the morning, possibly because I opened the window a crack in the night to get some air. Larissa our host was somewhat horrified by the idea of opening a window, the draft you know, but it is if nothing else a great incentive to get up, so we did. After breakfast with Larissa we walked to the Petropavlovskaya … Continue reading Zayachy Island and the Petropavlovskaya Fortress

A night at the Mariinsky theatre

So tonight we attended the Mariinsky theatre for a performance of the Magic Nut. A great theatre and a just about the most amazing ballet I have ever seen. We left a little late so it was a dash across the city, then a flat out run at the end to get there before curtain up, because that’s how we roll. 🙂 We’d booked our … Continue reading A night at the Mariinsky theatre

Church of the Saviour on Blood


In this city of determinedly western style the Church of the Saviour is a sudden shock of medieval romanticism. Built on the site of Alexander the second’s assassination, the church embodies an inherent contradiction it’s a resolutely backwards facing shrine to the most effective, and pragmatic, reformist tsar since Peter the Great. Continue reading “Church of the Saviour on Blood”

There’s this cake shop…

Stopping off for cake and coffee at Sever, that icon of Soviet era pastry making. A little known fact of the Cold War was that the Americans were just as concerned about the eclair chasm as they were about the missile gap. You can find the latest incarnation under the Grand Palace (44 Nevsky Prospect). Weird coloured pastries, good coffee and quick service, what’s not … Continue reading There’s this cake shop…

House of the book

Now St Petersburg’s biggest and oldest bookshop, Dom Knigi (house of the book), formerly the Singer company of America’s corporate headquarters in downtown St Petersburg. The story is the company wanted a sky scraper, like their head offices in New York, but St Pete’s strict building code prevented it, so they went all out with a gaudy Art Nouveau exterior, heaps of glass (thanks to … Continue reading House of the book

The Hermitage

Palace square (Dvortsovaya Ploshchad) and the Alexander column, biggest of it's kind in the world.

Monumental moments

Palace square is big, I mean really, really big*, on the monumental scale it’s close to titanic. So in the middle of winter with only a few people in the square you feel ant like walking across the centre of the square, all of which may have been the intent. The Hermitage, an imperial palace damaged by fire then rebuilt, a treasure trove of art, the sight of the Bloody Sunday massacre of 1905, yes that Sergei Eisenstein film, then later the headquarters of the Kerensky government after the Tsar’s abdication, yes this is the government building that the Red Army stormed during the glorious October revolution of 1917**. Continue reading “The Hermitage”

A walk along the winter Neva


We’re staying with relatives while we’re in St Petersburg, so we have a place in Valsilyevsi Ostrov on the 6th line, yes just like in New York they give the streets here numbers. Also just like Manhattan Valsilyevsi Ostrov is an island, in fact the largest of the islands on which St Petersburg is built. Today we’re going to visit the Hermitage, but first a stroll along the Neva to see if the central Admiralty Museum is open, it was closed for renovations as it turned out. Continue reading “A walk along the winter Neva”

From Moscow to St Petersburg

We’re taking the Sapsan express from Moscow on a 650km three and a half hour rail  journey that will take us to St Petersburg across the snow covered landscape of Russia. And when we get off the train in St Petersburg there’ll be the Farewell of Slavianka playing over the station speakers to welcome us. Now this is why I like train travel.. 🙂 Continue reading From Moscow to St Petersburg