Everywhere we visited in St Petersburg, there were a lot of people sightseeing, doing what we were doing. Peter and Paul Cathedral was no different. In comparison to some of the other European churches we visited, the cathedral was probably on the smaller side so the crowd here might’ve seemed disproportionally large.
The draw card might be because the cathedral holds the remains of many of Russia’s Emperors and Empresses, including Tsar Nicholas II and his family. The last Tsar along with his family, were famously executed in the dead of the night. Though rumours say that two of the children were never found (the more famous being the Princess Anastasia), our Russian tour guide said that those stories are merely a “fairytale” made up by the rest of the Western world to make the history more exciting.
And here, we shall stop writing and let you take a glimpse inside the cathedral for yourself.
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Catherine the Great in the 18th Century wanted a summer residence hence the construction of what is now known as Catherine Palace: the summer residence for Russian Tsars.
What we see today is a restoration of the original as during World War II, the Germans destroyed the palace. One of the most famous rooms is the amber room (the one room where photography is NOT allowed). This room was looted by Nazi Germany during the war and there were attempts to locate it whereabouts but it was never found. The room now has been restored to its original appearance, believed to have cost 11 million Euros.
The palace is so extravagant; it appeared that no expense was spared. It is reported that over 100 kgs of gold was used to gild the exterior.
And internally the ornate wall carvings and ceiling are gilded in gold, while some of the rooms, the walls are covered in either silk, mirrors and/or oil paintings.
Even the ceilings are not forgotten, of course. Look up and it is very highly likely that it would be beautifully painted. Each room we enter seems more grand then the next. There is just no way to notice all the detail of every room. Upon reaching the ballroom, we admit that for a second we are swept back a few hundred years and picture ourselves waltzing…. Ok, so we didn’t picture the waltzing part, we actually did a 20-second waltz, but when you see the ballroom, you will understand why!
The gardens of Catherine Palace were not as impressive as that of Peterhof Palace. Interestingly, while Peterhof Palace was full of fountains, Catherine Palace did not have a single one. Catherine did not care for fountains so preferred to have a lake instead.
After one week in Russia, we have been awestruck by the lavish lifestyle that were had by the Emperors and Empresses.
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To see every piece of artwork in the Hermitage in one visit is impossible. Apparently to look at every piece (of the 3 million collection) for 30 seconds each, would take up to 9 years. We did not have that much time on this trip!
Russian Empress Catherine the Great founded the Hermitage in 1764 when she purchased masterpieces from Western Europe. The museum has 4 of its 6 buildings open to the public; Winter Palace, Small Hermitage, Old Hermitage and New Hermitage.
As we walk through the rooms and hallways, the opulent lifestyles of the Russian past smacks us in the face! But in saying that, the lavish and exquisite interior of the museum is the perfect home for the masterpieces.
Considering that we would not be able to see every single piece in our one visit, there are a few must-sees in the collection. And the beauty of what we saw is simply worth sharing. The first several are masterpieces of Da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Van Gogh.
Hermitage is closed on Mondays. It also can get very busy and we heard pickpockets use the opportunity to pounce so be sure to keep an eye closely on handbags and wallets. Also remember, backpacks are not allowed in the museum.
For photos of our trip to Russia, see our Facebook page.