Thursday, July 11, 2013

St. Petersburg Russia | Day Two

Day 2 started bright and early again. Our tour guide picked us up at the terminal and she gave us the choice of walking around on Nevsky Prospect (Avenue) or visiting one of the subway stations before our appointment at the Hermitage Museum. I really wanted to see the subway station because apparently they are beautiful...I just googled "St. Petersburg Subway" and it looks more like a museum than a subway station. Since there were 11 of us, we took a vote and Nevsky Avenue won. It was a beautiful sunny morning and we started our walk with a trip into Kazan Cathedral. It looks more like a government building from the outside than a church - but it is actually modeled after St. Peter's in Rome. The cathedral was closed after the Russian Revolution in 1917 and then re-opened in 1932 as a Pro-Marxist Museum of the History of Religion & Atheism. In 1996 it was returned to the Russian Orthodox church. A lot of the churches in Russia were either closed or demolished during communist control. Some were converted to non-religious uses - such as skating rinks. 

Kazan Cathedral

Nevsky Prospect
View of the Church of Spilled Blood

Walking down Nevsky
I was actually happy we decided to walk down Nevsky because I was able to pick up a Russian magazine (Allure) for Lauren -her one request! After we walked around for a bit we hopped back into the van and headed over to the Hermitage Museum. We were able to go in at 10 even though it didn't open until 10:30. It wasn't crowded at all - it was so nice! The later in the summer you go the more crowded - and HOT it gets (so we've heard). This museum is massive - it consists of the Winter Palace, Small Hermitage, Old Hermitage, and New Hermitage, Hermitage Theater & Reserve House. The museum owns over 3 million pieces of art and only displays something like 15%. It is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the world. According to our tour guide - it ranks up there with the MET in New York, Louvre in Paris, Prado in Spain and British Museum in London. Now I just need to visit the Louvre and Prado and I'll have seen them all!

There was so much beautiful art - but also the palaces that house the art are equally as beautiful. It was a lot to take in!

Outside of the Hermitage - the Winter Palace
Hermitage Ticket - The Russian Alpha-bet fascinates me
Grand staircase
Line to get in before it opened (for people not on tours)

Pretty stained glass
So many beautiful chandeliers
Amazing mechanical clock
Leonardo da Vinci
Canal going between buildings
Another chandelier
One of my favorite pictures
Gorgeous room
Michelangelo Sculpture
Renoir - Apparently this is a boy?
Van Gogh
Another pretty ceiling/chandelier
After the Hermitage we went back over to St. Isaac's Cathedral - this time to go inside.

St. Isaac's Cathedral
HUGE door
So pretty on the inside - reminded me of St. Peter's in Rome
Massive church

Love the ceiling

During Soviet rule the building was stripped of the religious items and turned into the Antireligious Museum. During World War II the dome was painted gray to avoid attracting enemy aircraft. After the fall of communism the museum was removed and religious worshiping was allowed again. The church is still a museum -which is why I think they allow you to take pictures.

After visiting the church it was lunch time - we ate at a restaurant across from the Mariinsky Theater. Justin and I decided to be daring and get something other than chicken and french fries :) Lunch was SO good - better than the place we ate the first day.

Inside our lunch restaurant

Russian potato pancakes & sour cream
Beef & pork dumplings - SO good!
Mariinsky Theater
As you can see in the picture above - we lost our gorgeous sunny day before we visited the Church of Spilled Blood. That was our last stop of our Russian adventure. What a breathtaking place! The church was looted and badly damaged in the Russian Revolution. During World War II the church was used as a temporary morgue and suffered significant damage. During restoration they actually found an un-detonated missile in the dome of the church - what a miracle it didn't detonate! After the war it was used as a warehouse for vegetables. It contains more mosaics than any other church in the world - according to the restorers. The church reopened in 1997 after 27  years of restoration but has actually never been a place of worship - it was exclusively dedicated to Tsar Alexander II where he was assassinated. 

Church of the Spilled Blood
Marty & Denise sharing their umbrella with us!
Trying to get in pictures without raindrops!
Everything is mosaics - amazing!

Mosaics up close
Be-jeweled door

We had a fantastic and packed 2 days in St. Petersburg. If anyone is hesitant on visiting Russia I say go for it! There is so much history and beautiful sites to see! We ended our time in Russia with drinking white russians - we though tit was very fitting :)

Drinking White Russians in Russia!