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Wednesday 12 September 2012

[Tuesday 11 September 2012]
St. Petersburg
When I woke up I was aware of the smell of wood-smoke, perhaps blown from the restaurant chimney into the inner quadrangle that our room faced. We’d had the window open overnight. Janet complained that there’d been a fly in the room all night that had kept buzzing round her head. I hadn’t heard it, but almost as soon as she mentioned it, there was a high-pitched buzz past my right ear. Eventually I saw it, and took it to be a mosquito. We don’t seem to get them back home. Chris mentioned them in the context of Berlin in an email in September last year. Evidently their range extends northeast of there! We got up a little after 8am, and went down for breakfast a bit later. As in Moscow there was micro-thin sliced «бекон», but the sausages were very disappointing: boiled cocktail sausage-type things. Ca.9.30am we wandered out. There was a convenience shop on one street corner, with the (oft-seen) sign «Продукты» over the door, which we looked in; but it was the one on an opposite corner, «НормаН», which we christened “Norman’s”, with a back wall stacked full with different brands of vodkas, where we bought two 2ℓ bottles of Pepsi for 39.90 each.

We went back to the room, deposited the bottles in the fridge, and went down to the lobby to join the rest of our group for the morning tour. The itinerary for today said:

After breakfast, morning city tour of St. Petersburg with a photo-stop at St. Isaac’s Cathedral
The itinerary for tomorrow said:
Morning tour of the world-renowned Hermitage Museum and an afternoon excursion to Peter and Paul Fortress
But in fact, the tour today ended with the visit to Peter and Paul Fortress. The coach took us first to St. Isaac’s Square, where we got out for photographs.
Click on the photos, below, for a larger view.

10:24:50 St. Isaac’s Catherdral

10:25:14 In the distance, the tower of the Admiralty building

10:25:52 Monument to Nicholas I, remarkable for having only two support points (the rear hoofs of the horse). To provide balance, much of the rest of the monument is hollow.


10:29:24 Mariinsky Palace
Then back in the coach, we went along Admiralteysky Prospekt, catching a glimpse of the Winter Palace as we turned right into Nevsky Prospekt.

10:40:10 Passing the Admiralty building, in some sort of cladding, presumably for repairs or renovations

10:41:42 The Winter Palace

10:42:18 Nevsky Prospekt, not the most flattering view of this long, mostly broad, avenue

10:44:42 On Nevsky Prospekt, passing Kazan Cathedral. It is dedicated to “Our Lady of Kazan”, probably the most venerated icon in Russia.

10:44:56 On Nevsky Prospekt, crossing Griboyedov Canal. On the right bank is the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood.

10:45:16 On Nevsky Prospekt, passing the Catholic Church of St. Catherine
The coach turned off Nevski Prospekt, and let us off between a small park (Ostrovsky Square) and the Alexandrinsky Theatre.

10:52:26 Ornate apartment block. Almost out of shot to the left is the Alexandrinsky Theatre.

10:53:32 Alexandrinsky Theatre

10:56:04 Statue of Catherine the Great (Catherine II) in the small park (Ostrovsky Square)

10:59:40 Impressive store building across Nevsky Prospekt from Ostrovsky Square. Next door to the right (not pictured) is United Colors of Benetton.

11:02:50 Somewhat L. S. Lowry-esque figure in Ostrovsky Square
We got back in the coach, which took us back onto Nevsky Prospekt heading back the way we’d come, but in such a way that we passed Ostrovsky Square on our left. We turned right shortly after that, and got out again, to walk through Arts Square with its Pushkin monument in the centre, and at the far end the Russian Museum. From there it was a short walk to the Griboyedov Canal, and we turned right and walked along it to see the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood.

11:13:44 Heading back along Nevsky Prospekt, about to pass Ostrovsky Square

11:15:10 Old building of the National Library of Russia just beyond Ostrovsky Square; cf. 13:45:02 on Friday 14 September 2012.

11:16:54 Pushkin monument with Russian Museum behind

11:21:34 Pushkin monument in Arts Square

11:25:06 Russian Museum

11:38:00 Walking along the Griboyedov Canal; ahead, the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood

11:42:42 Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood

Cropped and enlarged detail from 11:42:42

Cropped and enlarged detail from 11:42:42

Cropped and enlarged detail from 11:42:42

11:42:48 Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood
Back in the coach, we turned off Nevsky Prospekt after a short distance into a somewhat Parisian-styled boulevard, Bol'shaya Konyushennaya ulitsa — “Great Konyushennaya Street”, presumably — then on into Onyushennyy pereulok — “Stable Lane” — crossing the Moyka River, and continuing to the Palace Embankment. We turned left, going along the Neva River.

11:58:38 On Nevsky Prospekt, passing Kazan Cathedral again

11:58:50 On Nevsky Prospekt, passing the Lutheran Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul

11:59:20 On Nevsky Prospekt

12:00:16 Bol'shaya Konyushennaya ulitsa — Great Konyushennaya Street

12:04:14 Crossing the Moyka River, which encircles the central portion of Saint Petersburg, effectively making it an island

12:08:28 View across the Neva River of the Peter and Paul Fortress

12:10:40 More views across the Neva River

12:11:32 More views across the Neva River

12:11:40 More views across the Neva River

12:12:28 Senate and Synod Building, Senate Square

12:13:08 The Bronze Horseman, equestrian statue of Peter the Great in Senate Square

12:13:44 The Bronze Horseman, with St. Isaac’s Cathedral behind

12:13:56 Senate and Synod Building

12:14:30 View across the Neva River

12:15:52 The Blagoveshchensky (Annunciation) Bridge
We turned left at Blagoveshchensky (Annunciation) Bridge, and were deposited at a corner where two canals crossed each other, the sinuous Griboyedova Canal and the straight Kryukova Canal. In the acute angle made by the two, there was a souvenir shop in a vaulted basement, somewhat reminiscent of the Cavern Club in Liverpool, but down only one flight of stairs. There was free tea, coffee or vodka; I availed myself of quite a generous tot of the last. I saw some examples of the unfeasibly large-diameter peaked caps that you see police officers and military personnel wear in Russia, but in the end we didn’t buy anything. Across Kryukova Canal from there was the St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral.


12:43:54 Sightseeing boat «Ерик» (“Eric”) passes St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral.

12:47:22 St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral

12:48:00 St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral

12:50:10 St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral

12:51:18 St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral

12:48:58 Looking south-southeast along the Kryukova Canal

12:54:50 Looking approximately north at St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral at the junction of the Kryukova Canal (left) and the Griboyedova Canal (right)

12:55:14 Looking west-northwest along the Griboyedova Canal towards St. Isidore’s Church

12:59:06 Souvenir-shop and our coach
Back in the coach, we crossed to the north side of the Bolshaya Neva River over the Blagoveshchensky (Annunciation) Bridge, and turned right to go along Universitetskaya Embankment.

13:38:20 One of two sphinxes with the face of Amenhotep III, built for him in Egypt in the 14th century BC, on the quay on the Universitetskaya Embankment

13:40:06 The Menshikov Palace on the Universitetskaya Embankment, now a branch of the Hermitage Museum

13:41:54 Approaching the end of the Universitetskaya Embankment: one of the two Rostral Columns, originally intended to serve as beacons
The coach stopped for a few minutes at the end of the Universitetskaya Embankment.



13:48:24 View across the Neva River of the Winter Palace


13:48:58 Peter and Paul Fortress





13:50:50 Wedding party, one of many that we saw while we were in Russia

13:51:00 Wedding party, one of many that we saw while we were in Russia

13:53:26 Bride and groom, and stretch limos, opposite the Old Stock Exchange
From there (Vasilyevsky Island) we crossed the Malaya Neva River to Petrogradsky Island, and thence by a wooden humpbacked bridge to the small Zayachy Island, which is dominated by the Peter and Paul Fortress.

14:00:52 Approaching Peter and Paul Fortress

14:04:34 The Boat House and Peter and Paul Cathedral

14:06:46 The Grand Ducal Burial Vault

Cropped and enlarged detail from 14:06:46

14:09:48 Nave of Peter and Paul Cathedral


Cropped and enlarged detail from 14:09:58

14:10:26 Pulpit, not often found in Orthodox churches

14:12:32 Detail of pulpit

14:13:04 Canopy under which the tsar stood. Note the double-headed eagle with orb and sceptre.

14:12:08 View of iconostasis and sanctuary marred by scaffolding

14:14:00 Icon, visible in the lower right of 14:12:08

14:14:00 Straightened-up view of the same icon

14:16:38 Tombstones: the labels are “Catherine I” and “Peter I the Great”.

14:18:10 St. Catherine’s Chapel at the opposite end of the building, with tombstones marking the burial of Tsar Nicholas II and his family


14:22:58 More tombstones

When we left the Fortress, the coach had disappeared. Вера got on her mobile phone, but there was a bit of a wait. Most of the party stood on the Fortress side of the road, but I found a stone to sit on, to rest my painfully inflamed right foot, some yards away on the grassed area on the other side. We crossed back over the Neva River by the Palace Bridge, and found our way to Moskovsky Prospekt, along which we went, back to the hotel.

14:51:12 The Winter Palace viewed from the Palace Bridge

14:58:08 On Voznesensky Prospekt crossing the Griboyedova Canal

15:03:54 Waiting at a street junction

15:05:38 On Sadovaya Street, about to turn right into Moskovsky Prospekt

Most of our party had opted to go to Peterhof Palace, some 20 miles west on the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland, but we’d decided against it. Because the weather was warm and sunny, we changed into T-shirts and set out to find the Metro. We had in mind to go to Nevsky Prospekt and find the McDonald’s whose sign we’d noticed earlier. First, we went to reception and asked for our passports; we didn’t want to be stopped while out without our official Intourist guide, be asked for ID, and not have any. (Actually, we’d have probably been OK, because we carried photocopies of the passport main page and the visa.) The hotel didn’t want to let us have our passports, though, and instead gave us their card, indicating the phone number anyone could ring to check our “bona fides”. We’d lost our bearings, and after turning left out of the hotel entrance on Batayskiy Pereulok, we turned right and went along Klinskiy Prospekt, passing the «Продукты» store on our right and «НормаН» on our left across the road. But after five or so blocks we came to a dead end, so we retraced our steps for about four blocks then turned right. This took us to a main road (Zagorodny Prospekt), where we decided to ask someone for directions. “Excuse me,” Janet asked someone, “can you tell us where the Metro is?” He looked at us blankly, so I uttered the single word /ˈmʲɪtro/ (trying my best to make it sound Russian!). He pointed us in the right direction. The station was «Технологический Институт», which I simplified to “Technology Institute” for the purpose of saying it between us. We dithered at the ticket-office windows, then eventually asked. The cashiers have a neat way of dealing with people who don’t speak Russian: they key it into a calculator and show the customer the display. It was 54 Roubles for the two of us. We were issued with two metal tokens, not tickets as in Moscow, to insert into the turnstile. The St. Petersburg Metro is very deep. Janet had been terrified on the escalators of the Moscow Metro, but these were worse. People going the other way seemed to be leaning forward — strange!

16:16:32 Descending to the tracks at Tekhnologichesky Institut metro station

16:19:12 Our train arrives.
We travelled, not to the next station but to the one after that, on the “blue” line (M2), to “Nevsky Prospekt”. Following the exit sign took us up an escalator and through another station, “Gostiny Dvor”. This was remarkable in having not archways to the tracks but closed doors. Presumably the trains stop so that their entrance-doors line up behind these doors. From there we went up another escalator, where everybody going the other way seemed to be leaning backwards. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t make them seem to be upright! We emerged and walked through a pedestrian subway lined with souvenir shops to the other side of Nevsky Prospekt.

16:24:44 Heading for the exit at Nevsky Prospekt metro station

16:29:08 Ascending to Nevsky Prospekt. We couldn’t resist the notion that all the people going the other way were leaning backwards at some 30º!
We asked someone where McDonald’s was — Janet again did the polite asking and I interjected a single word, in this case “McDonald’s” — but the distance seemed too far, and we settled for a nearby «Сабвэй» (Subway). There wasn’t an easy option, though, of pointing to an illustration of a «сэндвич 15см Сабвэй Клаб» (6" Subway Club sandwich); I tried that, then I had to choose what bread I wanted, what fillings I wanted in it, etc.

We also had a Pepsi each. I didn’t have coffee, but the choices that I deciphered were: Эспрессо (Espresso), Американо (Americano) and Капучино (Cappuccino). Afterwards, we started to stroll along Nevsky Prospekt, but Janet started to feel very ill and we had to stop till the nausea passed off. We decided to return to the hotel then; negotiating the Metro a second time didn’t seem as intimidating as the first. We were now more confident of the location of the hotel vis-à-vis the Metro station; we turned left out of the station, first left, first right, and there we were. We went up to the room. “[John’s] feet [were] sore,” Janet wrote, “and, of course, I’d got the nausea and the runs! We looked at photos then went down for our buffet dinner.” There was a guy playing easy-listening music on an electronic accordion, with a pre-recorded backing track as accompaniment, which brought to mind “Fritz” from the “Bergen Line Mini-Cruise”. “We’d just about finished,” Janet continued, “when two of our group, who had gone to the Peterhof gardens stumped up (it was 8pm). We chatted briefly, then said, “Good night.” We then saw others from our group and also chatted. We returned to our room.…”
[Thursday 13 September 2012]

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