A photo blog… of Moscow & St Petersburg
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect on my first trip to Russia. So far I knew about the tumultuous history, sub-zero winter temperatures, vodka-drinking and opulent architecture. From what I had read, I was expecting a culture shock. My preconceptions were completely wrong; everyone was extremely friendly and I was surprised at how many people spoke good English!
Arriving into Moscow, my first impressions were that I felt safe and I thought the metro system was efficient and incredibly well decorated. For just 65 Russian rubles (approximately 76p) per journey, I entered a network of metro stations that represented subterranean marble-clad and chandelier-lit museums and ballrooms. Of the 180 stations, 44 of them are designated architectural landmarks, and more than nine million people use them per day.
St. Petersburg reminded me of Venice with its historic canals and Paris with its wide avenues and Italianate palaces. The beautiful city is best seen by foot, as you can stop and admire the imperial palaces along the waterways or elegant streets. The Hermitage was incredible and in my opinion, even more impressive than the Louvre.
The canals of St Petersburg
Stalin's Seven Sisters
It was thought that after the Second World War, Stalin stated that if Moscow was compared to capitalist cities it would be a moral blow, as they didn’t have any skyscrapers. The Stalinist Seven Sisters were then built between 1947 and 1953 in a mix of Russian Baroque and Gothic styles, inspired by American skyscrapers. Each skyscraper was designed with an underground bunker that would provide shelter to residents if there was an attack.
The Zaryadye Administrative Building and Palace of the Soviets were two others that were designed in the same style but never built. The building of the Palace of Soviets was interrupted due to the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941.
Moscow River with one of Stalin's seven sisters
The Aurora is a memorial ship in St Petersburg that played an important role in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. At 9:40pm on 25th October 1917, a blank shot from the Aurora’s gun signalled the start of the assault on the Winter Palace, which began the October Revolution that eventually brought Lenin and the Bolsheviks to power.
The Aurora, St Petersburg
Peter the Great, Moscow
The 322-foot tall statue of Peter the Great standing triumphantly on a pyre of ships, ready to conquer his enemies, is often voted as one of the ugliest monuments in the world. Even the locals think that it is more of an eyesore than an impressive tribute.
Rumour has it that the statue was built as a tribute to Christopher Columbus, marking the 500th anniversary of his first voyage, rather than Peter the Great. The sculptor, Zurab Tsereteli, couldn’t find a buyer, so the statue was reworked to represent the 300th anniversary of the Russian Navy.
The Peterhof Palace
The Peterhof Palace and gardens were commissioned by Peter the Great, as a rival to Louis VIX of France’s construction of the Palace of Versailles. The gardens were designed by Jean-Baptiste Alexandre Le Blond, and despite the harsh northern climate, the gardens are full of greenery and flowers. The main canal travels all the way to the Baltic Sea and the fountains use a clever water pressure system that was invented in the 1700's.
In 1941, Peterhof Palace was captured by German troops, who held onto it until 1944. Unfortunately, the employees at the time were only able to save a small percentage of the palace and gardens’ treasures before the Germans arrived.
As one of the most prominent art galleries in the world, the Hermitage museum was founded in 1764 when Empress Catherine the Great acquired a number of pieces from Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky, a German merchant. Part of the Hermitage, the present and fourth Winter Palace, was the residence of Russian Emperors between 1732 and 1917.
It is also the largest art gallery in Russia with a total of 1,057 rooms. The collection includes works by renowned masters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian, as well as French impressionists and canvasses by Van Gogh, Matisse and Gaugin. The museum has more than 3 million works of art and cultural artefacts and to cover the whole collection you would need to walk a mere 22 kilometres!
The staircase in the Hermitage
Cox & Kings arranges escorted group tours and tailor-made private travel throughout Russia. To visit many of the stunning sights described in this article, options include our Classic Russia group tour, or the Majestic Russia solo travellers.Share: