This time last year we were in Russia, a place that I never really believed that I would ever visit, sadly we got there two days after their huge victory celebrations commemorating the end of World War 2, but the banners were still decorating the streets.
The Russians commemorate The Great Patriotic War – as they name World War 2 – on the 9th of May so I thought I would do this post of the memorials in St Petersburg, mainly because I really dislike the way the Russian war effort is overlooked by the rest of the allies. Without Russian people’s efforts and sacrifices, we would all be speaking German.
There is a memorial garden just off Nevsky Prospekt where I took this photo of the VICTORY hedge plus Red Star.
Below I’m just reposting what I blogged last year about what is the Leningrad Hero City Obelisk installed on the 40th anniversary of the war’s end.
Over the last couple of days we’ve had the commemorations of the D-Day landings which were attended by the leaders of the allies and also by the German leader, Angela Merkel. But there was apparently no invite for President Putin, despite the fact that they were definitely our allies and if Hitler hadn’t taken on more than he could handle when he attacked Russia it’s almost certain that we would all be speaking German now. It was a close run thing.
I’m definitely not a fan of Putin, but given the fact that the Soviets lost more people in the war than anyone else, it seems mean and petty to leave them out of the memorial services. So I thought I’d show you a couple of photos of the War Memorial at the top of Nevsky Prospekt which is St Petersburg’s equivalent of Paris’s Champs Elysees or Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street.
It’s almost a year since we were in St Petersburg and I realised recently that I hadn’t blogged about our visit to the Summer Garden there. I hadn’t even heard of this place before we got to St Petersburg, but it is the most famous garden in Rusia apparently. It dates from 1704 when Tsar Peter the Great decided he wanted a garden in the European style and drew the initial plans himself.
I love fountains, we don’t have enough of them in the UK in my opinion, well not anywhere near where I live.
There are plenty to choose from in the Summer Garden, it’s all very classical. But we were there in early May and there wasn’t an awful lot in bloom at that time of the year in St Petersburg.
I’m not sure how the design differs from the original, but in 1777 there was a huge flood here, it’s close to the River Neva and everything was swept away, including the structures and fountains.
This is a beautiful place for those lucky enough to live in St Petersburg to take their exercise and it is well used by the locals. There were more locals in it than tourists which is always nice when you are in a foreign country. Maybe I’m strange but I hate feeling like a tourist! If you happen to be in St Petesrburg sometime, do check out the Summer Garden.
Donkey’s years ago I saw a programme on tv about the wonderful interiors of the railway stations in what was then the USSR, so when I realised that the building below was a metro station I had to go in for a look, no doubt getting in the way of the all the genuine travellers.
I was aware that the metro workers (I think) in the photo below were looking at us strangely, but reckoned that they couldn’t arrest us for taking photos of the decor – and nothing was said, they definitely thought we were weird foreigners though!
You could expect to see lights like those below in ballrooms rather than a railway station. They are in what is called the Moskovsky Station. (You catch mainline trains to Moscow from there.) I was thinking that I was so glad that when Communism got the upper hand they didn’t think to sweep away all the glories of Imperial Russian decor.
But if you have a closer look at the frieze below you’ll see that this must have been done under that regime as the clothes are fairly modern looking.
It’s only now that I see that what I assumed would be a no smoking sign actually seems to be a no hearts sign – bizarre. Don’t kiss anyone, whatever you do!
Then back out through the doors onto Nevsky Prospekt and the sunshine again.
I must say that all of the Russian people that we cmae into contact with were lovely and friendly.
The Church on the Spilled Blood in St Petersburg is quite something – as you can see. You really couldn’t get further away from the ecclesiastical architecture that prevails in western Europe, in other words – it’s definitely different. Yes that is scaffolding swathing it. It seems that no matter where we are there’s scaffolding hugging whichever building we particularly want to see!
And from another angle.
This church was built on the site of the assassination of Tsar Alexander II which took place in 1881. A bomb was thrown at him and it went off when it landed at his feet, I believe he lived for a few hours but was never going to survive. You can read about Alexander II here.
Below is the decoration on one of the sides of the church.
We didn’t go into the church as Nevsky Prospect was calling to us, we aren’t religious and you aren’t allowed to take photos inside anyway. The outside was stunning enough for me.
The green/blue palace is the Winter Palace and it’s just part of the entity that is called the Hermitage. There are six palaces which make up the Hermitage complex. There are so many exhibits in the Hermitage that if you spent only one minute in front of each one it would take you seven years to get around it all. We didn’t even get in due to the queues and wanting to viist other parts of St Petersburg in the short time we were there.
You can have a ride in a carriage around the square if you’re that way inclined. I watched people in the carriages taking selfies of themselves while they jogged around – not looking at the actual scene at all!
There’s a huge square in front of the complex of palaces which make up The Hermitage. Presumably it was designed like that for military purposes. Kings and Queens have always wanted to inspect their troops I suppose. This was the official residence of the Russian Tsars from 1732 until their demise in 1917. You can see more images here.
There’s a massive column of victory over Napoleon in the square which is now edged by loads of tour buses.
There are so many palaces around there, it’s difficult to figure out what they are! We discovered later though that the one below is the General Staff building.
The square had obviously been the focal point of the recent 1941-1945 Victory celebrations which we had just missed, and they were busy taking down the banners while we were there.
After years of reading about Russian history I could hardly believe that I was actually standing in front of the Winter Palace and it really didn’t matter to me too much that I didn’t actually get inside. Although I remember my mother telling me that she had seen a train in a station in Holland which had the destination MOSCOW on the front of it – so if we ever do go back (very unlikely) we’ll go by train and have a week there as that is what is needed to do the place justice.
If you know anything about Russian history one thing that you will want to visit in St Petersburg is the Aurora as she fired the blank shot which signalled the start of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Here she is below, moored in the River Neva and just having been given a bit of a makeover, she’s apparently a darker shade of grey than she was formerly.
It was possible to get on her but we didn’t fancy the size of the queue.
There are lots of bridges over the Neva and as you can see – lots of tramlines too.
The Church on the Spilled Blood below was built on the site of the assassination of Tsar Alexander II. Apparently you can still see the blood stains, but I suspect that it’s a bit like Holyrood Palace and Rizzio’s bloodstains – a bit faked up. As you can see it’s swathed in scaffolding at the moment.
Looking across the Neva again to the Peter and Paul Fortress with the golden spires.
Every direction you look in there are churches or palaces, we believe the one below is the General Staff Building. You can see red banners hanging from posts, very Soviet Union looking. These were to commemorate the anniversary of May, 9th 1945 Victory Day. Unfortunately we just missed the celebrations which were a few days earlier.
Below is a sort of canal which is really part of the Neva I think.
Below is some sort of government building I think. One thing that I really wish I had done before going to Russia was to at least buff up my knowlede of their alphabet, it might have helped a lot.
Below is a photo of an ordinary street in St Petersburg. One thing that I really liked is that the traffic lights have a countdown so you know how long you will have to wait before the lights change again. The ‘green man’ actually speeds up his walking action as the time to cross begins to run out – so helpful I thought!
Looking at the huge amount of very grand buildings many of which were palaces in St Petersburg it’s very easy to see why they had a revolution. The difference between the haves and the have nots was enormous