Today, we explored many churches and palaces in St. Petersburg.
We began our day exploring the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace was made by Peter the Great in 1714. The palace was then enlarged by Catherine II, Catherine the Great, who thought it was too small. I mean, can a palace really be too small. Although, Peter the Great had agoraphobia which is a fear of open spaces so that describes the “small” palace. When I looked at it, I saw nothing small at all about it.
We walked up a staircase surrounded by mirrors, statues and many gold plated parts of the walls. On the ceiling there was a large painting, and the walls were immensely decorated with all sorts of trinkets and treasures. We learned that the whole palace was bombed and raided and then burned by the Nazis in 1943-44, but most of the art was evacuated out of the palace by the citizens. We walked through a room that had beautiful marble columns and on the walls there were paintings and statues of the tsars. Each room had a different color of silk on the walls and whatever color the silk was, that was the name of the room. There was the “Light Blue Dining Room,” the “Red Room” and many more colorful rooms.
We walked on and came to the “White Dining Room” where the tsar’s held 20 hour dinners. After that, we came to a room that had these amazing paintings of the Russian war with the Turks, or the Ottoman Empire, on these huge vessels. It is interesting, as we travel, that art is always of wars and battles that were won. There is never a gallery of defeated soldiers in the palaces and castles!
There were eleven paintings in all, and they had mid-fire cannonballs in the air to waves washing over the decks of broken ships. All the paintings had an incredible amount of detail put into the ships, wave explosions or fires on the ships. We looked through the rooms until we came outside to an area that had fountains shooting their jets of water everywhere. It was all beautiful, all the fountains spraying in the cold air. The whole fountain grouping was called the Grand Cascade. We walked down some stairs so we could get a better view. We walked onto a bridge where we had an amazing view of the Grand Cascade and the palace behind it.
After taking some amazing photos, we came to a small beach on the freezing cold Gulf of Finland where we could see Finland on the opposite side. We could easily swim to it, except we felt the water and it was FREEZING. I probably would’ve frozen my hand off if I didn’t immediately stick it in my pocket. We walked to a fountain that we could run under, but if we stepped on the right rock, we would set off fountains getting us soaked. It was like Indiana Jones, except we wouldn’t get shish-kebobed with a spear. I sprinted across, and set it off twice, but I dodged the water. Brooke did it with an umbrella, but she still got soaked. We had a great time visiting the Summer Palace!
Our next destination was the St. Isaacs Cathedral. St. Isaacs is the fourth largest single-domed building in the world. We went to the cathedral the day before, but didn’t get to go inside because it was closed. The interior of the Cathedral had many paintings and marble columns. The whole interior was very bright with tons of greens and blues and reds. We looked at a painting that was taken down, but when we looked closely, we saw it was a mosaic with very, very tiny tiles. When we went right under the top of the dome, we looked up and we could see a bird. We learned that it was a white dove, which is a sign of Jesus. While we were leaving we got to see a movie that was being filmed right outside the Cathedral!
Next, we went to the Church of the Spilled Blood. The Church is called the Church of the Spilled Blood, because in the spot where it stands now, the Russian Tsar Alexander II was killed by a bomb. The Church was built by Alexander’s brothers and relatives who built it for Alexander. The Church took 24 years to build and took another 27 to restore. The Church looks just like St. Basils Cathedral in Moscow, but it is a bit smaller. Inside there are more that 7000 square meters of mosaics. There is also a spot that is fenced off where there is a small memorial to Alexander II. The spot is exactly where he was killed by the bomb. We headed home and then relaxed until we went to the Ballet.
The final thing we were doing today was watching a ballet. We walked over to the Mikhailovsky Theater. The theater was founded in 1823, and it is one of the oldest Ballet/Opera houses in all of Russia. The Ballet we were going to watch was called La Fille Mal Gardee or the Girl Who was Poorly Guarded. The Ballet is about a girl who is supposed to marry this one guy, but he is a total goofball. Although she wants to marry another guy, and she ends up marrying the guy she likes. The theater was very beautifully decorated. There was a giant crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling and the whole theater was decorated like the early 1900s. The Ballet was beautiful and the dancers were really good. I think we all really enjoyed it. We walked home and all collapsed on our beds exhausted.