Recently I hosted a family friend and teacher from Cape Town South Africa, she was a wonderful guest to have touring with me along with her cousin from Germany.
“Full Monty Tour with Alexander Saint Petersburg, and more pictures of Sigi Howes stay in Saint Petersburg.”
Below I will be sharing her facebook updates regarding her recent tour to Saint Petersburg and her pictures. All Content is hers.
My favourite Russian drink
… is not vodka, but ‘mors’. It is a traditional red berry juice, mostly made from cranberries, but sometimes also raspberries.”
This is a traditional sauna. You sit in a room heated to blistering temperatures with a wood-fired stove and get walloped with brooms made of birch branches. Russians seem to find temperatures of 90+ degrees Celsius pleasant, but for the rest of us this can be excruciating. Especially when the banya mistress keeps adding ladles of water to the fire and you can hear the wooden slats of the seat searing grill stripes into your buttocks. You even have to wear a special felt hat – try not to laugh – to prevent your head from overheating and exploding. Once your body can no longer take it, you are chased into a tub of freezing cold water, or have a bucked of same poured over your head. Or you could just go outside and jump into the snow, but luckily there wasn’t any of that around. Then a brief respite in a Jacuzzi before you start the whole process over again. It’s wonderful! And finally you get to drink soothing mint tea.”
” Tuesday was our last day in St Petersburg. We visited the St Isaac Cathedral. Like all churches in the time of the Soviet Union, it was closed for worship. After the fall of the Soviet Union, it was restored as an art museum. “
The Church of the Saviour on the Spilled Blood
I previously posted some pictures of the exterior of this building. St Petersburg is, by European standards, a relatively young city, being about 50 years younger than Cape Town. Today we were taken inside the church; nothing could have prepared me for what I saw – magnificent iconography, all in stone mosaic work. The first picture is where Tsar Alexander II was mortally wounded in the street in 1881. The church was built over the site from 1883 – 1907. There was no seating in Russian Orthodox churches – everyone was expected to remain standing, including the Tsar and Tsarina.
The Food Hall Kupertz Ellseevs, St Petersburg
Beyond heaven. Great coffee, delicious cakes and lots of other tempting morsels:
The Peterhof Gardens
Like Versailles, the gardens at Peterhof are laid out in the French style, with flower beds, geometric pathways and water features. There are 64 fountains, and yet not a single pump – they are all gravity fed. It is absolutely breathtakingly beautiful.
Peterhof is a series of palaces outside St Petersburg. Built in the early 1700s, the main Peterhof Palace was built by Peter the Great as a direct response to Louis XIV’s Palace of Versailles. His daughter, Elizabeth, was responsible for most of the baroque gilding, some of which Katherine the Great later removed. It was never a residential palace, but used mostly for receiving foreign diplomats, visiting dignitaries and for special events like weddings.
During the Siege of Leningrad (1941-1944), Peterhof was destroyed by the Germans and some of the art work looted. It was rebuilt after World War 2 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Nicholas and Alexandra
I have always been fascinated by the tragic story of the last Russian royal Romanov family: the little hemophiliac crown prince Alexei; the undue influence of the monk Grigori Rasputin on the Tsarina Alexandra; and finally, their brutal murder in Ekatarinburg (where they had been imprisoned) in July 1918. Their bodies were then taken to the nearby Koptyaki Forest, where they were stripped and mutilated.
In 1979 the remains of the bodies were found in two unmarked graves in a nearby field, but the news was not made public until forensic investigations had been completed. DNA tests identified the bodies conclusively as those of Nicholas II, his wife and their 5 children, as well as the 7 servants who remained with them to the end. It also put to rest once and for all the rumour that the youngest daughter, Anastasia, had somehow miraculously survived unharmed. In 1998 they were buried in the Peter and Paul Cathedral, 80 years after they were killed. I wept to see this.
The Hermitage, or Winter Palace of the Russian royal family.
It was founded in 1764 for the Empress Katherine the Great. It now houses the pieces of art collected by the royal family, and is the second-largest art museum in the world. Seeing all these opulent works helped me to understand why the Russian Revolution took place. Besides the mines and other valuable lands the royals owned, they also amassed their wealth by imposing crippling taxes on the people.
The ‘Kunstkamera’ is Russia’s oldest museum, founded in 1714 by Peter the Great. He had begun collecting curiosities – stuffed animals, model ships, tools and astronomical instruments. The core of the collection is still made up of exhibits collected during Peter’s lifetime, including the anatomical specimens and assorted malformed human fetuses (often referred to as ‘freaks’) prepared by the Dutch anatomist Frederick Ruysch. It is now known as the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography. Peter’s own woodworking tools are also found to be on display. Latter were difficult to photograph, so please excuse the poor quality.
The statue of Peter the Great, is the pride of St Petersburg. Peter I or Peter Alexeyevich, ruled the tsardom of Russia and later the Russian Empire from 1682 until his death in 1725. Through a number of successful wars, he expanded the tsardom into a much larger empire that became a major European power and also laid the groundwork for the Russian navy. He led a cultural revolution that replaced some of the traditionalist and medieval social and political systems with ones that were modern, scientific, Westernised and based on the Enlightenment. Peter’s reforms made a lasting impact on Russia, and many institutions of Russian government trace their origins to his reign. He is also known for founding and developing the city of Saint Petersburg (although not named after him but the disciple Peter), which remained the capital of Russia until 1917.
As a young man and crown prince of Russia, he studied shipbuilding in Holland and England. The third picture shows that. The original statue was destroyed during the Russian Revolution of 1917, but a replica was made in Holland and donated to the city of St Petersburg.
This is the old Singer Company’s (sewing machines) Building in St Petersburg. It is just one of the many buildings that simply take your breath away. It was built in 1902 to complement a similar building the company had in New York. It was the first building in St Petersburg to have steel frame, which allowed it to carry so many windows. The company was nationalised during the October 1917 Revolution, and closed in 1948 after the Siege of Leningrad. Today it houses the city’s largest bookshop: Dom Knigi.
The Tsarina Catherine the Great of Russia (Catherine II, born Princess Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst), who ruled Russia from 1762 to 1796. She sensibly got rid of her useless, good-for-nothing, womanising husband, Tsar Peter III (she had him assassinated in a coup), and then proceeded to take not only the throne but also a string of lovers. I’m sure the men sitting at her feet are some of them!