by Bob McCormac
This is a multi-part article encompassing my 20-day trip to the Nordic countries that spawned the Vikings and where they left their mark on civilization. In most areas, those direct influences have long since been erased but the impact on the cultures is still apparent in each country. Some of the articles also cover the neighboring countries, like Finland, Poland, Russia, and Estonia.
We steam out of Helsinki for the journey to Saint Petersburg, Russia. The Baltic Sea is much calmer this night and a bright sunny day awaits as we arrive in St. Petersburg the next morning.
St. Petersburg is not named after Peter the Great as is widely thought but after St. Peter. The city has actually been renamed three times: St. Petersburg (originally), Petrograd (1914), Leningrad (1924) and back to St. Petersburg in 1991. It must be noted that there is no going ashore in St. Petersburg without a visa – either provided by the ship through their organized tours or applied for on your own separately.
Soviet era construction dots the landscape on the trip from the docks to the city center. It’s in awful shape and totally uninspired; even the locals speak of it with a certain disdain. The facades are protected as “historical” and signage on these buildings is severely restricted (as are the repairs apparently). There’s no chance for pictures as our driver doesn’t slow down and moves as quickly as possible to the better parts of the city where the traffic congestion also increases.
We finally make a stop along an older dock across the street from an early 20th century naval vessel, the Aurora. The guns from this boat were fired as the signal for the Bolsheviks to storm the Winter Palace in the first event of the October Revolution, the beginning of the Russian Revolution in 1917 and the end of the Romanov family.
The Neva River divides much of the central part of the city and a boat on the river is a nice way to see a lot without walking the entire distance.
The Vasilyevsky Island Spit extends into the Neva and provides many nice views up and down the river and, the unique rostral columns commemorating naval victories provide a nice point of interest.
The Peter and Paul Fortress and Cathedral was constructed between 1706 – 1740. The structure was not only a defensive structure against Swedish attacks but, also as a prison for high ranking political prisoners including Dostoevsky and Trotsky. Interesting that a fort/prison also contained a glorious cathedral with 27 icons mounted in gold. The cathedral also contains the remains of many of the latter Czars, including the reinterred Romanov family.
St. Isaac’s Cathedral is the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral and fourth largest cathedral (by volume) overall holding about 6000 people – standing only as there’s no seating.
During the Siege of Leningrad in 1941, Germany used St. Isaac’s as a targeting point. The result of some of the shelling can still be seen in the pock marked red granite columns surrounding the church.
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is the most ornate Russian Orthodox church I’ve ever seen, being more accustomed to the Russian churches in the US which are far less adorned for the most part. The church on its small plot of land draws massive crowds daily and the street vendors on the back side of the church feed off these crowds.
No visit to Saint Petersburg is complete without a visit to the Hermitage Museum. The museum is so large there is no hope of completing it in an afternoon so, we concentrate on only a single section until the end of the day.
About the Author
Bob McCormac is primarily a landscape and travel photographer from New Jersey in the USA. Bob spent forty years as an information technology professional before deciding to pursue a long held passion for photography. Bob considers his style as simple and direct; trying not to over complicate the shot while still conveying the feeling.