Tuesday, June 21, 2011

St. Petersburg, Russia, June 19

Sunday, June 19. Father's Day. St. Petersburg, Russia. Sweden owned this land, but Czar Peter the Great launched a war in 1700 to take this land. Czar Peter the Great wanted Russia to have access to the Baltic Sea, to make Russia less Asian. The city is named after his patron saint. Thousands of peasants cleared forests and drained swamps. When Russia went to war with Germany in 1914, the German-sounding name of St. Petersburg was replaced with the more Russian Petrograd. The city was renamed Leningrad after Lenin's death in 1924.

During WW II, Hitler's army surrounded Leningrad for 900 days. Over 650,000 people died from fighting or starvation. The citizens voted to restore the St. Petersburg name in 1991. The city has tens of rivers and canals.

The sunrise today is 4:40am, and sunset is 11:22pm!

Day one of a two-day tour. We had a brief ride around St. Petersburg, prior to a tour of the Hermitage Museum. Cruise ship tours can enter the Hermitage at 9:00am, prior to the 10:30am opening for other tourists. The Hermitage art collection includes Raphael, Rembrandt, Monet, and others. The Hermitage Museum used to be the Winter Palace, which, after Peter's death, was built for Peter's daughter Czarina Elizabeth, and for Czarina Catherine II.

We toured St Isaac's Cathedral, with its large dome and many mosaics (because paintings deteriorate in this areas high humidity. After a wonderful lunch with entertainment, our next tour was a canal boat ride on several canals and the Neva River. We went beneath numerous very low bridges. An enterprising young Russian man was on the first bridge, waving to us as we came to that bridge. He then ran to the next bridge and waved to us as we came to that bridge. He continued that for all bridges. He was waiting for us and our tips, when we returned.

Czar Peter the Great had the Peter and Paul Fortress built, to guard the mouth of the Neva River, that was taken from Sweden. We toured the fortress and the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral (in the fortress).

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