Russia…Day Two

The architecture is amazing, but the most interesting part of our Russian experience was Natalia.  She is in her early fifties, old enough to have experienced some hard times in Russia. She likes Putin, though she didn’t when he first was elected. I think she is happy that times are better, at least for her.  Her son, in his twenties, doesn’t necessarily agree with her.  Crimea…She believes that the Crimea should be part of Russia; her son felt Russia had no business invading.  So, the differences in the ages. How familiar. But the two-day discussion was most engrossing. No matter where you live people have the same concerns: family, taxes, housing, education, war and the future for your children. Most interesting was the number of people, in all different countries that stated they just wanted ISIS wiped out.  The vehemence this group elicits is both unbelievable and understandable.

There are still many signs of old Russia. Natalia didn’t understand why they would tear down statues of Stalin in the Ukraine. To her way of thinking, it is just history.  It isn’t right or wrong, just part of the past.

rsz_img_0572 rsz_img_0787The Winter Palace is the main building of the Hermitage. It was built for Elisabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great, and sits on the bank of the Neva River. Along with four other buildings that are beside it, the Hermitage Museum has the largest art collection in Russia. Natalia informed us that although Moscow is the financial capital of Russia, but St. Petersburg is the cultural capital. The former home of czars is impressive for the both the architecture and the art collection. My favorite, the Impressionists, are now housed in the General Staff Building. An interesting article in the NY Times in 1994 announced the holdings of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art held by the Hermitage, in secret, until 1991. Hermitage Reveals Hidden Treasures

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Palace Square looking at the Winter Palace
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Palace Square looking at the General Staff Building

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Squares…In addition to Palace Square we saw a number of beautiful squares in this well-laid out city.

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Senate Square and The Bronze Horseman statue, monument to Peter the Great
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St. Isaac’s Square

In the afternoon we visited Catherine Palace, another drive out of the city center. On the way we passed the monument to the rsz_img_0790Siege of Leningrad. The 900 day rsz_img_0180siege cost the lives

of more than a million residents, most of starvation. We saw this speaker that was broadcasting a continual thump. I believe Natalia told us it was to commemorate the people who died during the siege.

I have to admit, I was a little palaced-out by the time we arrived at Catherine Palace.  I don’t know if we could have arranged to go somewhere normal Russians go, but I wish I would have tried. So much opulence was a little overwhelming. That being said, it is another example of outstanding architecture. The palace is named after Catherine I, the second wife of Peter the Great. Elizabeth, the daughter of Catherine and Peter, is the one responsible for its current grandeur. She was gold-crazy! It took over 100kg of gold to decorate the palace exteriors. Easy to understand the Bolshevik Revolution. And before you say anything, I know that wasn’t until 1917.

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amber_roomThe Amber Room is covered with amber covered panels. The room, built in the early 1700’s, is valued near $400 million. The room was given to Peter the Great in 1716 by Wilhelm I of Prussia. During WWII Nazi troops removed it and it has never been found. The Russian government ordered a restoration of the Amber Room in 1979 and it was completed 2003. Unbelievably, much of Catherine Palace was destroyed during WWII.  When you see pictures of the devastation, it seems impossible that it has been restored.       Mystery of the Amber Room

Something that didn’t fit in anywhere:  The heat in St. Petersburg is controlled centrally. The government turns it on in the fall and off in the spring. You cannot regulate the temperature yourself. During the summer, the hot water is turned off for three weeks to do maintenance on the system.

The Soviets provided housing for its citizens. So, a great many big, plain apartments were built. After the fall of communism many citizens received ownership of their apartments.

A great look at the monuments of St. Petersburg:  St. Petersburg monuments

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