Saint Petersburg. www.lonelyplanet.com/russia/st-petersburg Russia’s second largest city and a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1990, this splendid showcase of Russian glory, founded in 1703, was the brainchild of Tsar Peter the Great. www.historylearningsite.co.uk/peter-the-great/ A mega tourist draw and the prime destination on our Baltic Sea Cruise www.cruisecritic.com, we dropped anchor in this gem of a city. Formerly knows as Petrograd and Leningrad, Saint Petersburg ruled over the Grand Russian Empire for more than two hundred years until the Russian Revolution of 1917. www.history.com/topics/russian-revolution The arctic gust welcoming me in Mid June was a quite an unpleasant welcome but all bundled up, my hubby and I ventured out on our first tour, a canal cruise around the Neva River’s historic embankments.
Despite the sunbeams blazing between the whitest cotton clouds, chills crept all over me as our barge bobbed alongside other crowded vessels through an expansive network of canals and bridges. Past majestic mansions, golden spires, and onion cupolas gleaming against the deepest blue, I was caught in a constant 180-degree sweep. As I tried to absorb it all, this splendid history, architectural marvels, Peter the Great’s living legacy, our Russian tour guide Barbara pointed out the city’s resemblance to Italy’s famed Venice, hence St. Petersburg’s nickname, “Venice of the North.” In her dizzying spiel, she rattled off about Peter’s ambitions to build a new capital city, calling upon Europe’s best architects, engineers, artists, and craftsmen. The western style boulevards, enchanting parks and fountains, and sprawling palaces we admired on our tour showcased his majestic vision and power. Throughout history, St. Petersburg moved between periods of upheavals and cultural achievements.
The Golden Age of Russian Culture rose from the ashes of the first Russian revolution in 1825, the Decembrist Revolt, after Tsar Alexander I died suddenly. The second cultural wave, the Silver Age, inspired revolutionary ideas in the world of music, dance, and visual arts until Russia entered World War I in 1914. www.worldwar1.com. That year marked the beginning of decades of upheavals, wars, and revolutions, taking Russia headlong into the iron fist of Stalin www.biography.com/people/joseph-stalin-9491723 and the era of Soviet Communism. But in 1989, the tsunami wave of freedom sweeping across the Iron Curtain https://www.britannica.com/event/Iron-Curtain brought about a new dawn. The Soviet Regime fell, new nations emerged, Leningrad became St. Petersburg, and during a period of revival ensuing to this day, the city has transformed to of the most stunning destinations on the planet. Watch out for my next blog about St. Petersburg’s most famed sites.