The train from Moscow was fine and only lasted 8 hours, and we got to Moscow the same evening. After checking into the hostel, we went for a quick walk around the city and grabbed something to eat. After a poor nights sleep (mixture of mosquitoes and noisy people) we got up early and went to see the Peter and Paul Fortress, which is across the River Neva. Most of St Petersburg was badly destroyed during the war and various revolutions, but it has been rennovated beautifully. A canon is fired everyday off the fortress at midday, and somehow we managed to sneak in with a private tour group who seemed to have a vip within it, as there were lots of local press there! haha! We just stayed quiet and smiled for the photos! We were right next to the canon when it went off, and we were partially deafened by it! Everyone was clapping and smiling and chris and I were shouting to each other! Anyway, we were very lucky to get that close, as the 'normal' tourists were held back by a gate, which was a long way from the canon! We managed to get a video of it, but the computers in russia wont let us upload it, so it will have to wait!
After the ringing in our eas subsided, we went into The SS Peter and Paul Cathedral, which houses all the remains of past Russian leaders. We saw Peter and Catherine the Great and their relatives, as well as the Romanovs who were moved from Yeketerinburg in 1998. It was quite modern inside, due to extensive damage from the war. After that we walked back across into the city and went to The Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood (lovely title), which marks the spot where Tsar Alexander II was killed. It looks very similar to St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, with multi-coloured onion domes.
From there we walked across the famous Nevskiy Prospekt to Kazan Cathedral, which is a huge neo classical cathedral also rebuilt after the war. We continued walking all the way down Nevskiy Prospekt, which is a huge road full of shops and food stalls and everything you could want. Its the main thoroughfare of St Petersburg, and the locals are very proud of it. It has lots of glorious old russian buildings, making the general facade look very elegant.
We got the tube to Alexander Nevskiy Monastery after that to go and see the Tikhin Cemetary, where lots of famous people have been laid to rest. Chris was very excited to finally see many of the greatest composers that ever lived, including - Tchaikovsky, Borodin, Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov. We strolled around for a while amougst the many russian notables that are buried here. From there we went back to the hotel for a bit and then went out to see the city at night after we had dinner. It may be so, that St Petersburg is even prettier at night as the lighting on the building facades is very sympathetically done. We strolled along the Neva River until we wandered back to the hostel for the night.
After a good nights sleep last night we left early this morning to go and see the world famous Hermitage Museum. It occupies one side of an impressive square in the centre of St. Petersburg, with a column commemorating Tsar Alexander I at its centre. We booked our tickets last night on the internet as it says that you can beat the queues, and boy did we beat them! When we got there the queue was massive, we would have been waiting for about 3 hours if we had joined! Due to our forward planning we skipped all the queues and got our tickets within minutes! It was obviously very crowded, but we managed to break away and stroll around. It was truely stunning and lived up to our expections completly. The only issue was that very few of the pieces were described fully in english and there was no clear way to move around the building. Apart from that we had a fantastic time and saw lots of famous works including that of Da Vinci, Rapheal, Monet, Renoir and Canaletto. We left nearly 3 hours later, with very tired legs but we had a great time! From there we plodded down the road to St Issacs Cathedral, which is the largest cathedral in St Petersburg. It too has been rebuilt, but was absolutly stunning inside with frescoes galore! It can hold a congregation of over 10,000 people, which is a bit larger than most churches in England!
We plan to go to Peterhof tomorrow, which is the main palace Peter the Great built outside of the city. We are having a fantastic time in St Petersburg, despite the odd rain shower! Its not long now until we return, cant wait to see you all!
Lots of Love,
Chris and Alex xxx
p.s. we're having computer problems, I will try and add more photos tomorrow x