Although we have kept busy with touring and covering the must-sees, we have walked around enough to become familiar with this gorgeous city. Walking here is like walking around inside the Empress’s jewellery box: a new gem around every corner. The entire city has been built in the “Russian Baroque” style which is essentially french but a bit more so. Because it was mostly constructed all at once, there is a uniformity of style which other cities lack. While it is called “Venice of the North,” I feel it is more like a combination of Paris and Venice. The city has a lightness and airiness from its broad avenues (where canals form the central boulevard down almost every street) like Paris. The city is surrounded by water but doesn’t have the dark, claustrophobic alleyways of Venice.
We are in a lovely area of the old city, on the Moike River, and the streets are lined with mansions and embassies painted in various pastel colours.
The people are much more modern and fashion-conscious than I expected. There are still the older generation oversized, square-jawed slightly scary women I envisioned, but the young (male and female) are as thin and beautiful as Parisians. The women plod around on cobblestones in 6″ stilettoes with 3″ platforms. Most of the beautiful young women seem to be with thick-necked Mafioso-looking types many years their senior. And of course, everyone here is staring down at a very small screen. Drivers are crazy and would quite happily mow down a pedestrian, especially one with a camera round its neck, given half a chance.
There are brides everywhere and on any given day of the week! It is a tradition here for the bride, groom and wedding party to travel from landmark to landmark posing for photographs at all the famous sites.
Today we followed another walking tour Willie had found and walked through the Summer Garden then over the Trinity Bridge to the Peter and Paul Fortress. Once again our jaws were dropping, when we stepped inside the Peter and Paul Cathedral. Being the oldest area of the city I was expecting a simple, modest, humble little wooden church. Instead it was filled with gold, iconography, and beautiful murals. The marble tombs of all the emperors and empresses were here including Peter the Great and Catherine the Great.
The rest of the fortress was a museum of St. Petersburg’s history and we saw one of the boats P the G built by his own hand. We visited the bastion and then climbed the fortress wall to walk along the rooftops for spectacular views of the city. It was fun, too, to see the vertical sunbathers who perch along the wall and swim in the Neva.
Tonite we had our first Beef Strogie! A funky, happening little restaurant had been recommended. Our go-go-go was catching up with me, and it was a good night to tuck in early.