JOURNEY TO WHITE NIGHTS: ST. PETERSBURG

When Russia is mentioned, we hear some insisting on Moscow; however, St Petersburg might seduce you as a completely different face of modern Russia at any moment. Russia’s tsarist capital, once a desolate swamp, dazzles people with all its glory today. There is something in St. Petersburg that pervades people. At first glance, it gives the impression of a city that promises people pleasure with its color, shine, and history as well as its underground art and music alternatives. The city has already proved that it is not under the shadow of Moscow anymore through what it has been offering.

Frozen in time
Peter the Great, who turned his face to the West, created the city out of nothing. His successors added magnificent palaces and cathedrals with the assistance of the European architects in accordance with the city plan. Thus, St. Petersburg became the first modern city of Russia. Although, the capital was moved to Moscow after the revolution, St. Petersburg almost became the showcase of the Romanovs. The city became the indicator of Tsarist Russia’s growing status in the world. As a tsarist capital, it almost seems frozen in time.

A lifetime in Hermitage
Hermitage Museum is a reflection of St. Petersburg by all means. Magnificent Winter Palace and additional buildings deserve their reputation in the world’s eyes. Several days may not be enough for touring their treasures. It is like a panorama of the history of Western European art. A part of this extraordinary collection of more than three million works are exhibited in about 360 rooms. One of the greatest art collectors ever, Great Katarina, started this collection. Nicholas I, even more enriching it, opened the collection to the public in 1852, for the first time. However, in the post-revolutionary period, when the government had confiscated the special collections of the wealthy families such as Stroganov, Sheremetyev, and Yusupov, the collection had grown threefold. In 1948, impressionist and post-impressionist paintings of industrialists of Moscow such as Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morozov had been added into the collection. Hermitage Museum is composed of five connected buildings; The Winter Palace, Small Hermitage, Old Hermitage, New Hermitage, the State Hermitage Theatre.

From Great Catherina to Selim III
it would be useful to join the guided tours of the works of art restoration and storage section of the Hermitage. Exhibited samples (paintings, furniture, and horse-drawn carriages) are quite interesting. The most outstanding work in here is the wool and silk embroidered Turkish Ceremonial Otag that was presented by Sultan Selim III to Great Catherina in 1793. Equally impressive, the woodcarvings of the mythical Garuda are given by Indonesia for the 300th anniversary celebrations. Russian icons and frescoes, a collection of 3500 paintings by Russian artists, eight vertically hanging rugs, royal horse-drawn carriages, and a warehouse filled with all kinds of goods are among other works exhibited in here.

Good fit for hunger for art
If you can see Picasso as well as the Egyptian mummies, this will give you enough clues on the cultural life of St. Petersburg. This is a city of art and culture in the true sense. It is possible to spend days at the Hermitage Museum. In addition, the bests of ballet, opera, and classical concerts are in this city. During summers, you can satisfy your cultural hunger while participating in music festivals. If you are wondering the modern Russian art, then be open to other kinds of awesome experiences at the magnificent Erart Museum’s small but rich galleries.

Russia’s fame in art
Mariinsky Theatre, one of Russia’s most valuable and respected cultural attractions, was built in 1859 and has played an important role in Russian ballet since then. The green and white main building of Teatralnaya (Theatre Square) is notable for those who want to see one of the world’s most important opera and ballet house. However, the new second stage, Mariinsky II, is an opera house that belongs to the 21st century. Since its opening, Mariinsky has hosted the world’s most important musicians, dancers, and singers on its stage.

Venice of the North
You are never far from water in St Petersburg. Therefore, the city is often compared with Venice. Whether crossing the channel to watch the elegant city of 342 bridges, or to witness the removal of the bridge for the passage of ships on the River Neva at night… Similarities to Venice are not limited to these. You might come across Italian mansions and baroque and neoclassical palaces while wandering along the canals in the historic area.

A beauty on the horizon of the city
St. Isaac’s Cathedral holds an important place in St Petersburg skyline. Under the golden dome of the church, although the ornate interior is a museum, ceremonies are organized on religious holidays. French designer Auguste Montferrand began to draw the cathedral in 1818, although he was not an architect. However, the construction of the cathedral lasted so long (until 1858) Nicholas I had insisted on a more majestic building than Montferrand was planned. More than 100 kilograms of gold leaf used to cover the 2l.8 meter high dome.

The beach overlooking the city
Peter and Paul fortresses consist of the old prison where the Romanovs were buried in the cathedral, the various exhibition halls, and the large castle that remains in the Zayachy Island. History lovers will love this place so much; also, the ones who like sunbathing can enjoy the beaches and panoramic views of the city below the castle walls.

White Nights
The city’s ‘White Nights’ are legendary; in the long summer nights, the view of the northern sun’s barely disappearance over the horizon… Festival begins in May when spring arrives and the trees bloom in the park. In mid-June, the festivities continue outdoors in every part of the city during this brief but spectacular time in summer, since the sky does not darken. But do not worry, when the sky is grey, even when everywhere is covered with snow, St. Petersburg’s rich culture shines and continues to offer other pleasures.

Rasputin’s death
The last owner of the Yusupov Palace on Moyka River, which is a reflection of fascinating and terrifying history of the 19th century city, the marginal Prince Felix Yusupov was a popular person in high society and once among the Russia’s richest men. At the same time, this palace is where Gregory Rasputin was murdered in 1916. How the terrible event in the basement took place is told during the guided tours. Here, the famous Turkish study room (used as a billiard room) and the study of the prince can be seen. You must pay an extra fee to see where the murder of Rasputin began (poisoned for no reason, then shot with a gun, suffocated in the end.)

Superstition education from Petro
Although Kunstkamera, also known as the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, is not the kind of museum that everyone can handle, it is interesting. Peter I, who was famous for his superstitions, had collected scary freaks (monsters) collection, two-headed fetuses, deformed animals, and strange body parts to educate the Russian people. Petro ‘s purpose to establish this museum was to show people that their fears and beliefs in the wizards or jinx were futile, because these freaks were born this way due to internal injuries during pregnancies and the misbelieves and fears of pregnant women.

The fanciest of the fancies
Interior and exterior of the Spattered Blood Church (Voskresenka Khristov) that comes to prominence with its colorful hills is decorated with approximately seven thousand mosaics. This is the most ornate one of the classic Russian Orthodox churches. This place is mostly known as the place where the assassination attempt against Czar Alexander II was made in 1881. The church was so pompous that its construction lasted for 24 years and cost one million rubles. It is possible to see the best examples of the 18th century Russian architecture in here.

DO NOT MISS
The Russian Museum, spread over four palaces, has the largest collection of Russian art in the world.

ACTIVITY
Get Mariinsky Theatre in your list to watch worldwide ballet and opera, and Shostakovich Philharmonic for classical concerts.

PHOTO POINT
Watch the wonderful views of the city climbing up 262 stairs, to go to the section where the columned galleries around the St. Isaak Cathedral’s dome are.

ART BREAK
Do not settle down with Hermitage, the largest collection of Russian art is in the Mikhailovsky Palace.

HINT
You need to make reservations by e-mail at least five days in advance to visit the collection of Peter Carl Fabergé, the famous jewelers of women in pre-revolutionary Russia.