Monday, 22 September 2014


It has been an interesting week in Russia. We saw lots of amazing places and tried to learn a little history. It is much changed since the opening up of the markets in the early 90s. There has been rapid rebuilding and reconsecration of churches. The shops are full and glitz and glamour are popular.  At times it felt as if I was visiting a place that looked familiar and had the same name but was a totally different one to that I remember and have heard about. To think that such monumental social change has happened in my lifetime is mind boggling.

The Russian people remain vibrant and friendly in spite of all they are faced with. Well once you get past the initial serious face anyway!  

It made me sad to read sounds of restricting access to foreign influence via internet etc is being entertained by the government "in extreme circumstances". It does give me heart to think of how they rose again after tsarist and soviet repression so if such a thing happens their spirit will remain irrepressible I hope.

I have taken too many photos so this may be a bit long....  Large collection of garden photos for you in person when we return mum! :-)

First stop was St Petersburg. We stayed in a cozy little flat in the typical soviet cement blocks. It was a great place to explore right in the heart if everything near the Hermitage. The hermitage was amazing with an impressive collection of art and fancy palace costumes. Their 20th century European art collection had some gems.

While in the city we had great weather so also went to Peterhof by hydrofoil and enjoyed the gardens and trick fountains.  Peter the Great must have been into fountains, they are a big feature of his palace in Tallinn too!
Another day we went to Catherine the Great's summer palace.  It has been restored after damage during the Nazi occupation and is very fancy. They have rebuilt, at immense cost, the amber room that is entirely covered in amber and jasper mosaics.   The garden is follie central with Palladian bridge next to Turkish baths and the requisite ruins etc.

The mosaics in the restored church of spilt blood were amazing.

We enjoyed a night at the ballet to finish off our classic St Petersburg trip.  (the church was used to store sets for the ballet round the corner during the communist era apparently!)

We did a day trip to Viliky Norogrod a town centred around an ancient kremlin with churches and a museum with an encyclopaedic icons collection. It is a nice town with the river snaking past the fortress. Wedding parties were out in force for photos and the trend of attaching a lock to the bridge.

Moscow was huge. We stayed in one of the "Seven Sisters" sky scrapers thanks to Tom's good air b and b-ing. It had a view over the White House and was near the zoo. It was interesting to see inside one of these impressive decorated buildings.

The metro stations lived up to their reputation and one even had a pineapple frieze Anne! It was a shame photography is not encouraged a there was some excellent examples of soviet art.

The Armoury in the Kremlin has lots of glitz with Faberge eggs, diplomatic gifts from across the centuries and ofcourse armour.  
St Basil's Cathedral and Red square (including embalmed Lenin) was as iconic as always.

The fallen monument park next to the modern russian art museum is wild.  Part of it is like a storage yard and other parts give interesting context of the artists and subject.  It is good that this fragment of the great sculpture produced during the soviet era has survived and now is an important reminder of the era and what is was.  Quite amazing that there was a monuments factory to produce these things back in the day!

The Cosmonauts museum was fun too.  Great building and they have a super cool sundial with the planets around the sun.