To get acquainted with our new city we spent the day doing a walking tour with Sergey. We first walked around Vasilievsky Island, the island we are living on, and Sergey pointed out different recommended restaurants, beautiful cathedrals and a reliable laundromat. We then went for lunch at a very authentic Russian restaurant and I got to have my first Russian meal: borsch Soup, cabbage and sausage and honey crepes for dessert. Borsch is a famous Russian beetroot and beef soup that is always served with a dollop of sour cream; it is delicious! After lunch we walked to the Pedestrian street and took the metro one stop to Nevsky Prospect. On Nevsky, Sergey took us to the monument of Catherine the Great, a statue that was unveiled in 1873. Catherine the Great’s reign is known as the “golden age” of Russia and she greatly improved the quality life and education provided by the city during her reign. Around her statue is the Anichkov Palace, the Russian National Library and the Alexandrinksky Drama Theater. Nearby is the Vaganova Ballet Academy which is the associate school of the Mariinsky Ballet and some of the best ballet dancers have graduated from this Academy. We continued to walk down Nevsky and I tried very hard to look into as many store fronts as I could while also keeping up with the group. We finally reached a bridge and to my right was the beautiful Church of our Savior on the Spilled Blood and to my left was Kazan Cathedral. I was in awe by how beautiful and history these cathedrals are and how perfectly placed they are in the heart of the city. We took a left off of Nevsky to admire a statue of Nikolai Gogol, one of the authors we are focusing on in our Russia in Modernity class.
We continued walking around St. Petersburg and finally arrived in St. Isaac’s Square. We first went over to the Monument to Nicholas I, a six-meter statue and the first equestrian statue in Europe, unveiled in 1859. Behind the statue is the City Parliament building and the statue is facing St. Isaac’s Cathedral, our next destination. As a group we climbed the 262 steps to the top of the dome to get a panoramic view of the city. From the top we could see so many onion-shaped dome cathedrals scattered around and each one was a different color and so beautiful. After our descent we had a tour of the inside of the cathedral. The cathedral took 40 years to build and was complete in 1858, each of the 112 columns were lifted by man power only. In the 1930’s the cathedral was closed and it is currently a museum but has a room that still holds Sunday services, although it was built to accommodate 14,000 standing worshipers. On the outside of the Cathedral, one of the granite columns has a chip in it because it was hit by a bomb during the 900 day siege of Leningrad during World War II. After St. Isaac’s we walked over to the Bronze Horseman statue, another equestrian statue of Peter the Great commissioned by Catherine the Great. This was the last stop of the day and then we got to take the Admiralteyskaya station back. Aside from the Saint Petersburg metro being one of the deepest metro systems in the world, because many of the lines must go underneath rivers, Admiralteyskaya is the deepest station in SPB. Admiralteyskaya is 86 meters below ground and the first escalator ride was over three minutes long followed by another one minute escalator down, it was insane!!! We got off at the Sportivnaya station and crossed the bridge to get back to our hotel.