Europe

Discovering Petrograd and Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg

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Pedro I planned to build a city in the style and likeness of the great European capitals that he admired so much. He wanted to modernize Russia and applied in that new city all the knowledge he had acquired in his travels through Europe. The first stone of that new city was laid on the Zayachi Island where in 1703 he erected the Peter and Paul's fortress.

During the years that the materialization of his dream lasted, he made edicts in which he came to prohibit the construction of other buildings so that all the materials and architects were used only in St. Petersburg. He reached such an extreme that if one wanted to enter the city, he had to do it with a stone under his arm to help with the construction. Needless to say, during this process thousands of people perished because of the extreme working conditions. All for the Tsar's dream.

About five minutes from the Gorkovskaya metro station (Горьковская) Zayachi Island is located. It was not what was planned for that morning, because our initial intention was to do the Peters Walk, which Marc Serena had recommended me, but providentially that morning the alarm did not sound. And I say providentially because all morning we were accompanied by a downpour that would not have facilitated the walk.

After crossing Alexandrovsky Park, we cross a bridge to the fortress. From this bridge, visitors try to get fortune by throwing a coin to the pedestal of the statue of a rabbit in the river. And in the water, a man finds fortune by collecting all the coins that have fallen into the water.

The bastion is the oldest monument in the city and currently houses several museums and the cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul. The entrance to the enclosure is free, but inside there are many buildings where you have to pay to enter. There is a combined entrance for 350 rubles that includes the entrance to the cathedral, the cosmonaut museum, the bastion of Trubeztkoy, the Museum of History of St. Petersburg and Petrograd, and the Museum of History of the Peter and Paul Fortress. This ticket is valid for two days, but does not include some viewpoints, the bell tower of the cathedral and some museums such as medieval torture.

Walking around the fortress site is very pleasant and everything is very careful. In the end we only bought the ticket to the St. Peter and St. Paul's Cathedral and we rented an audio guide in Spanish, which was a success.

The cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul has a very disappointing interior. Although the exterior seems to promise a surprising interior, it ended up not meeting expectations. It is of European baroque style, nothing like the Orthodox churches, and houses the remains of the Russian tsars (except for Peter II and Ivan VI). The last to be buried there were the last Russian imperial family in 1998, although many Russians do not quite believe that the buried bodies really belong to the family of Nicholas II.

At certain times you can climb the clock tower paying a separate entrance. But since the hours did not coincide with our visit, we decided to continue walking around the bastion.

More than to defend the city against possible invaders, this fortress was used mostly as a prison. Paying a separate or joint ticket you can visit the trubetskoy bulwark where until 1917 criminals and conspirators were imprisoned.

Following the perimeter of the fortress, we arrive at the gate of the Neva, which leads to a jetty on the river. That's where the prisoners started to be executed or sent into exile. You can access the jetty for free and if we walk along the side we can have a beautiful panoramic view of the Hermitage.

We leave the fortress to follow our route along the Petrograd area, where it stands out Pedro's cabin, a small house in which Pedro I settled to supervise the works of the fortress. It is considered the soul of the city and the oldest finished building in St. Petersburg. We ended up taking refuge in the porch of the tremendous downpour that was falling, but we did not enter, because like almost everything in St. Petersburg, you have to pay (70 rubles) and there comes a point where you prioritize visits.

What Yes, its free is the Aurora cruise, a Russian-Japanese war cruise dating from 1900 and which played a key role in the October Revolution when it launched a salve that demoralized the defenders of the Winter Palace. Too bad we do not notice that on Mondays it is closed to the public, because that way we would have saved the trouble of finishing with wet pants until the English.

Back to the Gorkovskaya subway station, we stop for a moment to appreciate the mosque which was erected in the image and likeness of that of Emir Gur in Samarkand. The mosque was closed, but it is still worth enjoying its bluish details if it has not yet been in Uzbekistan.

Luxury Cicerones: Paco and Nastia

At half past three we had met Paco and Nastia. During the Russian course that Amu Daria organized, I was fortunate to meet an engineering student from St. Petersburg and she told me that if I wanted to, I could get in touch with a friend who lived there. It is always much better to visit the country with someone native, so I contacted her without hesitation.

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