Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Buskers at night

I was quite surprised to find buskers near the palace bridge at 12 midnight during my Russia trip, most of which were performing stunts with fire. That's something that you'll never see in Singapore. Below are some pictures that I took of the buskers near the palace bridge doing some "fire stunts". Pretty cool. Enjoy...

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Monday, July 30, 2012

State Hermitage Museum

I don't think you can visit Saint Petersburg, Russia, without visiting the State Hermitage Museum. The State Hermitage is a museum of art and culture in Saint Petersburg, Russia. One of the largest and oldest museums of the world, it was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and has been open to the public since 1852. Its collections, of which only a small part is on permanent display, comprise nearly 3 million items, including the largest collection of paintings in the world.

 The amount of paintings within the museum is staggering, displaying priceless works by Rembrandt, Da Vinci, Michealangelo, Reubens and more. I could really spend the whole day within just looking at the paintings, at least the ones in the first and second floor. Anyway, the entrance fee to the State Hermitage Museum only costs 350 roubles. You need to pay additional 200 roubles to bring your camera in, and also to visit other places like the winter palaces.

The museum is within walking distance from the Admiralteyskaya metro. If you're going in by Nevsky prospect, you should see the Narva Triumphal Arch, erected as a memorial to the war of 1812. The Narva Triumphal Arch was specially constructed on the Narva highway to greet the soldiers who were returning from abroad after their victory over Napoleon. The arch is topped off with an impressive triumphal chariot pulled by six ponies, also known the chariot of glory. Below is the picture of the Triumphal Arch.

Triumphal Arch
Note the unique engravings around the arch as shown below.

Engravings on the Triumphal Arch
After crossing the arch, you will see the Alexander Column as shown in the picture below. Yes, I saw a horse carriage in front of it so I thought I might as well pose the horse in front of the Alexander Column. :)

Alexander Column with a horse carriage in front
The Alexander Column was also erected as a memorial to the war of 1812. The monument — the tallest of its kind in the world — is 47.5 m (155 ft 8 in) tall and is topped with a statue of an angel holding a cross. You can take a look at the angel in the picture below.

Statue of an angel on top of the Alexander Column
After crossing the Alexander Column, you will see the State Hermitage Museum, also known as the Winter Palace, as shown in the picture below.

State Hermitage Museum
There are a couple of statues outside the main entrance of the museum as shown in a couple of pictures below. I do not know their names though.

If you happen to look up, you'll see a number of statues adorning the roof of the state hermitage museum. If you have the chance to go up the colannade in St Issac's Cathedral, you will see a large number of statues all on the roof top of the museum. Below are some of the statues that I can see from the entrance.

The staff will only allow a small group to go in to the museum at intervals. If you're in a tour group, you'll  be able to go in anytime. Upon entering, you'll see a number of ticket counters which will show you the different prices which I've briefly explained earlier. I need to warn you that I took 5 hours just walking around the main museum, and I queued for more than an hour outside before I managed to get in. They are a total of 3 levels in the museum and each level is very very large.

Below are some pictures of some of the things you'll see in the museum.

You can find out more information on the museum here. For some reason I am unable to access the website but I believe that is the official website. Do not miss this museum if you happen to be in Saint Petersburg.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Smolny Cathedral and the Bell Tower

I visited Smolny Cathedral during my Russia trip as I heard that it's a beautiful place. I leave it for you to judge for yourself later if it's worth going. :)

It is located on Ploschad Rastrelli, on the bank of the River Neva in Saint Petersburg, consisting of a cathedral and a complex of buildings surrounding it, originally intended for a convent. Today Smolny Cathedral is used primarily as a concert hall and the surrounding convent houses various offices and government institutions.

As we were at the Summer Garden, we took bus 46 directly from Summer Garden to Smolny Cathedral. We paid about 23 roubles for the trip. I only recalled that we saw the Smolny Cathedral in one of the roads so we immediately disembarked. You can ask the driver, if you know Russian that is. :)

You are able to visit the cathedral if there is no prior concert scheduled. Unfortunately, I couldn't get to see the cathedral while I was there. There was a language problem so I'm not too sure why we can't go in. The entrance fee for the cathedral is 150 roubles. However, I did managed to visit the bell tower (entrance fee is 100 roubles). If I recall correctly, they have a package for the cathedral and the bell tower for 200 roubles.

The bell tower of Smolny Cathedral is actually the highest viewing point in the city, and you need to climb 277 steps to reach the top. The viewing platform is actually 50 metres from the ground.

This is Smolny Cathedral...

Smolny Cathedral
Ok, I took the picture at an awkward angle so that I can have the flowers in the picture but hey, the cathedral is beautiful right? I'm sure the music sounds beautiful within the cathedral. Maybe something like our Victoria concert hall.

Below is a couple of close-up pictures of the cathedral and the door.

Close-up picture of the cathedral

Heavy door of the cathedral
You will be able to see the "ticket booth" the moment you enter the cathedral. We started our long walk up the 277 steps to the top of the bell tower, accompanied by nice baroque music. As we are close to the top,  I took a picture as shown below of the spiral staircase that we came up from. Luckily there was no 2-way traffic at that time.

Spiral staircase up the bell tower
After climbing up the spiral staircase to a viewing platform, there are more steps to go up to the bell tower. As usual, I took a picture of all the steps that we climbed up as shown below.

Picture of steps from near the top of the bell tower
The bell tower, well... there isn't any bell. It's just a bell tower without a bell. :) However, the scenery surrounding the cathedral is beautiful. Below are a couple of pictures of the left and right side of the bell tower. You can see the unique engravings around the cathedral.

Right side of the bell tower

Left side of the bell tower
Below are some of the pictures of the surroundings of Saint Petersburg from the highest point in the city.

You can find out more information on the cathedral here. So is it beautiful?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Summer Garden

The Summer Garden is located where the Fontanka River flows out of the Neva River. It was founded in 1704 by order of Peter the Great, who was personally involved in planning it, and is laid out according to strict geometrical principles. The Summer Garden is located next to the Field of Mars, near the Troitskiy Most bridge. The Summer Garden Park remains one of the most romantic and evocative places in St Petersburg, a good place to chill out if you have to be in Russia. Entrance is free by the way. :)

Below are some pictures I've taken of the Summer Garden Park. It's beautiful isn't it?

Picture of fountain before entering the gate

Picture of fountain up front

One of the statues within the park

The fountains and statues within the park

Tea house wooden pavilion

Statue of Ivan Krylov, the great Russian fabulist

Walk down the garden

You can find out more information about the garden here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

United Buddy Bears Exhibition at The Admiralty

We were on our way to The Admiralty in Saint Petersburg during our Russia trip when we chanced across the United Buddy Bears exhibition near the pond. The exhibition is held from 21 Jun 2012 to 5 Aug 2012 and it aims to promote living together in peace and harmony on their global tour. Around 140 Buddy Bears (each 2 m tall) represent as many countries recognised by the United Nations. Since the first exhibition in Berlin in 2002, more than 25 million visitors world-wide have been able to admire the United Buddy Bears. 

Each Buddy Bear shows the individual design created by different artists on behalf of their native countries. The international artists’ different styles are joined together in one work of art, spreading zest for life. The diverse design of the Buddy Bears – always typical for the respective countries – enables the visitors to experience a journey around the globe. Below are just some of the pictures of the buddy bears shown in the exhibition.

In case you're wondering, The Admiralty looks like it's under renovation so we did not go in. :)

You can refer to more information on the exhibition here.

Saint Issac's Cathedral

I managed to visit the Saint Isaac's Cathedral during my Russia trip, the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city, and dedicated to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, a patron saint of Peter the Great, who had been born on the feast day of that saint. The cathedral is within walking distance of the Admiralteyskaya metro, and also the end of Nevsky prospect. 

Upon approaching the cathedral, you should see the monument to Nicholas I and Saint Issac's Cathedral like the picture below.

Nicholas I and Saint Issac's Cathedral
Below is a picture of a close-up to the monument to Nicholas I. Apparently this statue was revealed back in 1859, and the statue was a technical wonder of its time as it spans six meters and was the first equestrian statue in the world with merely two support points (the rear hoofs of the horse).

Monument to Nicholas I
Below are a couple of pictures of Saint Issac's Cathedral and a close-up of the colonnade.

Saint Issac's Cathedral

Saint Issac's Cathedral colonnade and bell towers

The entrance fee is 250 roubles but I strongly recommend you to pay an extra 150 roubles to go up to the colonnade. The view there is amazing and you can see almost the whole city of Saint Petersburg from up there. However, do note that you need to walk up 262 steps of the spiral staircase to reach the colonnade walkway. Not for the faint-hearted. :)

Below are some pictures of the interior of the cathedral for you to get a general feel of the place. You'll have to see it to feel it though.

Walking 262 steps up to the colonnade was really worth it. The view up there is amazing and you can see almost all the famous attractions in Saint Petersburg from up there. I will just post some of the photos below to whet your appetite. :)

You can find out more about the cathedral here.

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