After breakfast this morning our day began with a tour of the interior of St. Isaac’s Cathedral and a walk up the 276 steps to the top.
The interior space of the cathedral is simply breathtaking. Nearly all of the artwork consists of mosaics rather than murals or other painted artwork. This is due to the climate and the realization that other forms would not survive for long. The Cathedral was converted to a museum by the communists in 1931. During the siege of Leninigrad during WWII the basement was used as storage for other artwork from around the city. Thankfully there was little damage done to the structure. It was camouflaged by having the dome painted, but the Germans also used it as a landmark for aerial bombing and mortar fire.
From the roof, the 360 degree view of the city was spectacular – despite the cloudy weather.
As we departed the colonnade the rains of St Petersburg went from a drizzle to a downpour. The one block walk back to the hotel left us drenched. With only a few minutes to dry off we were on the bus to our first official tour of the day. We drove about an hour south to the town of Pushkin to visit Catherine’s summer palace.
The palace is on the southern edge of St Petersburg and at the time of WWII was really in the countryside. It was occupied by the Germans during the siege of Leningrad. When they were finally driven out they laid mines in the palace which were defused but virtually all of the palace had already been looted and burned. An ongoing restoration has been underway since shortly after war ended.
Upon returning to the hotel we had dinner around the corner from the hotel and then it was off to an evening show. We saw a Cossack dance and music show that was quite entertaining. Then back to the hotel to prepare for Saturday’s early departure from the hotel as we’ll be boarding the river boat tomorrow evening.