Well, the weather couldn’t last, could it? The home screen on my phone delivered the warning, even before I’d looked outside – sleet and snow, minus 3C. OK. We’d come prepared, so it wasn’t a worry and really, we’d had such luck so far.
Such weather demanded a satisfying breakfast, so I chose the syrniki again, as recommended by Valeriya yesterday. Delicious!
Having sorted out arrangements for dinner tonight, we left the youngsters to spend the morning in the spa and set out to browse along Nevsky Prospekt. One thing I’ve noticed here and there about the city are the memorials to people whose names I can’t read. We can interpret most of them given time, though this one has defeated us so far. What I noticed for the first time here was the small shelf beneath it, for flowers. How sweet that this person is fondly remembered, then.
And how sad that just a few doors down, someone else whose name I can’t read remains unloved…for now, at least.
We’d bundled up in coats, hats, gloves and warm shoes, just like the rest of the population today, but as we walked, the rain stopped and except for the odd few flakes, the snow came to nought as well. There was a chill wind blowing though.
There’s not much window shopping to be done here, since most everyday Russian shops have no outward facing displays at all. But the souvenir shops make up for all of that. How about this for a quiet and unassuming piece of jewellery?
Or a small wooden ornament to grace a corner of any home?
No, we didn’t think so either.
One bookstore had an interesting window display and for once, I could read the title!
A little further along, we came to the Stroganov Palace. We’ve all enjoyed the dish bearing the family name in the last couple of days.
Following the lady street cleaner, we reflected on how good it is to be here and not have a set programme to follow. We could stroll along here for as long as we fancied, go as far as we wanted and not worry about getting back on time or holding up the group. It’s the first time that we’ve done that here and really, it made all those visa shenanigans worthwhile.
Anyway, here we were at the Kazan Cathedral again. We’re just passing by today, since tomorrow we’ll spend longer here with Edward and Amy too.
Tempting though it is to cross the road and look in the old Singer store, we’ll stay on this side and wait till we come back on the other side to stop there.
Instead, we’ll wander through the arcade of the old department store instead.
Decide that no, I don’t need a fur hat!
And then go inside to remember how it was when we were here the first time – almost empty, save for a few, poor things which no-one wanted to buy. Now, it’s full of small souvenir stalls and other tourist-related goods. I stopped at one to buy a few postcards and we moved right along.
Crossing the road at this point involved a subway, where there was a news stand selling magazines – time to get Russian Vogue for Amy, then!
In the subway crossing we passed yet more souvenir stands. Just how they all make a living is a mystery, especially at this time of the year when there appear to be virtually no tourists about at all other than the large groups, who wouldn’t be using the subway. Still, if it wasn’t worthwhile, they’d shut up shop, wouldn’t they?
As we emerged from the gloom onto the other side of the street, we spotted a tiny patch of blue sky! Woohoo!
Back past the Armenian Church then…
with another of those plaques that I can’t read, except that I know this one says “Armenian “ somewhere in there, and that it was by Queen Catherine’s architect – not that I can read his name.
And as a whiff of something familiar hits our noses, we knew we were near a Lush shop
Whilst my Hero made a quick dash down the street to size up our dinner restaurant location, I lingered a little longer by the canal, before slowly making my way over to the bookshop which is in the old Singer store across the road. At last, I got to look inside!
Inside, I found postcards galore, including these sweet ones of the Romanovs. They looked a little familiar and I was reminded of the family photos we saw in the Ukraine a few years ago.
A couple of doors down we found ourselves on familiar territory and made a small purchase before moving on to a rather different coffee shop/patisserie.
We decided that we should patronise a Russian coffee shop where possible, and settled ourselves into a comfy table at Severs where the hot chocolate and cookies were delicious. We had half an hour before our arranged meeting time with Edward and Amy, so made use of the free wifi too!
We watched so many people stop and take photos of the polar bear in the window, we just had to take one ourselves, didn’t we?
So, they were there waiting for us as we hurried to our meeting place at the end of the bridge by the Hermitage. Even though the rain and snow had stopped, the icy blast from the river made us shiver.
So over the bridge we went, heading for the St Peter and Paul Fortress on the island in the Neva.
Though it didn’t look very far, it’s a huge river and those bridges are long. Not only that, but there was a fair way to go on the other side and another bridge to cross too.
From this side of the river, there’s a fine view of the Winter Palace and the Hermitage.
And there was a bit of fun there on the embankment by the Rostral Columns with “Peter the Great” (he gets everywhere) and Catherine having a giggle with a group of women and a wedding party taking selfies with glasses of something pretty strong in hand, judging from the raucous laughter.
The T shirt seller wasn’t doing much business though.
Two bridges down and just one to go. At last, our target was in sight.
Not that it was easy to find our way in.
Edward and Amy even took a look along the beach for the entrance but no, that fortress was impenetrable.
At last, having retraced our steps and watched where other people were headed, we made our way in through a gateway around the other side. Not easy!
And here was the map we’d needed about half an hour ago!
Once through the gateway, though, it was fairly straightforward to find our way.
We had a golden spire to aim for, of course.
And once we’d got our tickets (thank you, Amy!) we were in. The Cathedral of St Peter and Paul, that is.
Ooo. Lavishly decorated, just like the other cathedrals we’ve visited here, though in a rather more subdued palette of colours.
We’d come to see the Romanov’s memorial, the place to which their remains were brought in 1998, with the remains of their servants who were murdered alongside them. Two names were missing though – Princess Marie and the Tsarevich Alexei. Where were they? The answer was given by a dear Russian lady who asked if she could answer any questions for us and who used her very best English to explain that their remains are still in testing and maybe – who knows – next year, they too will be brought here.
The subdued Romanov memorial was in contrast to the other, more elaborate white marble tombs arranged in the body of the church. Most were fairly anonymous, save for a nameplate, though Marie, the Danish mother of the last Tsar and sister of our own Queen Alexandra had a small personal memorial by her tomb.
The most prestigious spots by the altar and overshadowed by gold and flowers were where the tombs of Peter the Great, his wife Catherine and Empress Catherine II were to be found. Peter the Great’s tomb had been adorned with a variety of posthumous medals and awards and an explanation of these was to be found nearby.
It might have been a quiet spot in some respects but the decor was anything but.
The gold stretched into the spire as far as the eye could see.
And the whole altar was filled with icons and other gold statuary. Wow.
But strange as it might seem, having taken so long to get here, we felt that was it. We’d seen what we had come to see – and there wasn’t as much of that as we’d imagined. Never mind. We were happy to have been here and now, it was time to move on!
And look! the weather has cheered up!
Whilst my hero and his boy went to take a look at the Aurora, Amy and I decided we didn’t need to see a warship and returned to the hotel. Walking along the embankment on the opposite side of the river, we could see where we had been.
We’d walked miles – and how pleasing a sight it when our hotel came into view. Footsore and feeling very weary indeed, we were glad that there were young men to open doors for us, because even that might have taken more energy than we could muster at that point.
An hour in the spa recharged the batteries, of course!