Russia, Saint-Petersburg and the Venice of the North

Palace Courtyard Saint-Petersburg

After dinner we left the hotel again and used the mini-bus service to get to the Metro station and then we took the short trip to Nevsky Prospekt for the second time.

It was still warm and the sky remained cloudless and blue as we walked west to the Kazan Cathedral and at a statue of the Russian Field Marshal Kutusov who assisted in the defeat of Napoleon in 1812 we turned to walk along the Griboedov Canal this time in the opposite direction and we followed the granite walls of the waterway away from the busy Prospekt.

I didn’t count them for myself but it is claimed that Saint-Petersburg has almost one hundred different rivers and canals flowing through the city.  The city has been called the ‘Venice of the North’ but this isn’t a title that it holds uniquely because this has also been applied to Amsterdam, Bruges, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Manchester, Edinburgh and even Birmingham amongst others.

When Peter the Great chose this site and founded the city it was built from the very beginning on water, on numerous islands in delta of Neva River and is spread out over numerous islands of varying sizes, frequently prompting another nickname – the ‘City of 101 Islands’.

Kim had a plan to try and see the best of the bridges and after a while we came across the first of these – the Gryphon bridge which is a suspended pedestrian footbridge crossing the canal with four mythical creatures with extravagant golden wings at each corner holding it up.  Rather foolishly I had neglected to bring a map with me this evening so it would have been reckless to go looking for the others so I promised that we would do this later.

So we walked on and at the end of the road that we found ourselves on we could see the tall spire of the Admiralty building so fearing we might get lost we headed in that direction.  Actually, getting lost in Saint-Petersburg is probably quite difficult because it is a low-level city and it is easy to spot the Admiralty Spire or the St Isaac’s Dome from virtually anywhere.  This is because in Tsarist Russia there was a decree that no building could be built higher than the Winter Palace and this is a rule that has continued to be observed up until present day.

Eventually we arrived at the Admiralty building adjacent to the river and we crossed a busy main road into the Palace Square dominated by the red granite Alexander Column which is forty-seven and a half metres high.  Saint-Petersburg claims this to be the largest column of its type in the World but I am beginning to get sceptical about all of these biggest, largest, longest, deepest claims because I have visited the La Colonne de la Grande Armée in Boulogne in France and I know that this is fifty-three metres high!

The most important Square in Saint-Petersburg looked magnificent tonight bathed in the golden glow of evening sunlight, the mint green Winter Palace appeared to be enjoying the peace and quiet of the end of the day and a few tourists wandered around and the actors in period clothing looked for the last customers of the day to pose for photographs.

It was getting late now so we left the Palace Square and made our way back along Nevsky Prospekt and to the Gostiny Dvor Metro Station where we took our Jules Verne journey to the centre of the earth and emerged twenty minutes later at Primorskaya where the mini-bus whisked us back to the Prybaltiyskaya.  We skipped the Irish Bar tonight and the equally expensive hotel alternative and had a final glass of wine in the room before going to bed looking forward to a visit to the Summer Palace tomorrow.

Palace Courtyard Saint-Petersburg



5 responses to “Russia, Saint-Petersburg and the Venice of the North

  1. Nice post, Andy… beautiful narration 🙂

  2. I suppose the competition for tourists causes all of the ‘Venice’s of the North’ and largest columns.

    • Venice is Venice – nothing else can compare and I could happily go back there over and over!

      I have become wary about the tallest, widest, deepest, biggest, expensive claims and think it is always worth checking out before repeating or quoting!

  3. Very interesting post and a place I’ve always wanted to go.

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