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Sept. 5, 2017

Our first stop today was to the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood. It is called this because it sits on the spot where Tsar Alexander II was killed in 1881 by a suicide bomber. The church was begun just after Alexander's assassination but was not actually completed until 1907. It features nine onion-dome cupolas covered in gold, enamel and mosaics. The church had a short life as a place of worship. It was looted with gusto during the 1917 Russian Revolution. During the communist era, it was used for storing potatoes. It was damaged in WWII when its crypt did duty as a morgue. Restored in the 1990's, today it serves mostly as a museum. The walls are covered with 308 exquisite mosaics (nothing is painted).

Our second stop was to St. Isaac's Cathedral. It was built between 1818 and 1858. It is considered the leading church in the Russian Orthodox world and the fourth largest domed cathedral of its type. The granite steps and one-piece granite columns were shipped from a Finnish quarry. The vast, opulent interior covers 43,000 square feet, making it one of the world's largest cathedrals. Most of what looks like paintings in the church are actually mosaics which date from the first half of the 19th century.

Taking a welcome break from visiting museums, we joined with two other TJ Travel tour groups for a boat tour along the Neva River and canals. It was a great way to view the sites of St. Petersburg from the water. We had to duck our heads as our boat went under the many bridges over the canals. The bridges over the Neva River are draw bridges. There is a special schedule for opening each bridge one by one at night to let boats pass through.

After lunch we visited the lavish Peterhof Palace. The palace sits along the Gulf of Finland about 25 miles west of the city. Often referred to as the Russian Versailles, this amazing complex built by Peter the Great consists of a magnificent 18th century palace set amongst beautiful fountains and parklands. There are 150 fountains with gilded statues of mythological characters. We were able to take a hydrofoil back to the city, which was much quicker than the bus ride.


Our guide said it was important to see the subway system of St. Petersburg and, surprisingly, it was very interesting. First of all, it is very clean, with beautiful mosaic paintings on the walls. We entered at the admiralty station so the mosaics depicted marine subjects. We rode the very steep and long (410 ft.) escalators down to the tracks (but didn't actually ride the subway). We were quite impressed.

To view more photos from our second day in St. Petersburg, please go to St. Petersburg Photo Gallery II . To read about our third day in St. Petersburg, go to St. Petersburg III.

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