Monday, May 2, 2011

Sights and Sounds of St. Petes!

Apparently touring the city of St. Petersburg is not HIGH on Alex's list, currently. The 3 of us, Alex, Sara and myself, ventured out late this morning in hopes of seeing some of the sights and sounds of Alex's birth city. This city seriously overdoses on history, culture and gorgeous architecture, so why not appreciate some of it!

Compared to most of last week, today and yesterday were YUCK! Cold and windy. In light of this, Sara and I opted to take a cab to start at the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. I have seen this Cathedral many times (those of you facebook friends know the next part...) and was even able to take a picture outside on the way home from the passport office last Thursday.

The cab ride was worth every 470 of the rubles we paid. The driver appeared to speak no english, but thankfully our friendly hotel concierge had told him where we were going and replied back to us what the set price was ahead of time. Check and check. We started off on our way. Perhaps I should first explain that in NO way will I claim to be an expert on the streets of St. Petersburg, however, after a couple turns, I had NO idea where he was taking us. I knew the route we had taken in the past, and prior to deciding on a cab, I had mapped out a walking route. This didn't look anything like it! I didn't panic. Ok, maybe a little. Remember just 2 hours ago we were watching live coverage of the fact that Bin Laden had been found and killed, and the US State Department has issued a "warning" for all American't traveling abroad. Before we left, Sara and I plotted our cover story - we were Brits! Tally Ho! Alas, we knew there was no way we could pull off the accent without much more practice. So we decided we were Canadians. Yeah - that's it. Canadian's from London, Ontario. We shant forget the Brits, totally, eh?

Finally, like a flash in the sky, I saw the beautiful tops of Spilled Blood. Relief. But then we turned - the OPPOSITE way. Breathe in. Breathe out. No big deal. We're just finding a BETTER route. Then again, tops! Spilled Blood! Relief. And then again - turning the OPPOSITE WAY. By this time, Sara and I are fully talking LOUDLY about hockey and which teams we support (Maple Leafs of course -- since we are Canadians that live near Toronto) and laughing hysterically. You know when someone you're with starts laughing and then suddenly that's even more funny than what you're actually laughing about. THAT'S what happened to us. I think the driver grew tired of our laughter and decided to finally let us out. If we'd have been in NYC, I would have thought we were being taken on long ride to drive up the fare -- but these Russian cabs don't seem to operate like that. Just before we got out Sara asked the driver - who again, we think doesn't speak english - a question. IN ENGLISH. And essentially he answered. I think we both wet our pants a little.

FINALLY we were at the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. Modeled after St. Basil's in Moscow, this building in UNBELIEVABLE. To say the least. Complete with beautiful onion domes at the top (which scream RUSSIA to me) and the most detailed, delicate hand laid mosaic tile from floor to ceiling, it rivals anything I have ever seen. Everywhere you looked you wanted to take THAT picture.

We both paid an extra 100 rubles to get the "audio tour". We didn't exactly keep up with where we were supposed to be and when (too many crowds, and the aforementioned photo opps slowed us down) but I did actually learn a couple new things about the building. Did you know: the onion domes shape was created to help from not collapsing under the weight of snow? You did now!

I posted the back story of this Cathedral with my picture on facebook the other day, but since many of you are NOT on facebook, here goes. In March of 1881, Tsar ALEXANDER II (appropriate, no?) was riding his carriage near the canal. Someone threw a grenade and it exploded. He was wounded, but not killed. He got out of the carriage, and someone exploded a 2nd grenade, which mortally wounded him. He was taken to the Winter Palace (Hermitage) where he later died. This cathedral was built in his honor where he fell. Literally, the cobblestones he fell on (where his blood spilled... get it?) are still there and exposed, and look stark in comparison to the riches of the cathedral.

I could say it 100 times - it's unbelievable. A MUST see.

We decided to walk it home from Spilled Blood. This way we could see some sights and take advantage of the fact that Alex had fallen asleep in his stroller. (See first picture!) So we headed toward Nevskiy Prospect, one of the main drags of St. Pete's. The sights were amazing. From there it's a quick jaunt to the Winter Palace (aka The Hermitage) which is (of course) closed on Mondays. We knew that going in... so no big deal. We're hoping to go back tomorrow, time permitting (I have a passport to pick up for the kid!! Woot!), but if not, the outside itself is amazing!

We crossed over Palace Bridge back on to Vasilievsky Island and hauled toward the hotel. By this time Alex was up. He was COLD and MAD. And likely hungry too. He refused to ride in the stroller and would scream bloody murder until picked up, upon which he would instantly quiet down. In these moments, I like to compare him to Jeckyll and Hyde. He's a sweet, gorgeous loving snuggle bug one moment and the next a strong willed, screaming crying fit maker! Ahhh the joys of adjustment. I think I forgot about this part. It must be like child birth. My friends who have experienced that say you forget about the pain and suffering and then want to do it all over again. I think I forgot about the pain and suffering of adjustment!

We're settling in for the night - but lastly, a couple quick thank yous: to Gramma Darlin, who is holding down the fort with my greatly missed Tati, words can't even express how lucky I am to have a mom like you! To Grampa & Gramma (Dad & Sharon) - can't wait for you to meet the little man, thanks for picking us up!! To Rhonda & Sara: You two are both godsends. Thanks for getting me through these trips!! So blessed to have you as friends. To Jenni - my sister from another mother/aunt: Thanks for everything, especially helping Gramma Darlin! Rena/Gary: Thanks for making me laugh and thinking of me this weekend at the sale!! And to the rest of my friends - you rock! Thanks for all your support - it means the world to me.

Pouting on the walk...

And finally... SPILLED BLOOD!

Mosaic Tiles... teeny tiny ones! Everywhere...

The Winter Garden (aka The Hermitage)
It's hard to explain how massive it is, but below gives a good idea...
View from across the Island to St Peter and Paul Cathedral... the oldest building in St. Petes
Finally, a picture that sums up Alex's opinion of the day...


AASB said...

just loving reading all your blogs... i am so happy for you all.
love, timi

Troy and Rachel said...

WOW! Gorgeous photos!! Your cab ride totally cracked me up! I'm glad you had fun!!

findingourdaughter said...

Wow! What an adventure! I think Alex's is mad that he has to wear a hat in May!!! LOL
Thinking and praying for you all!

Sally...4 boys + 1 princess.. said...

Love, Love, Love the Church on the Spilled Blood. I stayed just to the left in your picture and got to look upon its beauty everyday. Hermitage is unbelieveable in its beauty also. Did you get to go to St. Isaccs Cathedral yet? If you don't have time to do the Hermitage that is a good one also.

Sara said...

only four comments!! seriously look at these beautiful pictures and the story telling...come on, it's the next best thing to being there with us. leave some comments asap or she's not going to tell you about the $75 taxi ride that took us three blocks or the puppet show...and trust WANT to hear about the puppet show.

amy's friend, sara

Barb said...

So, when you were pretending to be a Canadian, did you remember to end every sentence with "eh"? And talk about back bacon? And call each other "Hosers"?