We get an early morning start into the Imperial City. Since it is Saturday, we benefit from light traffic which allows our tour bus to proceed slowly down the magnificent boulevards usually congested during the work week. We learn that there are five different areas of the city, each with their own distinct character.
Entering the city from the east, we drive through the Smolnyy District stopping briefly at the Smolnyy Cathedral and the adjacent convent buildings. Suddenly it is apparent that five days in this city will just be skimming the surface. This convent complex was founded by Tsarina Elizabeth to educate young noblewomen. Designed initially by the Italian architect Rastrelli who came to Russia under Peter the Great, it is a fusion of Russian and Baroque styles.
Back on the bus we are headed across the Neva River to Vasilevsky Island with a view of the iconic Rostral Columns originally a pair of lighthouses guiding ships through the busy port today are distinctive features of the Imperial city skyline.
Our next destination is Petogradskaya, the neighborhood of the Peter and Paul Fortress and site of the founding of St. Petersburg. Enclosed in the fortress walls is the Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul. The interior of the Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul contrasts dramatically with those we have seen thus far. Glittering chandeliers, pink and green corinthian columns and overarching vaults with a iconostasis of gilded woodcarving all designed to celebrate extravagance of the the Romanov dynasty.
In the afternoon we walk to The Hermitage and Winter Palace all deserving a separate post. Too much, too fast and very intense!