Elbrus Climbers visit St. Petersburg
One of St. Petersburg’s many names is the City of White Nights, recognizing the few hours of darkness that descend on the city during the summer months. Perhaps it was the daylight or perhaps the change in time zones but it was a fitful night’s sleep, deep rest intermixed with periods of wakefulness as the body struggled to adjust to a new sleep cycle. Thankfully, a good cup of coffee at breakfast chased the dregs of sleep away and we headed out to visit the city.
Just down the canal from our hotel stands St Isaac’s Cathedral, one of the largest in Europe. We climbed the 207 steps up it’s spiral staircase to the Colonnade, a walkway offering the best panoramic views of the city - to the port to the west, across the maze of roofs and streets to the south, and to the spires of the Admiralty and the Peter and Paul Fortress standing along the Neva to the north.
The beautiful morning made for nice walking along some of the city’s 80 canals on our way to the Church of Spilled Blood, an ornately decorated onion domed church built upon the very cobblestones upon which Tsar Alexander II, the defeater of Napoleon, was killed. Wandering through the gardens and side streets, we made our way to the Hermitage, a collection of over 3 million pieces of artwork housed in 5 buildings that as former palaces of the Tsar’s are works of art in themselves. Thanks to some “creative route-finding” we managed to avoid the throngs of visitors milling outside the entrance and were quickly walking amongst the grand ball rooms featuring an exhibition of dozens and dozens of Picassos. Hours, days, even weeks could be spent visiting the Hermitage (and only 5% of it’s collection can be displayed), so we focused on seeing the highlights for us.
By late afternoon our days of traveling and site seeing began to catch up with us and we returned to the hotel for some rest. With evening drawing on and feeling a bit rejuvenated, we ended our day on the water, taking a boat through the city’s canals and rivers, watching the sun set over the Neva river.
Tomorrow we leave St. Petersburg and trade the shores of the North Sea for the hills of the Caucasus, flying to the town of Mineralnye Vody on our way to Elbrus. We will check in tomorrow when we reach the foot of the mountain.
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