TRIP TO ST. PETERSBURG
PLACES TO VISIT IN ST. PETERSBURG
Petrograd Side (Petrogradskaya storona) is a cluster of delta islands between the Malaya Neva and Bolshaya Nevka channels. On little Zayachy Island, Peter the Great first broke ground for St
Petersburg and built the Peter & Paul Fortress.
- Peter & Paul Fortress.
- Behind the Fortress.
Across the moat, in the fort's original arsenal, is the Artillery Museum
(Artilleriysky Muzey). It's great if you like weapons.
West of that is the zoo, which, while full of miserable animals and happy kids, has improved the condition of its exhibits despite a severe lack of funds.
Just north of the zoo is a permanent amusement park, complete with bumper cars, a couple of small roller coasters and the like. East and behind the museum is Alexandrovsky Park,
a neat hang-out in summer and on all holidays, but too close to traffic to be peaceful. At the back, the Planetarium.
- Museum of Political History.
East of Kamennoostrovsky prospekt at ulitsa Kuybysheva 4 is the Ksheshinskaya Palace which contains the Museum of Political History in Russia
way more interesting than it sounds. The Bolsheviks made it their headquarters, and Lenin often gave speeches from the balcony of this elegant Art Nouveau palace that once belonged to Matilda
Kshesinskaya, famous ballet dancer and one-time lover of Tsar Nicholas II. Go in to see the house itself, the best Soviet kitsch in town (including porcelain with workers' slogans and a watch for astronauts), and some incredibly rare satirical caricatures of Lenin published in magazines between the 1917 revolutions (the same drawings a few months later would have got the artist imprisoned,
- Peter's Cabin.
In a patch of trees east of the fortress at Petrovskaya naberezhnaya 6 is a little stone building, in here is preserved St Petersburg's first residence, a log cabin where Peter lived in 1703 while
supervising the construction of the fortress and city.
- Cruiser Aurora.
- Kirov Museum.
Sergei Minorovich Kirov, one of Stalin's henchmen after whom countless parks, plazas, squares and a town are named, spent his last days at this decidedly unproletarian apartment before being
murdered and unwittingly starting a wave of deadly repression in the country, most painfully in this city. Now a museum (s 346 14 81), the 4th floor apartment at Kameennoostrovsky 26-28 is a quick
journey back to the days of Soviet glory, including choice examples of 1920s technology and books (20,000 of them). Don't miss the Party leader's death clothes, hung out for reverence: the tiny hole
in the back of his cap was where he was shot (blood stains intact!), and the torn seam on his jacket's left breast was where doctors tried to revive his heart.
- Botanical Gardens.
This quiet jungle in eastern Aptekarsky (Apothecary) Island, just north-east of the Petrogradskaya metro station and across the Karpova Canal, was once a garden of medicinal plants which gave the
island its name. The botanical gardens comprise 26 greenhouses on a 22 hectare site and are one of St Petersburg's loveliest strolling grounds and most interesting places to visit - and
not just for botanists. The gardens, founded by Peter himself in 1714, offer a variety of excursions to the stunning collection, all the more impressive considering that 90% of its plants died during
the war (those 'veterans' that survived have a war medal pinned onto them). In the early 1900s, these were the second biggest botanical gardens in the world, behind only London's Kew Gardens. A
highlight is the 'tsaritsa nochi' (selenicereus pteranthus), a flowering cactus which blossoms only one night a year, usually in mid-June. On this night, the gardens stay open until morning for visitors to gawk at the marvel and sip champagne.
- TV Antenna.
Here's a weird one: the Leningrad Radio-Tele Broadcasting Center's antenna, at the northern end of Petrograd Side, is open for excursions to its 50kW transmitter tower. It stands 310-high over the city, and visitors can ascend to the observation deck 200m high. It's a great place to bring kids; it offers excellent views of the entire city and environs, and you can take
- Kirovsky Islands.
This is the collective name for the outer delta islands of Petrograd Side - Kamenny, Yelagin and Krestovsky. Once marshy jungles, the islands were granted to 18th and 19th century court
favorites and developed into elegant playgrounds. Still mostly parkland, they're huge leafy venues for picnics, river sports and white-nights cavorting.
- Kamenny Island This island's charm, seclusion and century-old dachas (now inhabited by the wealthy, or by the St Petersburg Mafiagentsia), combined with winding lanes and a series of canals,
lakes and ponds, make a stroll here pleasant at any time of year. At the east end of the island the Church of St John the Baptist (Tserkov Rozhestva loanna Predtechi, 1776-81) seems to have found better use as a basketball court. Behind it the big, classical Kamennoostrovsky Palace, built by Catherine the Great for her son, is now a weedy military sanatorium.
The island also boasts a government retreat (the Yeltsin dacha), used by the president when he's in town and by other bigwigs when he's not. Look for the tree, said to have been planted by Peter
the Great, almost blocking naberezhnaya reki Krestovki just west of its intersection with 2-ya Beryozovaya alleya.
Kamenny Island is a short walk south of metro Chyornaya Rechka (turn right as you exit, cross the bridge and you're there).
- Yelagin Island This island's center piece is the Yelagin Palace (Yelaginsky
dvorets), built for his mother by Tsar Alexander I, who had architect Carlo Rossi landscape the entire island while he
was at it. The palace is to your right as you cross the footbridge from Kamenny Island.
The very beautiful restored interiors of the main house include old furnishings on loan from the Europe and Astoria hotels; don't miss the stupendous 1890s carved-walnut study ensemble and the incredible inlaid wood floors.
The rest of the island is a lovely network of paths, greenery, lakes and channels - you can rent rowing boats at the northern end of the island - and a plaza at the west end looking out to the Gulf
of Finland. It's all now the Central Park of Culture & Rest (still named after
Kirov), and is 2km long and pedestrian only. Several small cafes are open in summer.
- Krestovsky Island The biggest of the three islands, Krestovsky consists mostly of the vast Seaside Park of Victory (Primorsky Park Pobedy), dotted with sports fields and the 100,000 seat Kirov
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