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St Petersburg Trip 2016

Posted on: 19th May 2016

St Petersburg is a remarkable city steeped in hundreds of years of immaculately preserved history with breathtaking beauty and a rich culture and sense of pride. Roberta Garza stated that “It was one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen, I enjoyed exploring the buildings and learning about Russian culture”.

Our first day in St Petersburg was immediately filled with excitement and a rich injection of Russian culture as we were whisked away to the Catharine`s Palace to learn about the history of the Russian aristocracy. This was a fascinating insight into pre-revolutionary Russian nobility and we even had the opportunity to walk around the grand hall where more than 100 kilos of gold were used to gild the sophisticated stucco façade!  The girls were then given free time to explore the  gardens and to go bargain hunting at the flea market next to the palace, where a vast array of Russian memorabilia such as military hats, matryoshka dolls and jewelry was sold.

In the afternoon we boarded one of the many sightseeing buses which gave an in-depth audio narration of the city's many fascinating historical sites and buildings. The ornate marble columns of Isaak`s Cathedral still bear the scars of bullet holes and shell marks that were inflicted during the Leningrad (St Petersburg`s original name) siege, a stark reminder of the time when the Nazis surrounded the city for 90 days leaving the population to survive against all odds – something the residents of St Petersburg are enormously proud to have survived and an important lesson in history for our students. We alighted the bus at the Church of the Saviour on the Spilled blood: a world famous intricately designed church with ornate spires and mosaics which sparkled in the afternoon sun. Built in 1883, the church has been immaculately preserved and attracted a huge amount of visitors. Our students met a group of Russian students from the local university who interviewed them asking what they thought of St Petersburg; making new friends was a common theme throughout the trip.

On the third day we were lucky enough to see the Victory Day parade practice marches with hundreds of smartly dressed soldiers, sailors and aircrew proudly matching past, an impressive and unexpected sight as we made our way to the Hermitage museum. Once we arrived at the Hermitage we experienced one of the oldest museums in the world with one of the largest collections of fresco, Greek and Egyptian artwork. One of the most famous pieces, Madonna with child by Leonardo De Vinci, was a highlight of the trip. It attracts hundreds of visitors every day from all over the world. In the afternoon we visited a pottery workshop where we were taught how to use a pottery wheel to make vases. Several of the students displayed their creative prowess with Maria Jose hand sculpting an impressive frog and Sophie demonstrating excellent skill on the pottery wheel producing a beautiful vase.

The fourth day was beautifully sunny for our walk to the Peter and Paul fortress, the original citadel of St. Petersburg which was founded in 1703. Within the immaculately kept grounds we visited the Russian Orthodox Peter and Paul cathedral which was in stark contrast to the jail section just across the courtyard. Walking around inside provided a fascinating insight into the political prison where we explored cells which had housed notable inmates such as Fyodor Dostoevsky and Leon Trotsky. Once we were outside and enjoying the sun the hourly cannons being fired were quite an experience to behold – even though we all knew they were being fired it provided quite an exciting shock! 

On the final evening we went to the ballet to see Swan Lake at the small and intimate Hermitage Theatre. Linda, who wore a beautiful dress to the ballet, said “Swan Lake is one of the most famous ballets in the world and I thought it was fantastic - especially sitting so close to the orchestra which was just in front of me. It was amazing to hear every part of the music and even the sound of the ballerinas dancing”. This was a truly magical way to finish our time in St Petersburg and we all felt incredibly moved as we walked home, not only by the ballet, but the city as a whole.

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