It is our last day in St. Petersburg, and the light is beautiful.
Our train is not until 4:30 and we have officially finished with our guide Nico so we pack and organize ourselves, check out of the hotel and grab the number 22 bus to St. Isaac’s Cathedral for a day of last minute sightseeing. On our first visit to St. Isaacs we didn’t have the opportunity to spend any real time inside the church-turned-museum, so today we head back for a second look. It is known as one of the most beautiful churches in Europe, and it truly is. Ornate gilded angels support the massive dome; beautiful Russian malachite columns flank the altar, and elaborate chandeliers cast a gentle glow that augments the natural daylight that illuminates the enormous space. Unlike the wet day yesterday, the sun streams through the huge window in the dome, a hundred meters above our heads, adding more reflected light to the space and the beautiful mosaics icons on display.
The Yusupov Palace: An Intimate Family Home
We wander the area a bit and plan to be at the Yusupov Palace for its opening at 12 pm. The Yusupov, like many of the palaces of St. Petersburg, is an intimate family home, and the Yusupov family was rewarded with this splendid palace for their years of loyalty as advisors to the Tsars. It is also known, more sensationally, as the palace where Rasputin was murdered. We choose the guided audio tour and pass through many beautiful but livable rooms including living, dining, music and ball rooms, and libraries. The crowning stop on the tour is a beautiful 150 seat theatre built for the family for informal music presentations and other entertainments. It is still used today for chamber music concerts.
We have lunch close to the palace and walk the canals back to our hotel, a quick 15-minute walk. Our taxi is waiting for us, and we head across town, in mid-afternoon Russian traffic, to our waiting train.
Beautiful and Wonderful
St. Petersburg has been a beautiful and wonderful, eye-opening experience for me. It is a constant feast for the eyes, much like Florence or Venice is, but with a unique, golden sumptuousness to it. I quickly got over my pre-conceived fears of what Russia was about – a threatening, dark place of unemployment and voice-less hordes, put down by their government. While we did see some questionable sorts, they where no more or no less then we have encountered in Sydney, Bangkok, New Delhi or Toronto.
The light was constant and ever-changing while we were here and that is due in large part to “White Nights” and the never-ending glowing light of the night/day. It is part of what makes St. Petersburg so magical.