on August 6, 2007
We took a walk through the very neat Admiralty Gardens. At lunchtime, the park was exceptionally quiet although there was proof that someone had been hard at work as numerous, small leaf piles had been arranged along the walkways as flowerbeds were readied for spring. We lamented the fact that we’d arrived too early to see the gardens at their best. In April the grass was grayish brown and the parks looked dusty and lifeless.We watched a group of navy cadets jog by, passing in front of The Admiralty. The building was constructed in 1823 as the administrative headquarters of the Russian Navy and has served as a naval college since 1923.A short walk from the gardens led us to St. Isaac’s Cathedral, one of Russia’s largest Orthodox cathedrals. It’s a bronze dome and red granite columns tower over Isaakievskaia Square, dwarfing the Monument to Tsar Nikolai I, which stands in its centre. Both cathedral and monument were designed by Auguste de Montferrand, a French architect who was refused burial rights in the cathedral because of his Roman Catholic birth. Considering the forty years it took to construct, and the magnificence of the finished structure, you can understand why he felt so strongly about spending his afterlife there too.We bought a ticket to ascend to the colonnade, which costs around $4 for the colonnade only (the interior museum is additional). It’s not a particularly long climb, about 300 steps if you want to count, and you can peak through windows and see a part of the striking interior. Walking around the colonnade you get 360-degree views over St. Petersburg, including the Hermitage, the Admiralty and Gardens, and the Peter and Paul fortress across the Neva. At the time of our visit, photography was permitted on the colonnade but not inside the cathedral.This immense cathedral, which can accommodate 14,000 worshipers, has served as a museum since the 1930s and services are held only on significant ecclesiastical holidays. It’s open from 11am to 6pm daily, except for Wednesday.Regrettably we were pushed for time and didn’t venture inside but from the small peeks we did get, the famed mosaic work and paintings looked breathtaking and well worth spending the additional time and money.I’d actually recommend dedicating an entire day to this area and taking in the Yusupov Palace in the afternoon, which is a fairly short walk south and then west along the Moyka Canal.
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