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Moscow & St.Petersburg
In October 2015 between the 14th and the 21st I shall be visiting the above two cities in solo and for leisure. A destination which, like Japan, has been on my dream list for as long as I can remember.

The flights are already booked and I am just beginning the tedious day-to-day planning. I reckon that, being alone, I shall count these 7 days as being worth 12 so I want to make sure I can keep my stay on the edge from the first hour to the last day.

Arriving in Moscow I already found out it would be fairly easy to take the rapid train to go to St. Petersburg. Second finding, dormitories appear to be quite successful in the offering I get from Booking filtering them all away is a bit of a struggle :-).

Links, tips, hints, advices, must-see places will all be very much appreciated.
Picture from Wikipedia: Red Square in Moscow (1801) by Fedo Alekseev
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Vasileostrovsky District
After looking at Google Maps while preparing this trip, by going at the very end of the subway line 3, at the far East of St. Petersburg, I had hopes I would be able to catch a glimpse of the vastness of the Gulf of Finland in the Baltic Sea.

What I instead found was completely different of what I had expected. It felt I had finally arrived in Russia, a part of the city looking like where most Russians could actually live.
#StPetersburg, #Russia,
October 19th, 2015.
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9/19/17
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Palace Square
I had a perfect weather for outdoor photography during all my days in St.Petersburg but I also had to visit of the world famous Hermitage museum. Before that I lingered around the huge square meant to host equally huge celebrations by men or officials who thought no less of themselves and this was later confirmed countless times while visiting the huge palace.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palace_Square,
#StPetersburg, #Russia,
October 19th, 2015.
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7/2/17
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Kazan Cathedral
I didn't have enough time to visit inside the cathedral and the sunset was slowly approaching so I focused my attention on those magnificent columns and how the light was playing with them.

The last picture is from wikipedia commons, by A.Savin. I added it to give an overview.
From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kazan_Cathedral,_Saint_Petersburg
❝Construction of the cathedral started in 1801 and continued for ten years under the supervision of Alexander Sergeyevich Stroganov. Upon its completion in 1811, the new temple replaced the Church of Nativity of the Theotokos, which was disassembled when the Kazan Cathedral was consecrated.

The architect Andrey Voronikhin modelled the building on St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Some art historians assert that Emperor Paul (reigned 1796-1801) intended to build a similar church on the other side of Nevsky Prospect that would mirror the Kazan Cathedral, but such plans failed to materialize Although the Russian Orthodox Church strongly disapproved of the plans to create a replica of a Catholic basilica in Russia's then capital, several courtiers supported Voronikhin's Empire Style design.

After Napoleon invaded Russia (1812) and the commander-in-chief General Mikhail Kutuzov asked Our Lady of Kazan for help, the church's purpose altered. The Patriotic War over, Russians saw the cathedral primarily as a memorial to their victory over Napoleon. Kutuzov himself was interred in the cathedral in 1813; and Alexander Pushkin wrote celebrated lines meditating over his sepulchre. In 1815 keys to seventeen cities and eight fortresses were brought by the victorious Russian army from Europe and placed in the cathedral's sacristy. In 1837, Boris Orlovsky designed two bronze statues of Kutuzov and of Barclay de Tolly which stand in front of the cathedral.

In 1876 the Kazan demonstration, the first political demonstration in Russia, took place in front of the church. After the Russian Revolution of 1917 the authorities closed the cathedral (January 1932). In November 1932 it reopened as the pro-Marxist "Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism". Services resumed in 1992, and four years later the cathedral was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church. As of 2017 it functions as the mother cathedral of the metropolis of St. Petersburg.

The cathedral's interior, with its numerous columns, echoes the exterior colonnade and is reminiscent of a palatial hall, being 69 metres in length and 62 metres in height. The interior features numerous sculptures and icons created by the best Russian artists of the day. A wrought-iron grille separating the cathedral from a small square behind it is sometimes cited as one of the finest ever constructed. The cathedral's huge bronze doors are one of three copies of the doors of the Baptistry in Florence, Italy. The other two are at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, United States, and at the Florence Baptistry itself.❞
#StPetersburg, #Russia
October 19th, 2015.
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2017-05-29
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❝Kosberg worked!❞
―Yuri Gagarin, April 12th 1961.
Such were the very first words of the first ever cosmonaut upon experiencing weightlessness and realizing he was still alive. He was referring to the rocket engine which lifted him into space ➋.

❝In the middle of the twentieth century began a period of rapid development of space: there were put into orbit the first artificial satellites, and in April 1961, a man flew into space. Go to last event Voronezh Chemical Automatics Design Bureau (then the OKB-154), led by SA Kosberg, was very relevant: on the recollections of the launch, the first words of the first cosmonaut, uttered after weightlessness came were: "Kosberg worked!". ❞ ➌➍

As a kid I've also been fascinated by the space race between Russians and Americans so while in Russia I made sure to visit whatever was available on this topic. A section of the Peter and Paul Fortress has been dedicated to a Space and Rocket Museum ➎ and in there it was made clear that the most important element of a rocket is its engine, reaction engine ➏.

That has precisely been an engineering area where Russians have shined very early on; Valentin Glushko, Sergei Korolev ➐➑ and Semyon Kosberg for the most famous have created many technologies which are still used today.
➊➡ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuri_Gagarin
➋➡ “Kosberg worked!” http://engine.aviaport.ru/issues/13/page02.html
➌➡ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semyon_Kosberg
➍➡ http://persona.rin.ru/eng/view/f//31835/semyon-kosberg-arievich
➎➡ Street view from Google: https://goo.gl/maps/iCX9JdzrZsQ2
➏➡ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reaction_engine
➐➡ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergei_Korolev
➑➡ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentin_Glushko
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Geo Panoramas
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Last Week in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia.
Near the geographic center of Russia about midway between Switzerland and Japan, 5600 km away from me.
Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/Krd3RG79fMn

❝A runner with his face covered with hoarfrost competes during the traditional half Marathon amateur competition marking Orthodox Christmas Day festivities, with the air temperature at about minus 24 degrees Celsius in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, Russia, on January 7, 2017.❞
Picture by Ilya Naymushin / Reuters
Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2017/01/photos-of-the-week-17113/513110/

I once went running by minus 10 for about one hour. On the way back I started coughing and I continued to cough for the next three hours, I had suffered from an episode of exercise-induced bronchospasm. I learned my lesson and after that I paid attention to keep something over my mouth when running in similar conditions.

Minus 24, that is something different. I guess it must help to be raised in Siberian conditions as the pictures from Naymushin of the winter of 2015 are showing.
❝I am one of the few journalists living in the vast territory of Siberia who have the chance to show life here to the whole world.❞
Ilya Naymushin
https://widerimage.reuters.com/photographer/ilya-naymushin

More of his great pictures from the winter of 2015
http://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2015/03/a-winter-in-siberia/386534/

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Around the The Institute of Philosophy
After having seen the obvious landmarks the moment came to leave the touristy parts behind and do some nosy explorations. That is something I enjoy very much and wouldn't be possible in guided tours.

The immediate surrounding of the Old Stock Exchange being dedicated to cars and buses (➊) I headed resolutely away from that without any destination in mind, like often the case. I was walking in the opposite direction of the Rostral columns toward the center of the Vasilyevski island. There I quickly found elegant and walkable streets (➋) especially around what I just googled to have been the Institute of Philosophy of the St.Petersburg State University.

Gee, I wonder what it must be like during the summer months at lunch time in the middle of 1250 philosophy students.

From their website: (➌)
❝The Institute is known for its exceptional achievements in the development and proliferation of philosophical education. It is striving for philosophy to be recognized as playing an important part in the primary intellectual sector of Russian society.

St. Petersburg’s philosophical thought has been highly acclaimed. In 1997, the First Russian Philosophical Congress took place under the aegis of the University. It was an unprecedented event in Russian intellectual life that gathered more than 1,000 philosophers from the entire country in St. Petersburg to represent the full richness of Russian philosophy, its achievements and intellectual potential. Russia proved itself to be a truly philosophical country, and St. Petersburg to be the centre of philosophical thought. And the heart of a philosophical St. Petersburg is the University and its Institute of Philosophy.

As of today, the Institute of Philosophy is among the leading institutions for education and research in various disciplines pertaining to Philosophy, Humanities and Social Science. The Institute has a reputation for high standards of education in the fields of philosophy, ethics, cultural, religious and conflict studies.❞
➡➊ Street View: https://goo.gl/maps/Dnf1V8Wmba12
➡➋ Street View: https://goo.gl/maps/oo5sv7f5Gvx
➡➌ http://philosophy.spbu.ru/en
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12/23/16
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Rostral Columns
A rostral column is a type of victory column, originating in ancient Greece and Rome where they were erected to commemorate a naval military victory (➊) and I didn't know what those were until I began writing this post a little while ago, more than a year after having seen them with my own eyes.

❝Opposite the exchange building on the Neva, de Thomon designed a semicircular overlook with circular ramps descending to a jetty projecting into the river. This formal approach, is framed by two rostral columns centered on the portico of the Stock Exchange. The Doric columns sit on a granite plinth and are constructed of brick coated with a deep terra cotta red stucco and decorated with bronze anchors and four pairs of bronze ship prows (rostra). Seated marble figures decorate the base of each column each representing the major rivers of Russia — the Volga and Dnieper at the northern Rostral Column, Neva and Volkhov at the southern one. The Rostral Columns were originally intended to serve as beacons and originally were topped by a light in the form of a Greek brazier and lit by oil. The braziers have been removed and the tops of the columns refitted with gas torches that continue to be lit on ceremonial occasions.❞ (➋)

In retrospect, and judged by the images I later found on the internet (➌), it appears that the best worldwide example of the genre are those two columns in Saint Petersburg.

In the crisp air of that October morning there weren't many other visitors around the old Saint Petersburg stock exchange and rostral columns; a handful of other tourists in pairs, a guided group of photographs and a lonely artist in a sumptuous red costume reminiscent of the extravagant Louis kings.
➡➊ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rostral_column,
➡➋ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Saint_Petersburg_Stock_Exchange_and_Rostral_Columns,
➡➌ https://goo.gl/bzjM2c,
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Geo Panoramas
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Peter and Paul Cathedral, the Bell Tower.
Part 3
No visit of the Peter and Paul Cathedral would be complete without checking out its bell tower so I did that. This album brings average pictures but is meant to give you a look at what lies upstairs. Do check out the little included videoclips and, if you want to hear how the bells sound, the YouTube videos I linked at the end of this post.

History of the carillon
❝When Peter the Great visited the Netherlands in 1690, he heard the perfect tuned Hemony carillons in Amsterdam and Leiden singing all 24 hours of the day, every quarter of an hour automatically. Later in 1717 he visited Flanders incognito and climbed the tower of the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp, where he must have heard one of the two Hemony carillons in one of the towers of this cathedral. He was impressed by the sound of a carillon and wanted one like these for his new cathedral in St. Petersburg. So he ordered it in 1720 from the Netherlands. In Amsterdam the only bellfounder in that time was Jan Albert de Grave. He was married to the widow of Claude Fremy. This Claude Fremy was a pupil of Hemony. So Jan Albert de Grave was presumably the bellfounder who made these bells. Some years later he also made a carillon for Potsdam. The people in St. Petersburg could only listen to this well tuned instrument for a short time. In 1756 the tower burned down after a thunderstorm. All bells were lost.

In Derck. He cast the bells and clockmaker Barend Oortkras from the Hague brought them to St. Petersburg to install them. When he arrived, the tower was not rebuilt yet so he could not reinstall the bells. Oortkras stayed in St. Petersburg, but in 1764 he died in poverty before the tower was finished. This new carillon was installed in 1776 by the German clockmaker Johann Erdmann Rudiger. Rudiger also was hired to play the bells. Bell founder Derck could not tune his bells well, so some of the bells were recast by Russian bell founders in the 19th century. As we still can hear, this was not a success either. That's why in 2001 a new set of 51 bells were made in the south of the Netherlands. The bells were cast and the carillon installed by the Royal foundry workshop Petit & Fritsen from Aarle-Rixtel in North Brabant. The carillon is composed of 51 bells with a gross weight of 15,160 kg; the biggest bell weighs about 3 tonnes, the smallest only 10 kg. The carillon has a range of four octaves, so most classical and modern music can be performed on this instrument.

The Peter and Paul carillon is a gift to St. Petersburg from the Government of Flanders, and more than 350 sponsors from different countries. The contribution was presented in the name of Her Majesty Queen Fabiola of Belgium, the Belgian King Boudewijn Fund, the Government of the Province of Flanders, the authorities of various Flemish cities and communities, including businesses, and financial institutions, cultural communities, schools and universities, and also ordinary citizens of Belgium, Russia, England, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, the USA and Japan.❞
Source: Wikipedia https://goo.gl/G2h80V

The bells in action from inside: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yse9cSi0rhU,
The bells in action from outside: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4foM2YynnAE,
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_and_Paul_Fortress,
#Russia
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11/5/16
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Peter and Paul Cathedral, the Ceiling.
Part 2
After having crossed the mighty Neva river I went on walking toward that odd looking star-shaped building I easily spotted long ago on Google Maps during my preparation (https://goo.gl/maps/3XeVzsuDxQF2). It was the Peter and Paul Fortress and then I headed for the humble looking cathedral and stepped inside.

What a stupendous interior I found there, with splendid decorations everywhere I could pose my eyes and such a light and wonderful mixture of pastel colored motives on the ceiling. Walking in there was, again, as if I was exploring the interior of a three-dimensional painting.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_and_Paul_Fortress,
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saints_Peter_and_Paul_Cathedral,_Saint_Petersburg,
#Russia
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10/22/16
13 Photos - View album
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