Pritam Rohila Travels

Reports of my travels along with some pictures

Nov 6, 2013


We got up at 4:30 a.m. for breakfast at 6 a.m. and departure for St. Petersburg at 7 a.m. It was a 7-hour long drive in cloudy, cool, and drizzling weather.

At the Finland-Russia border, the last border of the Western Europe, first we went through the Finnish passport control. Each one of us had to show our passport to the Finnish immigration officials.  

Then we went through the same procedure on the Russian side. The officers here were all young females. It was also where we could use first public toilets after leaving our hotel. 

A few meters ahead, a stout and older female officer boarded our bus to check our passports and Russian visas. Finally we had to pass through a gated exit, after another woman officer opened it for us.

We passed through long stretch of forested land, mostly bearing white birches, the national tree of Russia. A long stretch of the land on the Russian side had been captured by the Soviets under Stalin, after a lengthy battle with Finland.

St. Petersburg is located on several islands in the delta of the Neva River.

St. Petersburg, Russia

After reaching St. Petersburg, we headed straight to the Peter & Paul Fortress.

Peter & Paul Fortress, St. Petersburg

The first order of our business there was the use of public toilets, at 20 Rubles each. The toilets are housed in buses. It had very narrow stalls, making it especially hard for women to get in and out.

Toilets, Peter & Paul Fortress, St. Petersburg
Relieved, we posed for a few photos.
Peter & Paul Fortress, St. Petersburg 

With a plan to wrest control of the bitterly contested area from the Swedes and to make Russia a great power by gaining access to the Baltic Ocean, Peter the Great built the fortress in 1703, on one of the several islands in the swampy delta of the Neva River. It is therefore, the oldest building in St. Petersburg.

But it was never used for its original purpose that is as a defense against Swedish invasion. However it was converted into a political prison. Dostoevsky, Gorky, Trotsky, and Lenin’s older brother Alexander, were among its most famous prisoners.

Adorned with 122 meter-high bell tower, there is the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral, the final resting place of all except two of the Russia’s pre-revolutionary rulers, after Peter the Great.

Sts. Peter & Paul Cathedral, Peter & Paul Fortress, St. Petersburg
Nearby is the Nevsky Gate. The Nevsky Gate came to be known as the Death Gate, as the prisoners were taken through it for their execution.
File:Fortress of Peter & Paul IMG 7519.JPG
Nevsky Gate, Peter & Paul Fortress, St. Petersburg (Open tock Photo)
The gate offers good views of the city across the Neva River, including the first bridge, built by Peter the Great’s daughter, Elizabeth,  after the death of her father, who did not allow building of any bridge in his life time. He believed bridges to be a hindrance to movement of ships. But Elizabeth used her proneness to sea-sickness as an excuse. Now there are 95 bridges linking the various islands of the area.
A View from Nevsky Gate, Peter & Paul Fortress, St. Petersburg

There is a monument to Peter the Great, near the Nevsky Gate.

Peter the Great Monument, Peter & Paul Fortress, St. Petersburg

After concluding our visit to the fortress, we went to our hotel for check in. Park inn Pribaltiskaya is a huge hotel, with four large dining rooms, and strict security. Also, as in the rest of Russia, the front desk took possession of our passports for the duration of our stay there.

Hotel Park Inn Pribaltiskaya, St. Petersburg

Nevsky Gate, Peter & Paul Fortress, St. Petersburg

After freshening up, we headed out for an evening river cruise. Luckily the weather cleared up and it was sunny and dry.

As we boarded the boat we were offered a shot of vodka. The boat took us through a stretch of the river, and a few canals, which give the city a feel of Amsterdam, as it was intended by Peter the Great, the city’s founder.

Canals of St. Petersburg
Canals of St. Petersburg

Canals of St. Petersburg

Canals of St. Petersburg 

Canals of St. Petersburg

Canals of St. Petersburg
We passed by several of the city’s monuments, including the Hermitage Museum, the Church of Resurrection, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, Peter & Paul Fortress, as well as many beautiful buildings lining the river and the canals. Alla, our local guide gave us brief history of each of them.

 The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

 Church of Resurrection, St. Petersburg

 St. Isaac's Cathedral, St. Petersburg

Peter & Paul Fortress, St. Petersburg 

After the cruise, we returned to our hotel for dinner and well-deserved night’s sleep.


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