The Impressionists


Until today we had not been inside a St Peterburg Russian Orthodox church so we selected the Church of the Assumption of Mary, located on one of the embankments overlooking the Neva but some distance away from the tourist crowds. This impressively beautiful church, surprisingly, hardly rates a mention as a tourist attraction. I put on a head scarf and Ian wore long trousers. It was quiet with few visitors along with a Russian film crew that appeared to be filming for a documentary. The interior is overwhelmingly ornate. During the Soviet era it was put to other uses (warehouse and skating rink) so it was in bad shape until renovations were done during the 1990s.

Nearby are a couple of museums, one on an ice breaker ship, another in a submarine, both on the Neva. The St Petersburg Mining University, also nearby, features two dramatic sculptures at the entrance – The Abduction of Proserpina and Hercules and Antaeus.


It is hard work riding around on a bike because of uneven surfaces, high kerbs, lack of opportunity to cross the road and heavy traffic. To be fair though, St Petersburg has many pedestrian crossings and motorists respect them if you step out assertively. Traffic light-controlled crossings are common but some allow only 30 seconds to cross 6 or 8 lanes with a high median strip in the middle (count down indicators are everywhere – these are a big help).

Day 2 at the Hermitage enabled us to view the Impressionist exhibitions in the General Staff Building – this is the yellow semicircular building on the other side of Palace Square that looks across to the Winter Palace. On Wednesdays opening hours are extended to 9pm we we went in the early evening when there were no queues and fewer visitors. This building has been extensively and expensively renovated – it’s pretty schmick. We enjoyed seeing many famous works by Degas, Monet, Picasso, Cezanne, Kandinsky and others.


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