Baltic Capitals

July 16 - July 30, 2010
Part 2
(St. Petersburg through Lübeck and the Kiel Canal)

St. Petersburg, Russia
St. Petersburg was a two day stop, and it included a cruise on the Neva River and a few canals.
A relatively recent sculpture of Peter the Great, who founded St. Petersburg in 1703.  Prior to this, he had traveled widely in Europe to learn how one creates an effective navy.  He fought battles with the Ottomans and with Sweden, and his path to the sea was St. Petersburg, built on land captured from Sweden.  Peter was determined to make St. Petersburg the Russian capital, and that it should mirror the Europe that he found in his travels.

Besides St. Petersburg, Peter ruthlessly established Russia as an empire.
Peter the Great
Logically, the first structure in St. Petersburg was a fortress, Peter and Paul Fortress to be exact.  This was built to fend off the Swedes, if they tried to come back.Peter and Paul Fortress
A keystone of the Peter and Paul Fortress is the Peter and Paul Cathedral.  But look at this spire!  It could have been designed by Christopher Wren!

This cathedral now holds the tombs of almost all the tsars from Peter the Great to Nicholas II.  Only two are missing.
Peter and Paul Cathedral
Prior to the communist revolution, this was the Stock Exchange.  Absent private ownership, this was turned into a naval museum.Old Stock Exchange
The rivers and canals of St. Petersburg are lined with massive palaces, and the Western influence is evident.Palace on Fountain River
The Winter Palace was official home of the tsars from 1732 until 1917.  Its style is now called Elizabethan Baroque.  Its occupancy was seriously terminated when it was stormed by the Bolsheviks in 1917.  It was also shelled by the battleship Aurora in the same action.

Actually, the last government to use this building was the Kerensky government, which was no match for the Bolsheviks.

Shortly after its storming, the Winter Palace was declared to be part of the Hermitage Museum.
Winter Palace (Hermitage)
Within the Hermitage, you see the stress between its role as a historical palace and its role as a museum.Hall of Nobles
Many of the rooms are clearly palatial, as illustrated by this dome.
Ceiling in Hermitage
It really seems like the art suffers, because there is no air conditioning in most of the Hermitage, because that would not be historically correct.  And the lighting is poor, depending a great deal on the outside daylight.  The paintings, hugely valuable paintings, suffer from the poor atmosphere.  This is Leonardo's 1475-1478 Madonna with the Flower (Benois Madonna).  In this picture, it is hard to see the flower because of reflections off the glass over the painting.Benois Madonna (Madonna with a Flower)
St. Isaac's Cathedral continues the Western tradition, but it is old enough to have been the site of Peter the Great's official marriage to his wife Catherine.St. Isaac's Cathedral
This dome of St. Isaac's is reminiscent of St. Paul's in London.St. Isaac's Cathedral Dome
This is the interior view of the central dome of St. Isaac's.  Note the dove in the center.St. Isaac's Cathedral Dome
St. Isaac's iconostasis is marked by its elegance and the malachite and lapis lazuli columns.Iconostasis in St. Isaacs
The big exception to western architecture is the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood.  Within the church is a shrine on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881.

This picture is from the 2010 trip, when I really didn't have good light on the front.
Church of the Savior on the Blood
In better light, on the back, the domes absolutely sparkle!Church of the Savior on the Blood
Each dome is line with mosaics, and this is the central dome with an image of Christ.Central Dome of Savior on the Blood
Actually, the entire church is lined with mosaics.  This example is on one of the interior columns.

This church was not destroyed but not preserved through the Communist era.  Among other things, it served as a potato warehouse.  However, its restoration started in 1967, and it took 30 years.
Mosaic in Church on the Blood
One of our lunch venues was the Russian Club, just across the canal from the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood.

We had beef stroganof here.
Russian Club
The cruiser Aurora was built in 1903 for the Pacific Fleet, and it saw action in the Russo-Japanese War.  After that it came back to St. Petersburg and saw service in the Baltic during World War I.   By October 1917, most of the crew had joined the Bolsheviks.  Then on October 25, a blank shot from her forward gun signaled the start of the Bolshevik's storming the Winter Palace.

Now, it rests in the Neva as a museum and training ship.
Battleship Aurora
We were in St. Petersburg a day or two before a big navy parade, and the Neva was chock full of the Russian Navy.  These guided missile cruisers looked much more ominous than the Aurora.Guided Missle Cruiser
St. Petersburg was besieged by Hitler's army for 872 days from September 1941 until January 1944.  This is part of a World War II monument in memory of that devastating siege.  All bronze and socialist realism.

The German Panzers rolled right through Estonia to get here.
WW2 Memorial
During the siege, the Germans occupied (and trashed) this palace, known as Catherine's Summer Palace.  Peter the Great presented this palace to his wife Catherine in 1710.  (Note that this is Catherine I; Catherine II was known as Catherine the Great.)

During the unsettled times from 1905 until his death, Nicholas II spent more time here than in the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg.
Catherine's Summer Palace
Within Catherine's Summer Palace, the Great Hall is a shameless copy of Versailles.Summer Palace Hall of Mirrors
Ceilings are just another site for art in the Summer Palace.Ceiling in Summer Palace
Arguably, our most impressive lunch was at the Restaurant Podvorye in the village of Pavlosk, just a mile or two from Catherine's Summer Palace.   Podvorye means "coach house ."

In an appropriately Russian way, the meal started with freezing cold vodka followed by Russian borscht.
Restaurant Podvorye
A couple of times during lunch, we were serenaded by this group.  The music was fine, but the lyrics were inscrutable.Restaurant Podvorye
Helsinki, Finland
Helsinki is the capital and largest city in Finland.  Its population is just under 600,000, and the whole country is about 5.4 million.  Viewed from the top deck of Discover, Helsinki shows two major landmarks, both churches.Helsinki Overview
One of the key landmarks is the Uspenski Russian Orthodox Cathedral.  This was completed in 1868.  At that time, Finland was a Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire.Uspenski Cathedral
The Helsinki Cathedral is Evangelical Lutheran, but its architecture with a central, major dome surrounded by four lesser domes is reminiscent of St. Isaacs in St. Petersburg.  When it was completed in 1852, it was called St. Nicholas' Church and dedicated to the Grand Duke of Finland, Nicholas I, Tsar of the Russian Empire.

That name was dropped in 1917 when Finland fought for and won its freedom from Russia.
Helsinki Cathedral
Along Helsinki's waterfront there is a big market square.  A lot of the stuff is seen in markets everywhere, but I thought this stall caught the spirit of the neighborhood.Helsinki Market Square
Jean Sibelius is almost a saint in Finland.  We all know that he is the composer of "Finlandia."  The house where he used to live is big on the tour bus circuit, even though it is well into the countryside.

This 1967 monument is much more satisfying than his house.  It is 24 tons of hollow stainless steel pipes.  Very abstract.
Sebelius Monument
Another famous Finnish name is Saarinen.  The architect Eliel Saarinen designed this station in Jugendstil, which is German for Art Nouveau.  It was completed in 1919, even though the planning started around 1904.Helsinki Central Railway Station
Wismar and Lübeck, Germany
While we docked in Warnemünde, the mouth of the Warnow River, we visited Wismar and Lübeck.  Both were founding members of the Hansiatic League.  In spite of having been bombed to smithereens in WW2, the town still looks Hansiatic.

Wismar had a really good bakery, and we had snacks.
Central Wismar
This building houses a restaurant (bar?) called the Old Swede.  Actually, the Swedes governed this area from 1648 until about 1897.The Old Swede
We couldn't have a historic town square without a silly fountain.Market Square, Wismar
Actually, the town square shows the current clash of civilization in Germany.  The traditional home made sausage competes with Turkish doner kebabs.Market Square, Wismar
Lübeck first built their town hall in the 13th century, and continued building through the 14th and 15th centuries.  Consequently, it is a hodge podge of styles.Lubeck Town Hall 1
Still with the town hall, the wall with the wind holes represents some of the oldest construction.  The white facade in front is a Renaissance addition dating to about 1570.Lubeck Town Hall 2
Lübeck has been home to a lot of notable people.  Thomas Mann and Gunter Grass are two literary examples.  A political example is Nobel laureate Willy Brandt.  His home is now a museum, and this fragment of the Berlin Wall stands in the courtyard.Willy Brandt - Berlin Wall
The old town of Lübeck has a total of seven notable churches.  Plus the Holy Ghost Hospital.  This is the Marienkirche, one of the most important churches in town.  It was built between 1250 and 1350, and the style is brick Gothic.  This the third largest church in Germany.Marienkirche
This Lutheran church has a fine organ, the facade of which is seen here.  Important musical history was made here, too.  Dietrich Buxtehude was organist here from 1668 until 1707.  In 1705, he hosted a visiting organist from down south, Johann Sebastian Bach.  It is said that Buxtehude's elaborate style opened up Bach's organ composition to a much more exciting terrain.Marienkirche Organ
On Palm Sunday, 1942, Lübeck was hit by an Allied air raid, and the Marienkirche was hit.  The fire-driven winds up the spire made the bells ring for several minutes before they finally fell.  These are those bells, right where they fell.Marienkirche Bells
In 1401, the sea captains of Lübeck formed their guild, the Schiffers Gesellschaft.  The guild still exists, but in 1535, they purchased this building as their meeting place.  Since 1868, it has operated as a restaurant, and we ate here.Schiffergesellschaft
The interior of Schiffers Gesellschaft, with a few of our party visible.Inside Schiffergesellschaft
Kiel Canal
In the 1880's, Kaiser Wilhelm II decided that the German navy needed a better way to get from the Baltic to the North Sea.  This way was a 61 mile canal across the German peninsula just south of Denmark, and it saved 285 miles of steaming.  The canal was finished in 1895, then expanded in 1914 to accommodate the Kaiser's biggest warships.

While we had a daylight passage, it was very rainy.  Still you had the sense of sailing through German farmland.  There were a few bridges, but every few miles there were ferries to provide crossings.
Kiel Canal
The bow of MV Discovery, easing toward the Brunsbüttel Locks, which connect the Kiel Canal to the North Sea.  We slept through the Holtenau Locks that connect the canal to the Baltic Sea.Brunsbuttel Locks
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