Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Splendours of Russia

flower gardens at St Sergiyev Monastery
 Splendours of Russia

I once visited Russia and Eastern Europe
many years ago. I was excited to visit these
places behind the communist curtain. I was also attracted
to the folk lore and traditions of these Eastern European

Checkpoint Charlie at the time was quite spooky,
like a no-man's land and also so poignant, I remember,
with memorials for young people who had been shot
attempting to cross the border. I remember also hearing
the dogs barking in the distance as I walked on this no
man's land between the east and the west in Berlin.

I was also impressed by the beauty of cities with their
medieval charm as for example the Old Town of Prague
and also Buda and Pest divided by a silver looking river
which disappeared into the distance.

Wasrsaw was also beautiful and the historic centre of
the town was rebuilt to the same plans and original architecture
of the old Warsaw, which had been completely destroyed in
the second world war. The city seemed vibrant with the
colourful buildings. The rolling countryside of Poland
was beautiful and also very green.

Romania was also fascinating and there I visited a little folk village.
At the time coffee and items which were taken for granted in the west
were very expensive to purchase for the Romanian people.
I also loved the decorative arts and gypsy Hungarian blouses with
their intricate embroidery which
were often on display in Budapest, Hungary.

On a recent visit of Russia I saw
some beautiful and exquisite decorative
renovations which had been completed
in Peterhof Palace. This is a magnificent
palace to visit in St Petersburg. It was
late in the autumn and fortunately there were
not long queues to visit the palace as apparently
there are during the summer months as many of the cruise ships
arrive at St Petersburg and there can be long queues to visit
this spectacular palace.

The palace is quite majestical and very beautiful.
To me, it also seems quite magical, with the wonderful
fountain displays in front of the palace. There was
a chequered black and white design on the paving by
the balustrade outside the palace which was interesting.

The weather was cold but this did not take away
from the magnificence of the palace and fountains.
Peter the Great travelled to western Europe and
St Petersburg is designed along European concepts.
The palace at Peterhof is magnificent, with a walkway
of trees and beautiful fountains with statues. This
is a beautiful setting. The interior décor
of the palace is magnificent, decorated in gold and white.
I loved this palace.

I do have a few pictures taken from my trip to
Russia last year. I was constantly held in awe
by the beauty and majesty of the wonderful gold
domes and spires of churches. These wonders add
enchantment to the splendours of Russia.

I noticed the change and relative freedoms from
my previous visit to Russia.
There are young people in Russia today who would
not have lived during the repressive earlier times.

The Spirit Wrestlers by Philip Marsden was a wonderful
book to read regarding these earlier times. It is actually
a travel book interspersed with stories of people the writer
interviewed and met. It was a different book as he travelled
to distant places and mountain villages, attended a prayer meeting,
met a priest who was building a church, a painter who explained
that the images and beautiful paintings of religious icons, etc
for some people would be the closest they
would have been able to come in understanding God for some of the
people. (I expect in times when people may have been illiterate.)
There were images described of Cossack horsemen riding across the
plains which seemed to be so evocative and real.

The Kremlin in Moscow is also magnificent to visit.
There was a church with medieval paintings and art works, which was
magnificent to view.

Beautiful trees softened the scene and I noticed the wind whistling
through the leaves, shimmering, as a guide was showing the group around.
They may have been maple leaves. It was quite beautiful and I also had a picture
taken beside a cannon at the Kremlin. This cannon is a decorative cannon and was
not ever fired.

Red Square is another magical place with St Basil's Cathedral. A gothic looking and brightly
coloured cathedral. On the day I visited
the many brides dressed in white were quite noticeable as this is a place which is popular for
weddings and brides. This was on a Saturday. There was also a horse parade in the square,
with many tourists and people watching the display.

The cathedral may have been inspired by an earlier church of Kolmenskoye as it has been described
as being a mixture of northern Russian architecture or of a mosque which was destroyed and also
of Byzantine influence. It is also fascinating to contemplate that the colours are taken from the Book
of Revelations with the twenty-five gold domes and the rainbow described for the blue and green

I was
constantly amazed by the wonderful treasures in Russia. The
underground also has splendid art works and decorations. Also
magnificent chandeliers. People from the villages who came to the city would have admired
the artistic creations, realising that it was not only the Tsars who could
create beauty and splendour.

I loved the visit to St Sergiyev's monastery and the marvellous
architectural splendours
there. The churches are magnificent in a wonderful setting of trees
and a courtyard, flowers and also a few cats. It is a very beautiful
peaceful place. This was built to honour St Sergiyev, who became
a hermit.

The white, blue and gold domes and spires which
soar into the sky and can be seen from a distance give a sense
of wonder and beauty to the scenery. The bell towers also add
a magical touch and give another dimension of the beauty at St
Sergiyev Monastery as also the beauty of the frescoes and paint
works. It is quite magnificent.

On an earlier visit to Russia I had visited a little village of Kishinev,
which I had thought at the time looked very pretty. It did seem
to be different from many of the towns, perhaps because of the little cottages
instead of the high rises. It is now a part of Moldava.

I also once remember visiting a little pavilion or monument to a famous poet
and the guide mentioning the numbers of people who were lost during the second
world war.

In St Petersburg we were also informed of the Siege of Leningrad in 1942,
when the city was cut off from supplies of food. This would have been severe
during the winter months. The railway could not reach St Petersburg with
essential food supplies.

The film “Dr Zhivago” depicted the Russian winters
quite vividly in some of the rural settings.

The guide on the tour often mentioned the famous poets, Russian literature
and the history of the Tsars.
St Michaels Castle in St Petersburg is itself an architectural
splendour. Apparently, as this castle was being built there was a warning or premonition
from a gypsy woman that for as many windows and balconies that the castle would have,
would be the number of days that Tsar Paul would live there. This prophecy was
proved correct. He was a son of Katherine II, Empress of Russia. His castle was built as
a means of protective security with a drawbridge and an older style fortress design.

There is a boat at the docks at St Petersburg, which is also fascinating to look around
and go on board. It was from here that the distant alarm was sounded which started
the revolution and the ministers were arrested and held captive at the palace.

The Winter Palace in St Petersburg is also magnificent. I can well imagine the fairy-tale balls
which would have been held here, with the dresses, costumes and settings, these magical balls would
seem from another world today.
The Winter Palace has a wonderful display of magnificent art works and is set in a majestic courtyard.

I was also fascinated by the magnificence of a square in St Petersburg which was
illuminated by wonderful lanterns in the early hours of the mornning. This looked
very majestic and beautiful. A story book setting. Beautiful! This square
was not far from the train station at St Petersburg. I had arrived in the early hours after
travelling from Moscow. The carriages of the trains were painted brightly. St Petersburg
is a very picturesque city, with fascinating sights and colourful buildings on the banks
of the river.

I also enjoyed
looking out over the Baltic Sea and towards Finland from the hallway windows of the
hotel in St Petersburg. The scenery looked wild and windswept, the coastline looked rugged
and it was cold, but also beautiful. This was in autumn.

Best wishes,

beautiful gold domes of Russia

more beautiful gold domes

St Basil's Cathedral

a picture of St Basil's Cathedral from wikipedia

St Basil's Cathedral

Peterhof Palace and fountains from wikipedia

black and white tiles by Peterhof Palace from wikipedia

fountains of Peterhof Palace from wikipedia

horse parade in Red Square, Moscow

parade in Red Square, Moscow

Throne Room at Peterhof Palace from wikipedia

bridge in St Petersburg

flower garden by monastery of St Sergiyev

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