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During the first half of the 19th century, around 11,000 serfs drove 25,000 wooden planks into the ground, creating the foundation for what would become Isaakievskiy Sobor or Saint Isaac's Cathedral. More than 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of pure gold were used to gild the dome and its 112 polished granite support column. The massive interior is constructed from various types of marble and stone, and it is designed to accommodate up to 14,000 people. Construction of the cathedral was a painstaking process, taking 40 years in total, and architect August Ricard de Montferrand passed away shortly after its completion. Now, the golden dome has commanded the Neva River skyline for nearly 200 years. From the 562-step climb to the circular observation deck unparalleled panoramas of St. Petersburg await.
If you like seeing ancient body parts and human foetus at various stages of development floating around in formaldehyde, then this is the place for you. It's not so much what constitutes good hygienic practice that you'll find here, but reminders of what can happen to you if you don't. We're talking diseased livers, infected genitalia, gallstones, the works. Most interesting is a 200 year old corpse, a female, standing up in a glass case perfectly preserved with a full head of brown hair, an 18th century gown, stocking, hands in perfect order, nails ready to be polished, exactly the way in which she was found. Unless you have the stomach for this kind of thing, it's probably not a place you'll want to visit more than once. Also do remember, the museum administration must be informed of your visit pre-hand.
On a map of the city center, this grand-scale thoroughfare forms a spine with the many canals appearing as spindly but graceful ribs. On the ground "Nevskii" is the city's vital artery, heaving with people from well before dawn until well after dusk. The street's western end lies at The Admiralty, and from there it runs three miles all the way to the Alexander Nevskii Monastery. The street is a dizzying and sometimes exhausting mix of hectic traffic, street poverty, high fashion and eye-turning architecture.
In 1704, Peter the Great employed Frenchman Le Blond to design a luxurious formal garden in the manner of Versailles. In 1777, the beautiful garden with fountains, imported trees and more than 200 Italian statues was unfortunately ruined by a flood. Today's slightly more austere incarnation can be ascribed to the more restrained taste of Catherine the Great. Nowadays, more than 80 statues reside at the park; in the winter, they are eerily encased in wooden boxes for protection from the winter elements. In the summer, the relaxed calm of the gardens makes it a popular destination for weddings and parties.
Hidden behind a cluster of trees on the banks of the Neva is the oldest building in St Petersburg. This is a three-room log cabin, which was home to the city's founder, Peter the Great. He lived here in 1703 while supervising the construction and development of the city and the nearby Peter and Paul Fortress. It is a timber cottage that resembles a Russian farmhouse- with the exception of its large windows. It was erected in fewer than three days. Although the cabin houses some of the Tsar's personal items as well as furniture, it is hard to imagine a leader of any country living in such a tiny dwelling.
Leningrad's experience of WWII was unimaginably harsh. Hitler was intent on nothing less than the extermination of the city's population by starvation and ceaseless bombing. This imposing monument commemorates the siege of Leningrad and can be found on the main road into the city. A wide concrete staircase flanked by heroic bronze figures leads up to a 48-meter column of red granite. Beyond stands a lowered circular basin where an eternal flame burns. From here, you can enter the unsettling underground Memorial Hall.
This medieval looking palace was once the private residence of Alexander III and his family. Here you will find the family's personal telegrams, notes and letters to each other, as well as special items such as menus for a variety of occasions, hunting diaries, watercolors and more. Outside, the beautiful but fairly informal gardens, parks and lakes that surround the palace complete a setting less refined than the other palatial parks of St. Petersburg.