What a joy to have Kelvin and Roslyn meet us when we arrived in St. Petersburg and wonderful to be with friends as we are nearing the end of this Grand Tour.
The train journey from Helsinki was interspersed with many Customs and Border crossing checks both on the Finnish side and the Russian side – apparently we passed all requirements.
The journey was for three-and-a-half-hours and on crossing the border we put our clocks forward 2 hours. Our Eurail Pass has served us well and at the Russian border it came to an end.
Roslyn and Kelvin helped us to each purchase a travel card and then escorted us through the Metro system (down the longest and fastest escalator I have ever encountered – a ride of over 3 minutes ) to the accommodation we had booked through a friend of theirs.
After a short rest I followed the instructions given and made my way to a stop near their home where I joined them and Elena for a meal and much
reminiscing prior to setting out for the all night Orthodox Christmas Eve Service at the Kazan Cathedral on Nevsky Prospekt.
We met Mathew and just before 23:00 joined the masses streaming into the church as the Service was about to start. This was an amazing experience not just for me, but also for the Nicolle family as they had not previously attended.
More about the building on another day as I plan to go back to take in the magnificence when not packed with people, shoulder to shoulder, row after row, all standing and very hot. We stayed until 01:30ish. There were queues of people outside waiting to enter.
After walking back up Nevsky Prospekt, crowded with people and beautifully decorated, we slept in the city area in an apartment arranged by Roslyn, so into bed at about 02:30.
TODAY (Tuesday 7th)
THE PETER AND PAUL FORTRESS
The Peter and Paul Fortress is the “cradle of St. Petersburg”, a unique historical complex situated on an Island (hare) in the estuary of the Neva, in the widest part of the River. Peter the Great founded the fortress in 1703 and construction of the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral was completed in 1733.
The cathedral is a powerful hall-type Church with a tall bell-tower crowned by a majestic spire. (We heard the bells ring a hymn tune before we left the Fortress). The tombs of the Romanovs, Peter the Great, his consort Catherine 1 and their daughter and many others are in this place.
The guidance, direction and information given by friends is invaluable, especially when fewer people speak English and I am thoroughly enjoying my time with the Nicolle family.