Lowell House Society of Russian Bell Ringers

Lowell House Society of Russian Bell Ringers

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August 22 (Day 11): Saint Petersburg

August 23, 2018

The sleeper train from Petrazavodsk arrived to Saint Petersburg early in the morning. After a stop at the hotel to drop off our bags, we walked past the Peter and Paul Fortress, across the Neva River, and through St. Isaac’s Square. Then, we had a delicious breakfast where we agreed that somehow Russian kasha is so much better than oatmeal at home, and whatever is called or translated as cottage cheese seems to be something different but is really good.

Then, we returned to the Peter and Paul Fortress, Petropavlosk, where we met bell ringers to climb the tower. The Petropavlosk belfry is notable for two reasons: it houses both a carillon and traditional Russian bells, and its spire is the tallest architectural structure in Saint Petersburg. The stairs took us up past the carillon and Russian bells to the impressive clock mechanism, and still further to the clock faces looking over the city. When we finally reached the last set of windows in the spire, we stood at a height of 72 meters. This was an amazing adventure, a first even for Father Roman.

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On the way down, we saw the carillon played, with a setlist that included traditional Russian folk music, a Russian bell peal adapted for carillon, and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” before the daily blast of the cannon at noon.

We learned many interesting stories about the cathedral and its tower. At the time of Catherine the Great, there was no exterior ladder to the top of the spire, but a daring peasant climbed with ropes to repair the angel on top, and he was rewarded accordingly. During World War II, the wooden beams protecting the clock weights from weather were removed from firewood. One clock face is damaged from a bullet, when Soviets fired upon the bell tower as it rang God Save the Tsar. Recent work on the spire discovered a message in a bottle from previous work in 1957, blaming the poor quality of that work on their overseers.

Downstairs, the cathedral itself is remarkable, and it is the burial place for many of the royal family, including Peter the Great. Though Tsar Nicholas II and his family were killed by the Bolsheviks in Yekaterinburg in 1918, their remains were moved to Peter and Paul Cathedral in 1998.

In the afternoon, we wished Father Roman farewell as he returned to Moscow. We were kindly welcomed for lunch by Evan’s host mother from his time in Saint Petersburg nearly ten years ago. Then we wandered the city, seeing the Kazan Cathedral, Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood (its colorful domes unfortunately under restoration), and Nevsky Prospekt. We celebrated an amazing trip with Georgian food for dinner and a visit to the chocolate shop.

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