We wake up in St. Petersburg.
In 1700 Peter the Great succeeded in kicking out the Swedes. To defend his gains, he ordered a city built on the swampy uninhabited land at the mouth of the Neva, using the forced labor of thousands of peasants. In 1712 he moved his capital here. Between 1741 and 1835 Empress Elizabeth, Catherine the Great, and Alexander I turned it into one of Europe’s grandest capitols, building elaborate palaces, government buildings, and churches.
It was here, in 1917 that a workers’ protest turned into a general strike that toppled the monarchy.
It was here that, seven months later, the provisional government was taken over by Lenin’s Bolshevik party in an audacious coup.
It was here that the Nazi’s, vowing to wipe the birthplace of Bolshevism from the face of the earth, set siege to the city on September 8, 1941, a siege that took 1 million lives, not ending until January 24, 1944. (Total combined U.S. and British WWII casualties were 700,000 dead.)
Somehow, the city survived, defiant. Concerts were held, plays performed, poetry read, though there was so little food that the population resorted to boiled leather and the paste from the back of wall paper for nourishment.
Those days are long past, and the city glitters once more, its palaces and churches, grand boulevards and elegant packed cafes, testament to its claim to be the jewel of Russia.
We can’t wait to see it all!