Europe Travel News

Explore Imperial Russia at the Peter and Paul Fortress

Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, many people have found themselves struck by the urge to explore the former soviet republics on a Russia tour. With a unique culture and vast expanses of natural scenery, the country is a natural destination for adventurous travelers with an eye for interesting architecture, storied histories and epic landscapes. Visitors who want to gain a new outlook on the city of St. Petersburg can do so literally and figuratively by making a trip to the stunning Peter and Paul Fortress.

This stunning palace, the central structure of the State Museum of Saint Petersburg History, was commissioned by Peter the Great in 1703. Local legend claims the Tsar used the bayonet from a soldier's musket to cut two strips of sod from the ground of Hare Island, creating a cross and declaring that "Here shall be a town." After placing some relics of Saint Andrew in the ground, an eagle swooped down from the sky and set two crossed trees on fire. This memorable locale would become the fortress' East of Peter Gateway, and the rest is history.

The fortress was built during the Northern War as a first line of defense in the event of a Swedish attack, prompting the Russian government to build the palace in wood initially to ensure that it was completed before an attack. Though the castle would be rebuilt in stone between 1706 and 1740, it never actually saw any action during the conflict, and served many different roles throughout the years.

Today, the Peter and Paul Fortress stands as an emblem for St. Petersburg, thanks in large part to the enormous cathedral at its heart. Peter and Paul Cathedral boasts a 404-foot (123.2m) bell tower rising high above its gilded cupola and is the final resting place of many of history's most powerful tsars including Alexander III and Peter I himself. Atop the bell tower stands a golden weather vane that locals have dubbed "the angel," which is said to look over and protect the city.

Visitors on Russia tours can also explore the fortress' history as a prison at the Trubeyskoy and Alekseyevsky bastions, learn of its role in the national economy at its still-functioning mint and explore the region's more recent past at the city museum.

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