(The route of the tour depends on the location of the starting point, but it usually includes the sailing along the Moika River, the Fontanka and often a section of the Neva River. Because of the
Rivers and Canals Tour
(The route of the tour depends on the location of the starting point, but it usually includes the sailing along the Moika River, the Fontanka and often a section of the Neva River. Because of the unique location and climate of St. Petersburg, the tour of the rivers and canals is often unpredictable. The route may be changed a short time before the tour or even during the tour depending on the weather situation, on the direction of the wind and on the level of the water in the canals. So, you have to be in contact with your coordinator (manager) and bus/car driver at all times!!!
Before starting the tour you must warn your guests about the following safety measures:
- identify the location of the safety vests on the boat and make sure the passengers see where they are;
- no smoking;
- passengers have to be seated because many bridges on the canals are very low;
- inform them about the duration of the tour and locate the toilets.
Below there is the general information which may be given on the tour. Naturally, you have to select the information according to the route. The main focus of the tour is the waterways and different city sites seen from the water from the advantageous point of view).
Over 300 years ago Peter the Great, the founder of St. Petersburg, once called his favorite city Venice of the North. St. Petersburg has full right to be compared to Venice: there are over 80 rivers and canals which divide the city into 42 islands. The total length of rivers and canals in St. Petersburg is about 300 km. There are over 300 bridges in the city centre, 21 of them are drawbridges. It is more than in other cities famous for their bridges, such as Venice, Stockholm and Amsterdam. The rivers and canals make up about 10 per cent of the city’s total area.
The Moika River is 4, 67 km long, 20 to 40 m wide and 2, 3 to 3, 2 m deep. It flows at a speed of 8, 3 to 11, 3 cubic m per second. The name of the river Moika has at least two meanings: Moika in Russian means washing: in the old times the women, who lived in the area close to the river, used to do their washing in the river. However, historians say that the word Moika originates from the Finnish word Muja, which means dirty. The Moika flows through the old part of the city. The earliest houses built on the river banks were small wooden dwellings of naval officers and shipbuilding workers. By the middle of the 19th century the embankments of the Moika River became one of the most prestigious parts of the capital city. St. Petersburg aristocracy, distinguished people of the time and high ranking merchants were building their palaces and mansions along the river.
(Sailing down the Moika from St. Isaac’s Square – the Blue Bridge – towards the Kryukov Canal and New Holland):
The Granite Obelisk (right): crowned with Neptune’s trident, was put up in 1971. The bronze ribbons on the obelisk mark the water level during the most devastating floods in the history of St. Petersburg. The most dangerous flood happened on 19 November, 1824, when the water level rose 421 centimeters above the normal level; the second one occurred a hundred years later, on 23 September, 1924, when it rose 380 cm above the normal level. These and some other marks are shown on the granite pillar. At present, a rise of the water level is considered as a flood if it is over 160 cm above the average level of the Baltic Sea near Kronstadt. It is conventional to classify floods as dangerous (161-210 cm), extra dangerous (211-299 cm) and catastrophic (over 300 cm).Throughout its history, the city has witnessed 243 dangerous, 77 extra dangerous and 3 catastrophic floods. For some mysterious reason, catastrophic floods take place every hundred years: the first one was in 1724 during the reign of Peter I and just a few years after the city had been founded; the second one – in 1824 and it was dramatically described by Alexander Pushkin in his poem The Bronze Horseman; the thirds one – in 1924. According to the specialists, there is no reason to panic about the approaching year of 2024 since a few years ago a dam across the Gulf of Finland, whose main aim is to protect the city against the floods, was finally completed. In case of danger, the gates of the dam get shut and thus prevent the city from a mighty flow of the Baltic waters into the city.
Moika, # 72(left) was originally owned by Prince Vorontsov, the Chancellor of the State in 1802-1804 (his sister, Princess Dashkova, was the first and only woman President of the Russian Academy of Sciences). After his death in 1805 the house was bought by the Russo-American Company established in 1799 to open up Alaska. Alaska, which was discovered by Russian seamen in 1741, used to be part of Russia, but was sold to the United States in 1867 at a ridiculously low price of 7,2 mln US dollars. After that the Russo-American Company was closed. The US government concluded an extra-profitable bargain: the mineral deposits mined in Alaska in 1880-1980, over a period of a hundred years, were worth 2 500 times as much as they paid Russia in 1867. Nowadays Alaska, the 49th state of the USA, has about a half of the oil, coal and platinum deposits discovered in the States, 80 per cent of its tin deposits, 30 per cent of antimony and 20 per cent of nickel..
The Postal and Telecommunication Workers’ Entertainment Centre (right) was opened in the 1930s. It is the reconstructed building of a former Lutheran Church built in 1863 (arch. Bosse and Grimm).
Lantern Bridge was built in 1973 instead of an early 20th century pedestrian bridge. It must owe its name to the Lantern Lane running off the Moika River. The name goes back to the first half of the 19th century when many buildings in the street housed brothels decorated with red lanterns, which were their usual emblems. The story has it that local landlords appealed to the municipal council with a request to rename the lane because decent tenants didn’t like to settle in this infamous area. The request was passed over to the tsar, who, quite reasonably, wrote that if the landlords were shocked by the red lanterns on their property, they should no lease it out to the brothels, and so the lane preserved its original name to our days. The city streets did not have any names in Peter I’s time; they were first named in 1837.
Post Office Bridge is called so because it is located near the buildings of the city’s Central Post Office. The bridge stands out for its original design (1823-24, engineer Tretter): it is hung on chains and is one of the earliest hanging bridges of this type in St. Petersburg. The bridge is about 34 m long. At one time, the pylons supporting it bent over, so the bridge tended to rock quite noticeably when people were walking on it and some alterations had to be made to the original design. The bridge was restored in 1983 and now looks exactly as it did in the old days.
Moika, # 86, a two-storey mansion, used to belong to Auguste Montferrand, the famous architect of St. Isaac’s Cathedral and other beautiful buildings in St. Petersburg. Those who envied him claimed that he bought it with the money that he had misappropriated during the construction of the cathedral which lasted for 40 years. However, many architects of that time had their own houses, even though they had smaller incomes than Montferrand, who got 100 000 roubles as a reward from Tsar Nicholas I after he had built the Alexander Column in Palace Square. He bought the mansion in 1834 and lived there until his death in 1858. Te lantern-shaped balcony, which he built in his house, was just about the first one of its kind in the whole city. Nowadays, the mansion houses the city’s Head Procurator’s Office.
Bolshaya Morskaya, # 61 is the house where Lomonosov, the great Russian scientist and scholar of the 18th century, lived from 1757 till his death in 1765. In 1764 Catherine II visited him there with her courtiers and she was shown around his research laboratory and even watched him making some chemical experiments. In the 19th century this building, by that time reconstructed, was turned into a place for keeping post coaches, at that time the only means of delivering post across the country. The post coaches lost their significance after the first railway had been built.
The Yusupov Palace. The Yusupovs, one of the wealthiest families in Russia, built their favourite residence on the Moika (besides this one, they owned 3 more palaces in other parts of the city). In the first half of the 19th century the Yusupovs, like some other noblemen of St. Petersburg, had their own flotilla of richly decorated boats which they used to get around the city, at that time there used to be as many boats on the rivers as there were carriages on the streets. As we are sailing along the river, note that in front of every building which used to be a family home, there are metal rings attached to the granite facing of the rivers – they were meant for tying private boats.
Potseluyev Bridge .The bridge down the river not far from the Yusupov Palace is known as Potseluyev Bridge. It was originally built in 1738 as a wooden bridge and rebuilt in cast iron in 1807-1816. Finally, in 1907-1908, when the tram line was being laid, the bridge was rebuilt in iron and made wider. The name of the bridge, the Russian for Kisses, dates from the 18th century, though the origin of the name remains obscure. The city folklore has suggested several explanations. One of the legends has it that the bridge was the place where people used to say good bye to those leaving the city when the Moika was the city’s southern boundary. ( before 1709), but this is, perhaps, the least likely explanation. According to another legend, the bridge used to be a popular dating place of lovers. The most widespread version attributes the name of the bridge to the pub owned by a certain merchant Potseluyev, which he called The Kiss, located near the bridge in the 18th century, but even this explanation has no documentary evidence.
The New Holland is an architectural ensemble of the former storehouses of Peter the Great’s time, which occupies 2 small islands. The name goes back to the early 18th century and must be due to the fact that this part of the city, with its slipways, timber stores, canals and lots of foreigners working at the shipyard nearby, reminded Peter of his life in Holland. The storehouses for storing ship timber were built around the island in the mid-18th century: designed by the architect Chevakinsky, they were meant to store as much timber as could be needed for building 15 ships.
(Sailing from the area of St. Isaac’s Square up the river towards Palace Square and the Winter Canal):
Blue Bridge is the widest in the city: it is 99, 95 m wide. It is also one of the world’s widest bridges. It is a one-span cast-iron bridge – a few bridges of a similar design were built across the Moika in the early 19th century. The bridges were named by the colors of their railings. From the Blue Bridge the boat will be sailing under the Red Bridge and then the Green Bridge.
A distinguished looking building with huge windows and a tower at the top (on the left, just before the Red Bridge) was constructed in 1907 (arch. Roschefor and Lipsky) for the Esders & Schefals Company which was a major trader in ready- made clothes. It was one of the earliest metallic-frame buildings of the city. The building has been recently restored; it bears the original name of the company in gold letters on the façade. Nowadays, it is one of the city’s shopping centers.
Red Bridge (built in 1808-1814) is painted red in accordance with the old tradition when the bridges across the Moika were all different colors.
Moika # 61 is the State University of Telecommunications, which trains radio and electrical engineers (arch. Zhelyazevich and Grebyonka, 1850s).
Moika, # 48 is the Hertzen State Teachers’ Training University which was established in 1918. The university is one of the leading institutions of higher learning in the country. It occupies a complex of buildings and the central building is a former palace (arch. Kokorinov, 1760s) built for Kirill Razumovsky, a younger brother of Alexei Razumovsky, the secret husband of Empress Elizabeth. While Alexei, who married the Empress, was a former choir boy, the fate of his brother Kirill was even more extraordinary. He had been a shepherd, but at the age of 16 was summoned to St. Petersburg, received at the court and sent to study abroad. After a pleasant two-year-long trip to Europe, Kirill came back to St. Petersburg and was immediately appointed President of the Academy of Sciences. In 1750, when he was 22, he received the title of a general, became the military leader of the Ukraine and was given a number of huge land estates. In 1771 an orphanage was instituted in the palace by Catherine II. The orphanage received about 3 000 children a year. The majority of the foundlings were brought by serfs who wished to save their children from slavery (serfdom). As a result, the children lost their parents but got their freedom instead. Serfdom existed in Russia until 1861. The pediment above the central gate is decorated with a sculpture of the pelican feeding its nestlings. Since ancient times pelicans have been traditional emblems of monastic orphanages. The legend has it that the pelican is the only creature in the animal world that tears its own body to feed its starving nestlings.
The Stroganov Palace (arch. Rastrelli, 1752-1754, on the corner of the Moika and Nevsky Prospect) is one of the best examples of the Russian 18th century Baroque style. The Stroganovs were one of the wealthiest noble families in Russia, so they had their palace built right across the river from the royal Winter Palace of Empress Elizabeth, which used to be on the left, on the corner of Nevsky Prospect. Nowadays, one of the city’s luxury hotels The Taleon is situated in its place. Alexander Stroganov, who owned the palace in the late 18th century, was the President of Fine Arts Academy and enjoyed the favor of four Russian monarchs – Elizabeth, Catherine II, Paul and Alexander I. He was well known for his generosity, and once, introducing him to the Emperor of Austria, Catherine II remarked ”here is a man who for a long time has been desperately trying to go bankrupt, but so far has not been able to”. About 100 guests came to lunch in his palace every day.
Green Bridge across the Moika was originally built of wood in 1717. It was reconstructed a few times and was finally rebuilt after a standard design, similar to the other bridges across the Moika River. However, the original name of the bridge was not Green Bridge but Police Bridge because of the Police Office located nearby. The bridge was constructed in 1806 and it became the earliest cast-iron bridge in Russia. It has survived to nowadays. It was by this bridge that in 1883 one of the first power stations of St. Petersburg was installed on a wooden barge moored 30 meters down the river. The station consisted of some steam locomotives and dynamos of a 35 watt capacity and it was meant to illuminate the main street in the city -- Nevsky Prospect. The power station functioned till the end of the 19th century.
Literary Café (arc. Stasov, 1812-1815). The café, which was opened in the early 19th century, is famous for its links with the life of the eminent Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, who lived nearby, in a house just a few blocks up the river (Moika # 12) and who was its frequent visitor. On 27 January (10 February), 1837 in this café Pushkin met his second before going to the fatal duel with the Frenchman George Dantes. Pushkin was mortally wounded in the duel and carried to his house where he died a few days later.
The General Staff Headquarters (the back façade of it) is one of the examples of the Empire style architecture of the beginning of the 19th century. The front of the building, which has the longest facade in Europe, faces Palace Square. After a serious restoration, the building of the General Staff will entirely belong to the Hermitage Museum. In the opening before the bridge one can see Palace Square, Alexander Column and the building of the Winter Palace.
Singers’ Bridge was built according to a standard design in 1839-1840. It used to be called Yellow Bridge because of the color of its railing. The magnificent railing is made of cast iron and resembles lacework. The bridge is very wide (72 m) and is named the Singers’ Bridge after the Choir Hall located next to it on the right. The history of the Choir Hall goes back to the 16th century when a royal choir of 30-35 men was formed at the court of Ivan the Terrible. After St. Petersburg became the capital of Russia, the choir moved here from Moscow. Peter I himself often sang the bass part. One of the choir boys, Alexey Razumovsky, became the favorite and later the secret husband of Peter’s daughter Empress Elizabeth. The present day building of the Choir Hall was built by the arch. Leonty Benois in 1886-1889.
Royal Guards’ Headquarters (arch. A. Bruillov, 1843) is the first building on the left after the bridge.
Winter Canal is the shortest canal in the city. It is about 300 metres long with three Venetian style bridges hanging over it. The canal was artificially dug out in 1718 to connect the Moika to the main river, the Neva. It owes its name to the first two Winter Palaces of Peter I which used to be in this area. The canal is still just a few meters away from the present Winter Palace, a part of the Hermitage Museum.
The New Hermitage stretching along the canal is one of the five buildings of the Hermitage Museum. It was built in 1850 by the German architect Leo von Klenze for the growing collections of arts. The New Hermitage is connected to the Hermitage Theatre by an arch hanging over the Winter Canal. A legend has it that the architect of the arch was envied by many people who tried to persuade the Empress to believe that it was flimsy and could collapse. To test the arch, Catherine II ordered to have a huge banquet in the gallery inside the arch so that everyone would make sure that it was safe (the architect was standing underneath). On the right, just before the bridge, on the light green wall of the Hermitage Theatre, one can see a red brick fragment of the original wall of Peter the Great’s Winter Palace, one of the first buildings in St. Petersburg (the Hermitage Theatre was built over it).
The Hermitage Bridge across the Winter Canal is the earliest stone bridge of St. Petersburg, built in 1763-1766.
The Neva River is 74 km long (over 30 km within the city limits). It issues from Lake Ladoga, the biggest lake in Europe, and flows into the Gulf of Finland of the Baltic Sea. The widest part of the Neva is at the gate of the commercial port (1250 m); the narrowest part (340m) is between Palace and Annunciation Bridges; the deepest part is 24 m (near Liteiny/Foundry Bridge); the most shallow part is less than 6 m. St. Petersburg is situated in the delta of the Neva, several branches take off the main flow of the river and form several islands. The biggest islands of the delta are Vasilievsky (1090 hectares), Petrogradsky (570 hectares) and Krestovsky (420 hectares).
The Neva River is navigable and it is an important waterway in the North West of Russia. In ancient times the Vikings from Scandinavia were sailing the Neva along the legendary Route from the Varangians (Vikings) to the Greeks.
The Neva freezes in the winter time. The normal date of freezing is 25 November, or
5 December. However, in 1805, the river froze down on 28 October; in 1952 – on 20 January. The normal date of breakup is 9-11 April. However, in 1938 the river broke up on 16 March, and in 1810 – on 12 May. Navigation on the river is normally functioning from early May to the end of October. In the recent years, though, the river’s freezing period has become shorter than normal and the navigation period – longer.
Peter I conceived the Neva as the main thoroughfare of the city, and the part of the river at the Point of Basil Island was regarded as the city’s main square. The city was built simultaneously on both banks of the river. St. Petersburg is the only European city with a big river where the river was originally included in the whole architectural ensemble.
Peter was fond of boat trips. He would announce their dates in advance, and on those days every resident of St. Petersburg had to bring their boats to the Peter and Paul Fortress (and were fined if they did not). The boats then formed a flotilla headed by the royal boat steered by Peter I himself and sailed down the Neva as far as the summer residence in Strelna on the coast of the Gulf of Finland , where a nice meal was waiting for the participants of the trip.
An edict issued by Peter I banned the construction of bridges across the Neva. Instead, every resident of the city received a boat free from the government and was taught how to use it. The instructions were written by Peter I himself. Only temporary pontoon bridges had been used to span the Neva until the first permanent iron and stone drawbridge over it was built in 1850 (Nicholayevsky, now known as Annunciation Bridge).
Nowadays, there are 21 drawbridges across the Neva: very complicated mechanisms draw up the spans of the bridges at night one after another strictly according to a precise schedule. It takes just two minutes to raise the spans of a bridge. The most romantic time for watching the raising of the bridges is May and June due to the White Nights – the time when it practically doesn’t get completely dark at night.
(As the boat sails along the Neva, it is worth mentioning all the major buildings along its both banks and point out how advantageously they look from the water: the Point of Basil Island, the buildings of the Hermitage, Peter and Paul’s Fortress, Grand Dukes’ Palaces along the Palace Embankment, the Marble Palace, the dome of the Mosque).
The Trinity Bridge is one of the most favorite bridges of the citizens because of its elegant design. It was built in 1903 by the French construction company Batignolle as a gift of the government of France to St. Petersburg for its 200th anniversary.
The Summer Garden was laid out by Peter I in 1704. It stands out for its wrought iron fence designed by the Russian architects Felten and Yegorov (1770-1784). 36 monolithic granite columns with rhythmically alternating vases and urns are linked by the elegant grating, which is considered to be one of the world’s finest examples of ironwork. There is a legend that in the 1920s, when Soviet Russia had been devastated by the Civil War, American businessmen offered to send Russia 100 locomotives, which the country was badly in need of, in exchange for the fence, but then the Ministry of Education rejected the offer on behalf of the government. The Summer Garden (11, 7 hectares), which is situated on an island, has over 2 000 trees and is decorated with Italian marble statues of the 18th century (because of the damaging humid climate the sculptures get covered for the winter time; some of the sculptures have been replaced with their copies).
The Cruiser Aurora, the early 19th century building of the Medical Military Academy and Liteiny/Foundry Bridge (engineer Struve, 1879).
(As a contrast to the city’s classical architecture with its 300 years old tradition of a strict law about the height of the buildings – now it is maximum 25 metres in the city centre – you might point to the buildings of the St. Petersburg Hotel and the new high rise apartments built close to the river and express your opinion on the present day situation in the field of the new construction).
TheFontanka (or the Fountain) River issues from the Neva, forms a bow around the city centre and flows into the Neva again at the Gulf of Finland. Its name goes back to the early 18th century, when the water from the river was used to feed the fountains of the Summer Garden, the oldest public garden in Russia. Until then it was called the Small Neva.
The Fontanka is 6, 7 km long, 35-70 m wide and 2, 6-3, 5 m deep. The river was the city’s boundary till the middle of the 18th century. The left bank was a forest, which was notorious for the robbers who mugged passers-by and travelers, so the owners of the country houses on the left bank were ordered to cut down the forest around their estates to keep the robbers from hiding there. The river’s embankments were faced with granite at the time of Catherine the Great. In 1887 the first regular river steamboats started to run down the Fontanka River. Water transport used to be very popular in St. Petersburg: for example, in 1912 the boats running down the Neva and the Fontanka rivers carried a total of 5, 6 mln people, which was twice the population of the city. Naturally, transportation by the water was not possible in the winter time because all rivers and canals freeze. But the ice used to be so thick that a special tram line was laid on the ice of the Neva River.
Laundry Bridgeis the oldest three-span bridge in the city. Its name is due to the court laundry, which used to be located on the left bank. The bridge, built in 1766-1768, is 40, 9 m long and it looks exactly the same as in the 18th century.
Summer Palace of Peter the Great (arch. Trezzini, 1710-1714) is one of the oldest buildings in St. Petersburg. It is a museum which introduces into the everyday life of Peter the Great and his family. On display there are original furniture, tableware, kitchen utensils, Peter’s working tools and instruments, his personal belongings, uniforms and clothes.
The Summer Garden was a centre of the city’s social life. It was here that the famous “assemblies”, or public meetings, introduced by Peter I in 1718, were held. The assemblies took place periodically (about twice a week), and took place not only in the Summer Palace but also in the noblemen’s mansions. Anyone except serfs and servants could attend the assemblies, be it a nobleman, a merchant or a simple worker. The host of the assembly was forbidden to welcome his guests and to see them off; he was supposed to provide premises, food, refreshments, chess, checkers and other games. Gambling was not encouraged. On the grounds of the Summer Garden there are two pavilions – the Tea House and the Coffee House.
On the left bank:
# 4 is the former Laundry Yard, which served as a washing house for the royal family and courtiers.
# 6 is the former Law School founded by Prince of Oldenburg in 1835 (arch. Stasov). The school was meant to train officials for the highest governmental institutions. The first graduates of the school were very few – only 14 pupils graduated in 1840. World famous Russian composer Peter Tchaikovsky was among those who graduated from the school in 1859. Later he recalled that he did not enjoy the time spent at the school and that he wasn’t interested in any subjects, except music lessons. As a small boy, he was often seen alone in the school’s music room playing the piano.
# 10 is the Salt Town, the former name of the storehouses for storing wine and salt, which used to be here in the 18th century. The present day building was put up in 1870 for the All-Russia industrial exhibition. The glass-domed building in the back is the former Baron Schtiglitz School of Drawing. Nowadays the building houses the Academy of Decorative and Applied Arts .
St. Panteleimon Bridge (1908-1912) across the Fontanka River is richly decorated in the Russian Empire style: gilt military armour – shields, hatchets, helmets stylized in the ancient Roman tradition. The Church of St. Panteleimon near the bridge is not only a Russian orthodox church but a memorial of Russia’s naval glory: it was constructed to commemorate the victories of the Russian fleet over the Swedes in the Northern war. (arch. Korobov). The most memorable victories took place in 1714 at Hango Peninsula and in 1720 at Grengham. The church was consecrated in the name of St. Panteleimon, because it was on the feast day of St. Panteleimon that Russia won those battles.
(Boats often sail along the Fontanka in the direction of the Anichkov Bridge and return to the intersection of the Fontaka and the Moika to continue their way along the Moika towards the Church of the Spilled Blood. Along the Fontanka embankments worth mentioning are the following buildings: The Circus on the right, the oldest permanent circus building in Russia known as the Cinizelli circus after its founder, the Italian entrepreneur Cinizelli; on the left is the former Count Srehemetyev Palace from the 18th century with the magnificent wrought iron fence with the family’s coat-of-arms above the central gate; next on the left is the former Catherine’s Institute for the Ladies of the Noble Birth, an elite women’s educational institution in tsarist Russia, which now houses the city’s Public Library; and the former Shuvalov’s Palace on the right, one of the examples of wealthy family homes built before the revolution. Before 1917, when St. Petersburg was the capital of the Russian Empire, there were over 500 such palaces and mansions in the centre of the city. After the revolution they were nationalized and turned into different institutions).
First Engineer Bridge across the Moika River (1828-1829) owes its name to the Engineers ‘Castle. The bridge has an interesting design. It has no abutment and rests on the granite slopes of the embankment. The vault of the bridge is made of bolted cast-iron parts which have a lot of openings in them, making the vault more lightweight. The railing of the bridge is decorated with shields with the head of Medusa Gorgon. According to an ancient Greek myth, Medusa Gorgon was a monster whose glance turned any living creature into a stone. The Greek hero Perseus, who had to fight her, used a polished shield presented to him by Athena, the goddess of wisdom: while fighting Medusa, he avoided looking directly at her but was watching her reflection in his shield, which kept him from being petrified. He managed to slay Medusa and, cutting her head off, attached it to his shield.
Engineers’ Castle was originally the palace of Paul I, known as Michael’s Castle. It was built on the site of the former wooden palace of Empress Elizabeth, where Paul was born and spent his childhood. Paul, the son of Catherine the Great and the heir to the Russian throne did not want to live in his mother’s Winter Palace. He wanted to have his own home where he and his large family would feel safe. He had his palace constructed right on the site where he had been born. The palace was fortified like a medieval castle with moats surrounding it, drawbridges, thick walls, secret passages and secret chambers. It was named after Archangel Michael – hence the name Michael’s Castle. On 11 March, 1801, 40 days after Paul had moved in the palace, he was assassinated by conspirators. The castle, which stayed empty for a long time after Paul’s death, was given over to the school for military engineers. One of the students of the school was the famous Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky. At present, the building houses a branch of the Russian Art Museum. The staircase leading to the living rooms of the ground floor is decorated with the statues of Hercules and Flora.
(Sailing up the Moika River in the direction of the Spilled Blood Church):
The Garden Bridge(1835-1837) is also richly decorated with gilt shields, spears, lion masks and double-headed eagles on the lamp posts. The cast iron work on all the bridges is outstanding: there are over 300 bridges in St. Petersburg and it is impossible to find two bridges that look alike – every bridge is unique.
Michael’s Garden (on the left)is named after the former palace of Grand Duke Michael, one of Catherine the Great’s grandsons, located in its background. The area of the garden is 10 hectares. It used to be a private garden, but today it is one of the most [popular public gardens in St. Petersburg. Right at the river bank is the Pier Pavilion designed by the architect Rossi in the classical style and built in 1825.
The Field of Mars (on the right) got its name in the late 18th century after the God of War Mars. This square was used as a parade and drill grounds for Russian troops.
Second Garden Bridge. The building on the left in the pseudo-Russian style was built in 1914-1915 (arch. Bespalov) for the Folk Art School. The school was meant to preserve the spirit and the traditional techniques of the Russian folk art.
Griboyedov Canal on the left, which is joined to the Moika River, was dug out in 1739 to drain the swamp at the Moika riverhead. It used to be called the Stables Canal because of the Stables building located nearby and Catherine’s Canal in the honour of Catherine II.
The Church on the Spilled Blood was built by the order of Tsar Alexander III in the memory of his father Tsar Alexander II, who was assassinated on this spot by revolutionary terrorists on 1 March, 1881. Alexander ordered that the church should be designed in the traditional Russian style with onion shaped domes and colorful mosaic facades (arch. Parland.)
It was consecrated in 1907. Nowadays, it is a museum.
At this point there is an original composition of two bridges over the Moika Riverand the Griboyedov Canal with a total of three spans and a single central abutment. The third span is purely decorative. This is just about the only bridge composition of such a kind in the world. It includes two bridges: Theatre Bridge on the left (the name goes back to the mid 18th century when a wooden theatre was constructed here) and Small Stables Bridge straight ahead (named after the building of the Royal Stables stretching along the left bank of the Moika River). The yellow and white building on the right is a former dwelling house designed by the architect Adamini in 1823-1827. The building, known as the Adamini House is recognized as one of the best dwelling houses of its time.
A rounded building still on the right is the former Round Market built in 1790s (presumably, arch. Quarenghi). The area on the right hand side was known as the GreekSettlement in the early 18th century. Its residents were the seamen who came from the Mediterranean ports to settle in St. Petersburg.
(Sailing along the Moika towards Palace Square):
On the left there are the former Royal Stables. The outline of the building, which is 250 m long, repeats the outline of the river, which slightly curves at this point. The Stables were constructed in the classical style in 1817-1823 by the architect Stasov. It used to be the Royal stables, hay lofts, coach houses and the royal stables administration. (The central part of the building is the Church of Vernicle where the funeral service for Alexander Pushkin, who had been mortally wounded in a duel, took place in February, 1837. Pushkin’s house, where he had lived and died, was just a few buildings away).
This section of the Moika embankments acquired its present-day appearance by the early 20th century. According to historical archives, 27 out of the total of 116 buildings on the Moika embankments housed different ministries, 6 were churches of different religions, 25 were banks and other financial institutions, 19 were residences of high aristocracy. Today, this is still a very prestigious part of the city with General Consulates of different countries (the Netherlands, France, and Japan), hotels and apartments of the wealthy families.
Moika, # 23 on the right, a light green mansion with decorative medallions on the facade, is one of the examples of an aristocratic family home built before the revolution in the classical style (arch. Fomin, 1913-1915). It belonged to the Russian millionaire Abamelek-Lazarev. It is known as The Last Palace since no more palaces were built in the city because the revolution of 1917 started.
Moika, # 12 on the left is known to all the Russian people as the house where the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin lived at the end of his life. He rented a flat of 11 rooms on the first floor. At present, the building houses the Museum-flat of A. Pushkin, which was opened in 1937, a hundred years after the poet’s death.
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