Bridges of St. Petersburg, Russia

Since St. Petersburg is known as "Venice of the North", it's obvious that bridges are an important part of the city. The city has 342 bridges over canals and rivers in the city limits that vary in size from several lane car bridges to pedestrian bridges.

The bridge (pictured above) crosses the Neva River, the main waterway running through the city. Twenty two bridges that cross this wide river are heavily used for traffic by day, but at night they all are raised to allow ship traffic to maneuver in and out of the Baltic Sea and into the Volga River. Between April and November, the bridges raise and lower by a very intricate schedule so the ships can travel, but also allow for emergency vehicles access to both sides of the city. An open drawbridge is a popular symbol of St. Petersburg.

The newest bridge built to cross the Neva River is the only one that is not a drawbridge. The Bolshoy Obukhovsky Bridge was opened in 2004 and is part of the Ring Road - the freeway system …

Pushkin - Russia's Shakespeare

When Russians talk about their most famous poet, they all refer to Alexander Pushkin. Everyone learns about Pushkin during their school days. My husband, who teaches theology to seminary students, has had Pushkin cited during their discussion. When I was on a Pushkin tour of St. Petersburg in February, the group of Russian students, also on the tour, stood before his statue and recited one of his poems.

Born in Moscow, Alexander Pushkin lived at the turn of the 19th century. Early on, his talent as a poet was recognized by the literary establishment. In his late teens, he associated with the intellectual youth culture of St. Petersburg where he graduated from school. These friends influenced his writings to be controversial in subject and style, according to the government.

As a result, he was exiled in 1820 from St. Petersburg. He spent the next several years in Odessa, Ukraine where he continued to work. Written in 1825, his most famous poem "Boris Godunov" was composed

Postcard from Odessa, Ukraine

Last week we were in Odessa for a seminar that my husband presented. I thought I'd share some pictures with you.

Odessa is a very European looking city, much like St. Petersburg. It's located on the northern shore of the Black Sea, but is more of a port city than a tourist city. Therefore, the coast line is filled with more shipping industries than beaches.

Like St. Petersburg, it was under Soviet control from 1920s until the early 1990s. Much of the downtown area has been restored since freedom came to Odessa.

We didn't visit during summer, but I can tell it will be beautiful when the trees and flowers are out in full force.

A very unique monument is located in a central park of the city, a chair sitting on a pedestal. It represents one of the chairs from a novel titled "12 Chairs" by a famous Odessan author.  The story is about jewelry, hidden from the Bolsheviks, in the seat of a chair in a dining room set. The chairs were then stolen by the communists after th…

Russian Style Easter Eggs

Last week I was invited to decorate Easter eggs the Russian way. I pictured the multi-colored, intricately painted eggs that are famous the world over. However, I was thinking of Ukrainian Easter eggs instead of Russian.

When I arrived at the egg painting session, I was actually relieved to find the Russian Easter eggs have simpler designs. They are just as beautiful, but the ones we worked with were all the same basic color - brown with lighter decorations.

I found out the secret of the coloring was in the process of cooking the eggs. Before the eggs were cooked, masking tape was placed on the eggs where the color was to be lighter - either in a square, round, or even cross shape. A good example can be seen in the basket of eggs above, where the center egg has the cross shape. Then the eggs are cooked, starting in cold water as usual, with onion peels added to the water. Yellow onion skins were used that day.

The longer the eggs cook in the onion skin water, the darker the eggs are at…

Ever Heard of Tallinn, Estonia?

Not too many Americans have heard of the historical capital city of Estonia. Last summer we had a chance to visit Tallinn since it's two hours west of St. Petersburg.

Founded more than a thousand years ago, this ancient city is preserved in its historical setting for us today. The stone walls surrounding the ancient city are well-preserved for tourists.

Tallinn is located on the north coast of the Gulf of Finland. Historically, it was very important for trading purposes. Because of that, it was ruled in different times by Denmark, the Scandinavian countries, Germany, and Russia.

The Old Town area with its town square is preserved for tourists today and is listed as the best preserved medieval city in Europe. The narrow streets and castle walls take a tourist back in time.

We climbed the steps to the Upper Town where the government buildings are located today. From the top of the castle wall the view of the Lower Town was amazing.

The next day we visited the Estonian Open Air Museu…

Don't Assume Anything About Russia - Even Water!

Since we've been living here more than eight months, we've learned that life in Russia isn't always easy. We bought a new under counter light bar for the kitchen with touch on/off switch. Of course, the on/off part doesn't work. We have to plug it in to use it and unplug when we want to turn it off. Very typical of Russian products...

Even the water system is very different from anything we've ever lived in before. In the cities in Russia, hot water is produced at large boiler plants. There the water is heated and piped out to the flats and homes during the winter.

This hot water flows through the radiators in our flat whether we want it to be so warm or not. We've completely closed the valves to our radiators to stop the heat from pouring in. At times, even on the coldest days of winter, we've had to open the windows to cool off our apartment so we could sleep at night. The hot water boilers heat all the homes and apartment buildings in the same way throu…

Russian Architecture in the Heart of St. Petersburg

Most of the great buildings in St. Petersburg are built in the European style, looking similar to Prague. The building in our fair city displaying the best Russian architecture is the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. Built in the medieval Russian style with "onion domes" on the spires, this church strongly resembles famous Moscow churches.

The name of the church is closely tied to its history. The story goes back to 1881. Tsar Alexander II was riding along the canal in a carriage when an anarchist threw a bomb at him in an attempted assassination. The Tsar was so upset with the bomber that he exited his carriage to reprimand him.

A second anarchist, taking advantage of the situation, threw another bomb. Tsar Alexander II was severely injured and later died at the Winter Palace. His son Tsar Alexander III vowed to build a church on the very street where his father's blood was spilled. Today the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood straddles this spot.

Last fall, w…