Our hotel in Saint Petersburg was at the east end of the Nevsky Prospekt. It is a "smallish" hotel of 800 rooms from the soviet era. From our room, we had a wonderful view of the Alexander Nevsky monastery across the street.
On our first full day in Saint Petersburg we had a guided visit of the city, beginning with a trip to the Fortress of Saint Peter and Paul. We stopped on an island in the Neva River for our first view.
Then we drove on and arrived at the fortress itself. There we visited the church of the fortress complex and its rococo style church. Since all I had seen before was the Russian Orthodox old traditional style of the Moscow area monasteries and at the Kremlin, it was a surprise and a revelation to see the 18th century rococo paired with icons, iconostasis and all, and I really liked it.
Later that morning, in the leafy cemetery at the Alexander Nevsky lavra (monastery) we saw the resting places of Russia's great writers and musicians. I drew Dostoyevsky, Glinka and Tschaikovsky's tombs.
At the Cathedral of the Spilled Blood, I drew the ciborium where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated.
That night, a bunch of us went out for dinner. After walking around for a long time trying to find the right place, we ended up in a small private room in a pirate-themed restaurant.
One evening we took another walk in the Nevsky monastery. It was 10 pm and still bright daylight. The next day we spent seven hours at the Hermitage. Extraordinary collections and building, one of the greatest museums in the world without a doubt. But with 30,000 visitors a day, insanely overcrowded galleries, tour guides yelling to be heard, tourists taking pictures of each other in front of the works (trophy-tourism), in short, a rush-hour environment, it was hard to love the place. Great works are routinely imperiled. I wondered about fire, about emergency evacuation. If I ever go back it will be some frigid January when with luck there will be fewer visitors. Up on the third floor, with all of the Cezannes, Gauguins, Matisses and Picassos, I finally collapsed on a chair (!) by an open window and drew the piazza below. Even at 5 pm there were still 45 tour buses parked outside.