The Wonder of St. Isaac’s


St. Isaac’s Cathedral is the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in St. Petersburg. It is also the fourth largest cathedral in the world, designed to accommodate 14,000 standing worshippers.
[Sorry about the reflection--this was the only chance to get a long shot and it was from a vehicle.]


The cathedral’s bronze doors, covered in reliefs by Ivan Vitali, are patterned after the doors of the Battistero di San Giovanni in Florence.


The exterior is faced with gray and pink stone, and features a total of 112 red granite columns (made of single pieces of red granite) 48 at ground level. It’s hard to tell from this photo, but those columns are massive.

I wasn’t that struck by the outside, but the interior was a different story. Amazing. It’s hard to take in how huge it is, and how much art is everywhere….



I hope this photo gives you an idea of the scale of the place. According to my guidebook, St. Isaac’s is considered “one of the world’s top architectural splendors of the 19th century.”


The cathedral took 40 years to construct, under the direction of French-born architect Auguste de Montferrand. It was completed in 1858. Over 400,000 workers labored on the cathedral and hundreds perished in the process.


The rare occurrence of stained glass in an Orthodox church; it depicts Christ Resurrected.

In 1931, St. Isaac’s was turned into the Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism. Now services are held, but only in the left-hand side chapel. The main part of the cathedral is used for services on feast days only.


The interior was originally decorated with paintings by Russian masters. When the paintings began to deteriorate due to cold and damp inside the cathedral, Montferrand ordered them to be painstakingly reproduced as mosaics! Can you imagine getting that order? Yeesh.



The iconostasis, a wall of icons and religious paintings separating the nave from the sanctuary, is framed by eight columns of semiprecious stone: six of malachite and two smaller ones of lazurite.
[Just could not get away from the photobomber in the pink shirt. Didn't have time to wait him out, either--he took shot after shot after shot. :)]


Loved the colors inside this dome. It is just over 262 feet (80 m.) tall. See the white dove in the very center? That bird has a wingspan of 5.4 feet (1.65 m.) and is made of silvered copper. It represents the Holy Spirit and is the focal point for Karl Bryullov’s 8611-square-foot (800 sq. m.) “The Virgin in Majesty.” I still can’t wrap my brain around the sheer size of the fresco.

There wasn’t nearly enough time to study all the details in the cathedral, but I’m so glad I got to see it. I consider St. Isaac’s a must if you visit St. Petersburg. And make sure the interior is included in your tour–we met people on the cruise who didn’t get to see it on theirs.

Hope your week’s going well so far.


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A Glimpse of St. Petersburg

We had just stopped at a souvenir shop in St. Petersburg. I made my purchase pretty quickly so I could look around the neighborhood. Saw this lovely spot:


I don’t know the name of this church, but I really like the colors.

Great weekend, everyone!


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A bicycle in Stockholm, Sweden. Loved that city!

On another note, I’m in the process of making some changes. Some of you may have noticed I changed my Twitter name to PearlsandProse_. I’m kind of tired of the Ms. Pearl moniker, so am slowly phasing it out. There was also someone else with a similar name tweeting unpleasant stuff.
Hoping to change the design of the blog in the not-so-distant future too. Self-hosting is a little intimidating, but I think I’m ready. Stay tuned.


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Catherine Palace, Part II

Back to the Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg….


One of my favorite rooms was the green dining room done in Jasperware. I can’t even imagine how they did this with the walls. You may have seen Wedgewood Jasperware, but it’s usually dishes.




Isn’t this just the most beautiful doorway?

In no time, we were out the back door. This time I had more than a few minutes to photograph the back of the palace:


Can’t get over the colors against the blue sky.




We then had some free time to explore the gardens….


I thought this structure was so pretty with the reflecting pool and unusual clouds.


I wasn’t wowed by the gardens, but appreciated all the manicured trees and shrubs. It would kind of be overkill to do elaborate gardens with a palace like this.



The Hermitage Pavilion is like a miniature palace. I thought the architectural details were wonderful.


A closer look.


A Turkish bath on the small lake.


The back of the palace.


The Cameron Gallery, which houses temporary exhibitions. We didn’t have time to go inside.


Even the coffee cart in the garden matched the decor.


The sun was shining and really made the gold domes stand out. See on the left side? That’s some kind of screen that’s been painted to match the surrounding walls while the area is renovated. I thought that was such a cool idea and saw it on other buildings in St. Petersburg.


Soon we were on our way out, but I managed to get these final shots.


I loved seeing Catherine Palace. Really could have photographed it all day long.


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After the fire, our rosebushes looked a little peaked, but I continued to water them and added some fertilizer to the soil. I’m happy to say they are doing well now, especially this red one:


I also have to say I’m kind of thrilled with the colors this new camera is producing. Very true-to-life and vibrant.

Hope your week’s going well so far. Happy September!


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Travel Scan: Transylvania Woman


We were driving through the mountains of Transylvania and saw a group of women on the roadside doing embroidery. I asked this woman if I could take her picture and she nodded, smiling. I was happy to catch her pulling the thread upwards–I think it adds to the photo. We bought a piece of embroidery and were stunned to find out we could have had all of it for a pair of American jeans. Alas, we had only our cutoffs and they weren’t interested.

Happy Labor Day weekend to my friends in the U.S., and great weekend to everyone else!


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The Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Part I

Before I get to the photos of Catherine’s Palace, I wanted to show you what we saw approaching the port:


I couldn’t get over how flat the surrounding landscape was. After growing up near mountains and living with them all around San Diego, it looked so different to me.


The port.

So, the Catherine Palace is named after Catherine I, wife of Peter the Great, who ruled Russia for two years after her husband’s death. But the current design was the idea of their daughter, Empress Elizabeth, who spent her summers at the palace. The chief architect, Bartholomeo Rastrelli, was instructed to completely redesign the building on a scale to rival Versailles.


The front gates.

Once we got through the gates, we were rushed and there was no time to take a long shot of the palace. Torture for me. It was either get the photo or be lost and find your own way back. Not a good thing to do in Russia. It was also our first tour, and I didn’t want my friend to have to look all over for me and miss the tour too. Surely we’d get a chance to photograph the front when we left? Nope. We left the back way.

So, I’ve added a photo from Wikipedia showing most of the front in the winter. I probably couldn’t stand the winters there, but it’s so beautiful in the snow.

Wikipedia photo

Wikipedia photo

I did manage to catch this while running to keep up:


Three other stragglers. I also got this:


Over 220 pounds of gold was used to decorate the exterior! Catherine was said to be very unhappy about the expense.


I took this shot of the servants’ quarters from the front steps.

Once inside, we walked up a staircase that was pretty grand too.



Lovely carvings, but nothing could have prepared us for this:


The Great Hall, also known as the Hall of Light. This room measures nearly 10,000 square feet, and takes up the full width of the palace. The entire ceiling is covered by a huge fresco entitled “The Triumph of Russia.” Truly one of the most beautiful rooms I’ve ever seen. Almost hard to take it all in.

Luckily, we were in this room for a while, so I had time to take some photos.





All the sunlight streaming through the windows on both sides made it hard to capture the painting on the ceiling, so I overexposed this to show better detail.




Can you believe the gold and the detail? Every doorway on this floor was the same.

Next were the dining rooms:


That large blue and white object in the corner? It’s a stove.


Cannot get over the ornamentation.



I think you could say Elizabeth was into gold.

And the ceilings? Paintings framed with–you guessed it–gold.





One of the biggest draws is the Amber Room. No photos were allowed, but I managed to take this just before we went in:


There are mosaic panels made from 100,000 pieces of hand-carved amber all around the room. It is simply staggering to look at.

The BBC has a one-minute video that takes you inside the room here.

Sadly, the Nazis dismantled the entire room and shipped it off to Königsberg Castle in Prussia, where it was never to be seen again. Russian craftsmen spent twenty-four years re-creating this room at the cost of $12 million. In 2003, President Vladimir Putin and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder opened the room together.

When German forces retreated after the siege of St. Petersburg (Leningrad) they intentionally destroyed the residence, leaving only the hollow shell of the palace behind. Reconstruction is still going on, but it is partially hidden by full-size screens that are painted to look like the palace. I’ll show you photos of that in a future post.

Hope your week’s going well so far.


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Sneak Peek


A little preview of St. Petersburg. This is the outside of Catherine’s Palace, the first place we visited. Incredible beauty inside and out. More Tuesday!

Great weekend, everyone.


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New Camera

After decades of shooting with a Nikon, I made the switch to a Canon with full-frame sensor. I love my new camera, but it took me a while to learn my way around. Now that I’m used to it, I like it better than the Nikon. Took me a bit of time to get used to the extra weight, but that’s minor.

I wanted to blog about St. Petersburg this week, but will need more time to sort through those photos. So many! Hoping to have the first post up next week.

So for now, here are three shots I took with the new camera at the Botanical Gardens.



Sorry, I forgot the name of this yellow flower.


Jujube fruit. I’ve never seen it growing before, have you?

Hope your week’s going well so far.


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More Tallinn

Hello again. I thought I had just a few more photos of Tallinn, but turns out I have fifteen. Believe me when I say I could have taken hundreds more. Might be a good thing our time was limited. :)

Moving away from Town Hall Square, we walked quickly through the medieval streets. Make that cobblestone streets. They’re lovely and durable, but are hard on the feet and knees after a few hours.


I do love this mint color that kept cropping up all through the trip.


The white building in the middle, the Peppersack restaurant, dates back to 1370! It has been rebuilt, but still has a pepper sack hanging in front.


Not sure how old this building is, but I like the architecture and colors.


Really wish we’d had time to visit some of the churches.


Probably the nicest-looking McDonald’s I’ve seen.


Across the way, shops were built into the ancient wall.


Even though it was a beautiful day, this woman was probably cold sitting in the shade of a stone wall. Lots of sweaters and handmade goods for sale.


These look more like residences.



Just beyond the wall were these flower stalls. They had gorgeous stuff:





I’ve photographed a lot of roses, but have never seen this variegated one before.


Would have loved a bunch of these.

Great weekend, everyone!


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