The Peter and Paul Fortress

The Peter and Paul Fortress has it all: torture implements, political prison, incredible cathedral, Romanov history, and beautiful scenery too!

The fortress is on an island in the Neva River, which empties into the eastern tip of the Gulf of Finland, in the Baltic Sea on the western edge of Russia. Finland to the north and Estonia to the south also share the Gulf of Finland. In the map above, you can see the fortress, the Marble Palace, which is close to the Hermitage State Museum, and the Summer Garden just east of the Savior on Spilled Blood cathedral. The language school is a short ways south of the Summer Garden. During my time in Russia, I stayed with a family in an apartment building near "Ploschad Lenina", a short walk across the bridge from the Cruiser Aurora.

While I was there, the family told me I really needed to see the Peter and Paul Fortress. So, one Saturday when my studying was giving me a headache, I decided to take a break in the middle of the day and go see it.

When you get there, you come across the bridge onto the island, through this arch and into a main square. You buy your ticket, and then you're standing next to the cathedral, the Museum of Artillery, and the Museum of Money. 

In the Museum of Money, they show you the history of how money has been printed or minted in Russia. Apparently, in times past, this facility was used to mint money for other nations as well.

I never did read much on the Museum of Artillery, but I understand they show you some of the technology and history of artillery and the Russian Army. 

The Cathedral

I wanted to focus on the cathedral  first. 

To me, the cathedral looked not unlike the old catholic missions of California I had studied in fourth grade. Ornate though it be, the outer appearance is, however, deceptively plain. Once you get inside, the decor is every bit as gorgeous and intricate as the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood.

Many of the Romanovs and prominent figures from associated families were either entombed within the cathedral or buried beneath it.

Political prison & Torture Museum

In the decades leading up to the Russian Revolution, there were a handful of different movements demanding increased personal and economic freedoms, as well as relief from their still-extant medieval serfdom. These prison cells housed people who had committed a variety of offenses ranging from written and spoken opposition to the monarchy, all the way up to acts of violence and terrorism.

Upon induction, the prisoners were relieved of all their personal effects and placed into prison clothing. They were given only a candle or other small source of light, a pail, and, if they wanted it, a Bible. They were confined one to a cell. Communication between the prisoners was strictly forbidden, but they devised a "tapping code" for communicating one Russian letter at a time anyway. Efforts to insulate the cells against sound failed to stifle this method of communication. In the bitter Baltic winter, the cells would get extremely cold. The worst of the prisoners had only a metal bed frame to sleep on.

I also visited the "Torture Museum", but ended up leaving when my stomach couldn't handle any more guillotines, skull presses, racks, or "cages". Prisoners were hung in bottomless cages high off the ground where they remained without food or water until they were too weak to hold on any longer. The fall was far enough to produce serious injuries, but not immediate death. The rest of what I saw only got more gruesome from there. Ugh... dreadful!

Soviet naval Cruiser Aurora & Fall Colors

The Neva River is a short walk from the apartment building where I stayed. Here, you can see an old WWII naval cruiser: the "Aurora". She's been made into a museum where you can go below decks and see how a ship of that era was constructed and operated. With everything else going on, I never made the time to go and see inside it - wished I had!

I was there right as the fall colors were coming on. I missed seeing them at home, but what a sight they were in St. Petersburg. It was uncharacteristically warm while I was there. It didn't really start getting cold until just a few days before I left.