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2012-11-15 at 12-33-13On the Thursday morning of our St Petersburg trip, we met our guide Elena at the hotel and took a walk a few blocks south to visit Yusupov Palace. The palace was home to the noble Yusupov family, one of the richest families in Russia, from 1830 until 1917. It was here that  Grigori Rasputin was murdered by Prince Felix Yusupov and his accomplices in 1916.

2012-11-15 at 09-01-19You begin with a tour of the private apartment of Felix Yusupov and his wife Princess Irina (the Tsar’s niece).

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2012-11-15 at 09-50-45Felix and Irina.

2012-11-15 at 09-30-51They had some grand rooms but this is only one small part of the entire palace.

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In one part of the palace is the Rasputin exhibition, which includes photos about Rasputin’s life and some rather creepy wax mannequins that portray the events of the night when Prince Felix Yusupov and his accomplices attempted to murder Rasputin.

2012-11-15 at 10-04-13Rasputin had been invited to the Palace where he believed he would be attending a party. Instead he was led to the cellars. The men attempted to murder Rasputin by poisoning, shooting and then beating him.

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None of these methods succeeded in killing Rasputin and he was eventually drowned in the canal outside the palace. The wax figure of Rasputin is quite unnerving.

2012-11-15 at 10-39-50We then toured the rest of the palace. This is the Italian marble staircase.

2012-11-15 at 10-59-51 There was one grand room after another. 2012-11-15 at 11-05-52We hadn’t realised how large the palace was inside.

2012-11-15 at 10-53-36The master bedroom.

2012-11-15 at 11-14-52A large hall.

2012-11-15 at 11-01-38Another grand room.

2012-11-15 at 10-57-48And another.

2012-11-15 at 10-44-56And another…

2012-11-15 at 10-28-43This is the Moorish room, full of mosaics imported from northern Africa.

2012-11-15 at 10-24-48The library.

2012-11-15 at 10-48-08A private salon.

2012-11-15 at 11-38-16The palace even has a beautiful baroque style theatre that seats 180 people. It even has an orchestra pit!

2012-11-15 at 11-36-40Just incredible. After the Revolution the Yusupovs fled Russia and lived as exiles in Paris. Much of their fortune was then lost in the stock market crash of 1929. The Soviets converted Yusupov Palace into a museum.

We bade farewell to our guide Elena as this was the last tour we had scheduled with her. We had lunch at a place called Cafe Idiot. It was there that I realised I had been an idiot myself and left my camera at the cloakroom in Yusopov Palace! I rushed back and luckily it had been seen by the staff and they were holding it for me.

2012-11-15 at 12-48-47Back at Cafe Idiot I had my favourite Russian dish – blinis with red caviar!

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After lunch we visited St Isaac’s Cathedral, the fourth highest domed cathedral in the world at 102 metres. It was designed in 1818 by Auguste de Montferrand and opened in 1858. During the Soviet era is became a museum of atheism, and is still a museum today.

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The walls are decorated with 14 types of marble and 43 other types of semi-precious stones.

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The iconostasis.

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The ceiling painting is called Virgin in Majesty. Right in the centre of the dome is a silver dove, a symbol of the holy Spirit.

2012-11-15 at 14-34-27There are columns of malachite (green) and lapiz lazuli (blue), as well as enormous mosaics of saints.

2012-11-15 at 15-08-00Between the Cathedral and the River Neva is a park with the famous statue of Peter the Great. It is now known as the Bronze Horseman as it features in Pushkin’s famous poem of the same name.

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Unveiled in 1782, the statue is bronze and the pedestal is a single block of granite weighing 1,600 tonnes, which was hauled from the Gulf of Finland. A serpent, symbolizing treason, is crushed under the hoof of the horse.

2012-11-15 at 15-12-33Newlyweds are often photographed in front of the statue for good luck. There were no newlyweds that afternoon, just a pair of professional pickpockets who approached Nicky and Michelle (Neil and I were oblivious to what was going on). Nicky and Michelle were too clever for them though, so the potential thieves retreated without any success.

Our last dinner in St Petersburg was at a restaurant called 1913.

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We got a bit carried away taking pictures of the food with our cameras…

2012-11-15 at 20-33-28This was my main course. Had started eating before I remembered to take the shot. Oops.

2012-11-15 at 21-23-38A delicious dessert too!

2012-11-15 21.47.20The musicians gave the restaurant a lovely ambiance despite it being quite empty. From memory we requested they play The Girl From Ipanema and they obliged. There may have been a bit of a singalong too…