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The travelers entering Russia from the West is bound to be struck by the beauty of St. Petersburg. Yet, St. Petersburg is both West European and Russian. It is unique in being most perfectly planned; its beauty lies in the unsurpassed blend of Russian and West European architecture and art. The builders of the city treated color as an essential part of their scheme, and St. Petersburg owes much of its special atmosphere to these painted facades that come into their own in the Northern light and especially when seen against the snow; they would look garish and cheap in the bright light of Paris or under the skies of Southern Europe.

As European cities go, St. Petersburg is a young city. It was founded in 1703 and for most of its history was know as St. Petersburg. Russianized as Petrograd from 1914 till 1924, it was then renamed Leningrad, and ceased to be the capital.

This glorious maritime city, built on the shores of the Baltic, on the mainland and on the islands, is supreme monument to its founder Peter the Great, who wrenched Russia from her past and pulled her toward Europe and the sea. Undaunted by the harsh climate, the marshlands, and the distance from the heartland of Russia, using prisoners of war and forced labor, this forward-looking Czar opened a “window on Europe”. He laid the foundation of the superb setting in which his successors, especially the women who later ruled Russia — his daughter Elizabet, and Catherine the Great — aided by their architects and builders, foreign and native, created a fitting capital for the Russian Empire.

Much of what is know outside the Russia about Russian culture has come from Peter’s city. It was the birthplace of Russia’s modern literature, the setting for the themes of Pushkin and Gogol, Dostoevsky and Brodsky. Tchaikovsky, Musorgsky and Rachmaninov not only worked here, but are buried here too. It was from St. Petersburg that Diaghilev and his Russian Ballet swept the West at the start of XX century. It was in St. Petersburg that the Fabergé craftsmen created splendid objects, fit to adorn the collections of royalty and millionaires.

St. Petersburg is surrounded with the magnificent necklace of suburban palaces-and-park ensembles — former summer residences of Russian emperors. These were named Tsarskoe Selo, or the czar's village, now Pushkin; Peterhof — was the favorite residence of Peter the Great, now Petrodvorets; Pavlovsk.

St. Petersburg is the largest sea and river port in the North-West of Russia. The first foreign commercial ship, a Dutch ship, arrived in St. Petersburg in the November of 1703. In 2015 numbers of cruise ships passengers visited St. Petersburg make up 491.822. The river port, one of the most important in the country, stands at the end of two artificial waterways, the Volga-Baltic and the White Sea-Baltic. The most relaxing and scenic way to experience Russia is by cruising along the rivers and lakes connecting St. Petersburg with Moscow, the holy island Valaam and island village of Kizhi on the deck of one of elegant cruise ships.

Visiting St. Petersburg provides an excellent opportunity to get acquainted with the ancient Russian cities of the North-Western part of Russia. This is Veliky Novgorod with a history of 11 centuries, is perhaps the Russian city richest in native Russian art treasures and monuments. Its story, in some ways, has mirrored the history of Russia. As well as Staraya (Old) Ladoga — the first capital of ancient Russia.

Of particular interest is visiting the Russian Ethnographic Park Bogoslovka which include Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin — a unique monument of ancient wooden architecture of the XVIII century. Russian Ethnographic Park is located in a forested area, just 25 kilometers from the center of St. Petersburg.