by Len Friesen, tour leader
It is our second morning in St. Petersburg, and it is striking how quickly members of our group have gotten a feel for this majestic city of canals, rivers, and palaces.
Typical of many TourMagination tours we haven’t arranged our time here to be cut off from the local residents. Thus we took the city bus yesterday right down Nevsky Prospect to the Cathedral of the Spilled Blood. Built on the very site where Tsar Alexander II was killed in March of 1881, this glorious cathedral is adorned with countless mosaics, all of which communicate the strength and power of the biblical story. The group was cleared in awe, and for good reason.
From there we traveled to the Peter and Paul Fortress, which contains the cathedral which served as the burial place of the Tsars from Peter the Great to the last Tsar, Nicholas II. We heard stories of the Tsars that were particularly relevant to the Mennonites, and we heard a beautiful a capella choir as we were leaving. Before departing the Fortress itself we walked out to the Neva, the very route that convicts took on their Siberian exile.
The afternoon was spent variously, with some heading back for a relaxing afternoon at our hotel, and others went for a semi-guided tour of downtown sites (too many to count) and shopping bazaars. Oh, and also a lovely stop of coffee and cake, one that overlooks the former Soviet “museum of atheism” that has now been reconverted into the Orthodox Kazan Cathedral.
Everything about this city pertains to the Mennonite experience, and in only 24 hours we’ve managed to dig deeply into it. Evening conversations are full of laughter and warmth, historical engagement, and thoughtful reflection. What’s missing? Well, nothing really.