When Peter the Great, in 1703, said, "Cut down the birch tree, we’ll build the city", no one could even imagine that in that very place would stand the third largest European city. During its short history, Saint Petersburg has changed its name as many as four times. The first official name of the city was St. Petersburg. After the Second World War, the name changed to Peter’s city. After the revolution, a new name emerged, Lenin’s city, which lasted until the downfall of the Soviet Union, when the name changed again to Saint Petersburg. Although many believe that the city was named after Peter the Great, the founder of the city, Saint Petersburg is actually named after the saint patron of Peter the Great, Simon Peter. However, if you ask the tour guides they will give you completely different names of Saint Petersburg. Because of its riveting beauty, many call it "the Venice of the North". Others call it the city of the “white nights due to the natural phenomenon that occurs in the months of June and July (the phenomenon of white nights, when the daylight lasts for 24 hours); Others call it the city of heroes, because the siege of the Sankt Petersburg, during the Second World War lasted for almost 900 days; millions of people died of cold and hunger, yet the city has never been conquered. Finally , the citizens of Saint Petersburg call it simply Peter.
A few years after the city was built, Peter the Great proclaimed Saint Petersburg the capital of Russia, and apparently almost all wealthy families and nobility from Moscow had to build their residences along the coast of the Neva River. The most important architects from all over Europe fled to St Petersburg in order to participate in the construction of the most beautiful buildings of the time. St Petersburg used to represent and represents even to this day, the link between the traditional and the modern Russia. The most important building was the Peter and Paul’s Fortress, which served as a city defense from the Swedish invasion. Nowadays the fortress is home to several museums, a beautiful cathedral and a former prison where mainly political prisoners were banished to. The prisoners were mainly men and women who were against the emperor and the bourgeoisie and the opponents of the revolution that ensued. Distinguished citizens of St Peterburg were prisoners in this jail such as Maxim Gorki, Dostoyevsky etc.
During the Second World War, the city was under siege for nearly 900 days. Hitler's direct command was to level the city to the ground and reduce it to rubble. Due to the severe winter, frequent interruptions in food supply, which only came through the frozen Lake Ladoga and the ongoing bombing by the Nazis, around 750,000 civilians died in Saint Petersburg. Suspecting that the Germans could eventually enter the city, the citizens of St Peterbourg planted explosives under a number of buildings. Their intention was to blow in the air the entire city with all the German soldiers inside. In this way, all the people in the city were to be killed (including the citizens of St Peterburg) but the city itself was never to fall into the hands of the foreign rule. Finally, in the liberation of Peter, two million civilians and soldiers were killed. Regrettably, the German Army have destroyed countless buildings such as the beautiful imperial village. However, with the help of the Russian citizens in good faith, all was restored and renovated to the original splendour and beauty. The famous Peterhof was also destroyed; only sculptures of Gods from the cascade fountain were preserved because they were buried underground.
After the war, and in order to restore relations between Germany and Russia (it is important to underline that until the Second World War, Germany and Russia used to have good relations), Germany financed the reconstruction of the Amber room in the imperial village, which the German Army apparently plundered during the Second World War.
Today, St. Petersburg is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. With its 300 museums and 70 theaters, it is the largest cultural center of Russia and Europe. Here one of the most famous museums in the world, Hermitage is located ,where around three million works of art are on display. It would take years to see each piece of art exhibited in this fascinating 20km long building. There are 600 bridges in St Peterbourg, of which 22 are draw-bridges. Peter is home to the Marinsky Theater, one of the oldest in the world, and the Vaganov Ballet Academy, the oldest and the best ballet school in the world. Peter is the birthplace of Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Yesenin, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, as well as a huge number of other famous names from the world of art. This is the city of astounding architecture, beautiful white nights, art, culture, and polite people who are extremely proud to call St Peterburg their home.
There is so much beauty in one place there one fails to find anywhere else. Somewhat inaptly named the Venice of the North, Saint Petersburg is like a fairy tale the splendor of which is complemented with towering golden domes of the Petropavlovsk Fortress, the Isaac Cathedral, the Church of Saviour on Spilled Blood and the Admiralty. This is the city of famous writers Dostoyevsky and Yesenin, the Hermitage, the most beautiful museum in the world, the divine Imperial Village, a magical river Neva, a plethora of bridges and most importantly, this is the city of incredibly polite people.