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11 May 2018 / leggypeggy

Cannery Row and more food

Cannery Row Monument

The Cannery Row Monument was dedicated in 2014. Sculptures by Steven Whyte

Our tour of national parks doesn’t start until tomorrow, but that hasn’t kept us from sightseeing in northern California. We’ve had the good fortune to stay with our friends, Nona and Brad, in Mountain View, south of San Francisco.

They love their slice of California and were keen to show us a couple of special spots we didn’t see the last time we visited them in 2009. Top of the list was Cannery Row in Monterey, almost 90 miles farther south. Another must-see was a roadside market that carries great artichokes when they are in season (like now).

California roadside market

Nona and I are both food nuts—we met many years ago through a cookery website—so it’s not surprising that our two stops would be food related.

The market was first. I was delighted to see the wonderful range of produce—including the humorously named Shit items—and was especially impressed by the low prices.

Australians, are you ready for this? Two bags of carrots for $1, 10 artichokes for $1, three bunches of cilantro (coriander) for $1 and most chillies for $1.49 a pound. That makes the chillies just over $3 a kilo, which is incredible compared to the $18–$20 we sometimes pay in Australia. Strawberries were cheap and huge—two together were about the size of my fist.

We showed a little restraint and bought artichokes, strawberries and asparagus.

Cannery Row, Monterey California

Then it was off to Monterey and the Cannery Row made famous in John Steinbeck’s classic novel, published in 1945.

It’s been years since I read the book. It’s set in Monterey during the Great Depression, on a street lined with sardine canneries. The story revolves around the people living there: Lee Chong, the local grocer; Doc, a marine biologist; and Mack, the leader of a group of derelicts. Steinbeck revisited the characters and location in 1954 in his novel, Sweet Thursday.

Cannery Row was originally called Ocean View Avenue, but was later renamed in honour of the book.

The Cannery Row monument
A large sculpture sits in a small park by the sea and commemorates Steinbeck and some of the people important to the history of Cannery Row.

Steinbeck sits at the top (sometimes with a seagull on his head). At the base is his good friend, Ed Ricketts, a father of marine biology who studied tide pools and sea life in Monterey Bay. Other figures represent Chinese fishermen, two ‘madams’ of the day and a group of entrepreneurs who helped to create Cannery Row as a tourist destination.

Steven Whyte made the sculptures. Closer views of Steinbeck (right) and Ricketts are below.

P.S. Along with some pizzas, we demolished the artichokes, asparagus and strawberries for dinner.

Monterey Canning Company

John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck

Ed Ricketts

Ed Ricketts

7 May 2018 / leggypeggy

Another adventure starts

 

Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 12.30.53 pmOnce again, Poor John and I are sitting in Sydney’s international airport waiting for a flight to take us on our latest adventure. This time our destination is western and central USA, with a great program of national and state parks.

The first stop will be just south of San Francisco for a few days with friends and then off to Yosemite and 14 days of touring national parks in five western states. We have our sleeping bags and mats, and the tour company is providing the tents.

Then it’s off to Denver for another couple of weeks touring the parks in that beautiful state. We’re borrowing a friend’s Jeep, tent and other camping gear. We’ll finish off with a run to Nebraska to visit my family.

Not sure how much internet I’ll have, or when, but I’ll try to be around as much as possible. When I’m not here, you can be sure I’m photographing and collecting news for future blog posts.

Stay tuned.

Thanks to GrandAmericanAdventures.com for the image.

 

30 April 2018 / leggypeggy

The world of barter—go on, give it a try

array of fruit

Our growing season has ended, but it’s starting in the Northern Hemisphere. Time to get your bartering network organised.

A while back, Chloe brought me three wonderful chunks of quince paste that she’d made from fruit gathered from our venerable quince tree.

Quince always take me back to 1982 when I first arrived in Australia. There, in the middle of my new backyard, was a tree I’d never seen before. Turns out it was a quince and I suddenly had the challenge of figuring out how to use the fruit. In an effort to get on top of the abundance this tree delivered, I bought cookbooks only if they had a quince recipe.

About that time, I also enjoyed reading food-related newspaper columns written by Michael Boddy.  One of his articles focused on quinces and gave me some local inspiration. I wrote him a letter about my quinces and more.

Imagine my surprise when he included that letter in the ‘Friends by Mail’ column in the first edition (July 1989) of his Kitchen Talk Newsletter. Actually I wasn’t that surprised, because he asked if he could use it.

Just so you know, I haven’t been thinking about that letter all this time. Yesterday, I was dusting one of our many bookcases and came across a ring-binder with all 20 issues of Kitchen Talk Newsletter. So I thumbed through and found the letter.

I decided share it here, because it covers a topic worth thinking about. Here goes. 

figs

Ripe figs now cost almost $2 each. Ours are free.

———————————-

Australia’s balance of payment might look healthier is more of us returned to the barter system.

My first taste of Canberra bartering came a few months after we moved here in 1982, when we had the kitchen tiled. The tiler tore the sleeve of his coveralls and I stitched it up. A few days later, when it came time to pay him, he said, ‘Thanks for mending my coveralls. Better knock $10 off the bill’. I was stunned and thrilled. And it didn’t stop there. The tiler’s mum, who lives in Cooma, now gets some of our quinces every year.

Unfortunately, bartering is usually confined to the zucchini and tomato season. Anyone with a glut of fruit searches tirelessly to unload the bounty on others, who also usually have the same glut.

Kitchen Talk Newsletter

Kitchen Talk Newsletter, very first issue

To make the barter system work effectively, it’s important to widen your circle of friends to include anyone who’s got a glut different from yours. It’s even better if your garden produces some rare delicacy—the things that cost ninety cents each when you can find them at the market. In our corner of Canberra, we’ve combined both tactics with excellent results.

I must confess that our house came equipped with many rare desirables. The fig tree produces three abundant crops annually. They are the perfect variety for drying and make wonderful jam when combined with ginger and almonds.

In summer, friends cluster around this mammoth tree and eat the figs fresh. Sometimes I’ll arrive home to find a bag of tomatoes, capsicums (bell peppers), chilli peppers or zucchini plopped by the kitchen door and a note saying, ‘Thanks for the figs’. Once we gratefully received a lemongrass plant.

Quince lovers will trade almost anything for quinces off the tree. When our quinces travel to Cooma, jars of honey and quince jelly come back.

I’ve never tried making quince jelly. I stick to quince cheese. A rather Turkish Delight-type delicacy that takes forever to dry. Perhaps that’s because my batches, drying outside, are inevitably left out in the rain during at least one unexpected autumn downpour.

Nevertheless, the quinces and quince cheese have reaped wonderful returns of pears, kumquats, pumpkins, Jerusalem artichokes, tomatoes and zucchini.

I’m especially pleased about the Jerusalem artichokes. Never plant them in your own backyard—they’ll overrun the place.

And, by the way, never sit under a quince tree between January and April (Southern Hemisphere). Mature quinces are rather like coconuts, and I remember my husband once quoting some article that said falling coconuts were one of the major causes of death and injury in coconut-growing areas.

The World of Barter article

My article

We chanced luck this year by having a special luncheon under the quince tree in January. One guest was an ageing Australian literary figure. It was difficult to concentrate on the conversation while I envisaged a front-page newspaper article on this National Treasurer being hospitalised after being bonked by a quince.

I willed the quinces to stay on the tree and nearly fainted with relief when he departed unbonked.

Our cat is equally lucky. He bears the name of Quincy, based solely on his preference for lying under the quince tree during the ‘dangerous’ season.

For the rest of the year, he is quite happy to sleep under the harmless feijoa bush—yet another good bartering item. This year’s bumper crops brought trades of more pumpkin, silver beet, passionfruit, lettuces, mushrooms, tomatoes and two kinds of tomato relish.

Our garden’s plums, apples, apricots, strawberries, rhubarb and lemons also enter into the exchange picture, but I have to draw the line at sharing grapefruit and nectarines. We barely have enough for the family.

But bartering needn’t been confined to food for food. Child-minding can reap delicious benefits. Every Wednesday I shuttle our daughters, as well as several other children, to and from after-school dancing. I end up the winner—with thank yous of free-range eggs, raspberries and sour cherries. And to help balance this success, I often send back a jar of homemade mayonnaise.

Figs

An abundance of figs

I guess that’s the key to happy, civilised bartering. No one ever really mentions money, or even suggests bartering. It just happens. Someone says, ‘I have this mountain of figs. Would you take some off my hands, please?’ A few weeks later, the happy recipient knows where to get rid of excess pears, or whatever.

A recent advertisement in The Canberra Times tickled me. Someone near Wamboin was advertising free firewood. Apparently there were a number of fallen trees, just waiting to be cut up and carted away. There was a phone number to call for directions and a footnote, which said, more or less, ‘Take as much wood as you like, just leave 10 percent of the take by the homestead’.

What style.

———————————

The pics here are from one of our bumper years. Graeme, who happened to be minding the house and dogs as we travelled, harvested the bounty and let everyone know to collect what they wanted from the picnic table in the backyard.

Over the years, we’ve lost a few bargaining trees. The apricot and apple went during some renovations, and the nectarine keeled over. There’s a replacement peach tree.

P.S. I’m decluttering. Does anyone in Australia want my collection of Kitchen Talk Newsletters? If I need to refer to them again, the National Library holds a full set.

Tomatoes

Two sizes of tomatoes on offer. Damage on the quinces (at right) is caused by greedy cockatoos.

 

23 April 2018 / leggypeggy

Welcome to Brussels—the capital city of the comic strip

Yoko Tsuno by Roger Leloup

1. Yoko Tsuno by Roger Leloup

We visit Belgium regularly—it’s part of our family’s culture. Eighteen years ago, our daughter, Petra, spent 12 months as an exchange student in the Ardennes (in the south of the country). That same year we welcomed Jean-Mi from Brussels, the first student we ever hosted (the 30th student is with us now).

Jean-Mi has returned to Australia several times and we like to reciprocate. It’s great to visit him and his partner, Sali, as well as their children. Two visits ago, Poor John even taught Samuel how to walk with his hands behind his back.

Asterix by René Goscinny

2. Asterix written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo

 

Young Albert by Yves Chaland

3. Young Albert by Yves Chaland

Every time we’ve been in Brussels, we’ve meant to visit some of the city’s wonderful comic strip heritage. In fact, Brussels often describes itself as the Capital City of the Comic Strip. Several museums, galleries, markets, festivals and specialist stores are dedicated to comic strips. And then there are the murals showcasing the characters and creators of famous comics.

It all started back in 1991, when the Belgian Comic Strip Centre (I’ll take you there in another post) collaborated with city authorities to begin a project in which blank walls within the city would be adorned with giant murals of comic book characters.

The goal was to showcase Belgium’s deep history with comic strips, including their famous Adventures of Tintin and Lucky Luke, and also feature work by other important international cartoonists.

Broussaille by Frank Pé

4. Broussaille by Frank Pé, the first mural painted in 1991

Broussaille was the first comic book wall to be painted. Based on an original project by Belgian comic book artist Frank Pé, the mural covers 35 square metres (380 square feet).The Belgian association «Art Mural» executed the painting, which was inaugurated in July 1991.

In the beginning, there was no plan for a walking tour. That came about because Brussels is fairly flat and easy to walk, and people loved the murals and wanted to see as many as possible.

I’d known about the comic art since our first visit to see Jean-Mi in late 2000. The walls of his Metro station at Stockel are decorated with life-size scenes from the Adventures of Tintin—and they aren’t even part of the street art.

Today more than 50 comic murals grace the walls and gables of the city centre, the regions of Sablon-Marolles and Laeken-Heysel, and beyond. There are some statues of comic characters too.

The Adventures of Tintin, Stockel Metro station

The Adventures of Tintin in the Stockel Metro station

 

So on our most recent visit to Brussels, Poor John and I popped into the tourist office and bought a comic strip map (1 euro) and set out to visit as many murals as we could on foot (plus we raced around to Stockel to get some pics of Tintin in the Metro station). On this trip, we saw 15 murals in all. I haven’t shared photos of all of them because some pics were fuzzy and two murals were spoiled by graffiti. 😦

By the way, I’ve read that «Art Mural» paints two to three new works per year, so I look forward to exploring more murals on our next visit.

Tintin by Hergé

5. Tintin by Hergé

Lucky Luke by Morris

6. Lucky Luke by Morris

Below are captions for the photographs that are numbered. This blog template plays havoc with long captions and I really wanted to include the artists’ names and other detail.

Do you have a favourite comic strip character—from here or elsewhere?

1. Yoko Tsuno was one of the first comic strip women to have her own series in the early 1970s. The Japanese electrical engineer was as bold and brave as her male counterparts, and her adventures took place on Earth and in space. She was created by Belgian Roger Leloup for the weekly Spirou magazine.

2. Asterix, Obelix and their colourful villagers are among the worlds best known comic characters. Here, led by Dogmatix, they are attacking a Roman camp. Its a scene familiar to readers in more than 70 countries. René Goscinny (writer) and Albert Uderzo (illustrator) created these memorable characters, which first appeared in the Franco-Belgian comics magazine Pilote in 1959.

Monsieur Jean by Philippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian

7. Monsieur Jean by Philippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian

3. Young Albert told about the sometimes cruel, boyish pranks of a kid (in red) in post-war Brussels. He was created by Frenchman Yves Chaland, who was barely 33 when he was killed in a traffic accident. There is hot competition for the small body of work he left behind, and famous cartoonists refer to him as their great role model.

4. Broussaille by Frank Pé was the first mural to be painted. Pé, a Belgian, started to create comics and illustrations for Spirou magazine, specialising in articles about animals. The fictional presenter of his stories, an adolescent named Broussaille, is often described as Pé’s alter ego. The two young men here (I’m not sure which one is Broussaille) are city folk and nature lovers.

Victor Sackville by Francis Carin

8. Victor Sackville by Francis Carin

5. Tintin is probably the most famous Belgian comic hero. Hergé, the pen name of author Georges Prosper Remi, wrote 24 volumes about the adventures of Tintin and his dog, Snowy. The works have been published in more than 70 languages with sales of more than 200 million copies, and have been adapted for radio, television, theatre, and film. This mural depicts a scene from The calculus affair.

6. Lucky Luke and his intelligent horse, Jolly Jumper, galloped on to the scene in 1946. Created by Morris, a Belgian, some of the work was later drawn and written by others. Lucky Luke is a tribute to the mythic Old West and an affectionate parody (he shoots faster than his shadow). It was a challenge to photograph this mural—too much shadow.

Olivier Rameau by artist Dany and writer Greg

9. Olivier Rameau by artist Dany and writer Greg

7. Monsieur Jean is dogged by conflict in his relationships, depression and an endless battle against routine and the daily grind. His adventures are touchingly recognisable, and the tone is alternately light-hearted and melancholy. He is drawn and written by two Frenchmen, Philippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian.

8. Victor Sackville, by Belgian artist Francis Carin, travels the world as a spy for His Majesty the King of England during the First World War. When he can, the impeccably dressed gentleman does anything he can to disrupt the enemys plans. The people sitting at tables near the bottom of the mural give you an idea of just how big it is.

9. Olivier Rameau, the young and handsome hero, holds out his hand to the charming Colombe Tiredaile. In their parallel world, you don’t pay with money, but with joy, songs. laughter or a big kiss. Two Belgians, cartoonist Dany and writer Greg, produced this poetic fantasy series in the crazy days of the late 1960s.

10. Kinky et Cosy, the quirky twin sisters created by Belgian writer and cartoonist Nix, are always wreaking havoc on Brussels. Considered the most dangerous twin girls in the universe, these enfants terribles’ are shown here waving a homemade peace flag tied to an old broom and laying waste to their bedroom. If you have kids, the scene below may look familiar.

Kinky and Cosy by Nix

10. Kinky and Cosy by Nix

 

16 April 2018 / leggypeggy

A glimpse of days gone by in Iceland

Church at Árbær Open Air Museum

Visiting the church

Inside the church at Árbær Open Air Museum

Our guide talks about the history of the church. The pulpit is in the corner on the right

Parts of the United States and Canada are copping a battering this week with slow-moving storms generating record snowfall and low temperatures. Thousands are without power, air travellers are stranded, and icy conditions are making roads especially dangerous. Treacherous times.

Upper Michigan and Wisconsin are predicted to get as much as 18 inches (46 centimetres) of snow. It would be the perfect time to stay indoors, but braver souls make the most of it.

My nephew, Charlie, and his wife, Hannah, celebrated the arrival of ‘spring’ in Minneapolis by donning their bathers (swimsuits) and barbecuing on the roof of their snow-covered apartment building. I was delighted to see their sense of the ridiculous and chirpiness in the face of adversity (scroll down).

Bedroom, Árbær Open Air Museum

It also reminded me of our recent travels in Iceland and our willingness to tramp around in the snow to visit the Árbær Open Air Museum in Reykjavik.

Originally an established farm, Árbær was opened to the public as a museum in 1957. It is one of five locations that make up the Reykjavik City Museum.

Árbær Open Air MuseumStone building, Árbær Open Air Museum

Today the museum has more than 20 traditional buildings that form a village with a town square, houses, a church, stables, a barn, a blacksmith and more. Most of the buildings were originally 19th century homes in central Reykjavik, and relocated to Árbær.

We arrived a bit before the museum opened (at 1pm September to May, otherwise 10am) and for a while I thought we’d be the only people on the tour, but in the end there were about 25 visitors, including several families.

Houses, Árbær Open Air Museum

Our guide (I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t remember her name) gave an informative tour, explaining the different buildings, as well as the contents and histories of some of the residents of the past.

She gave us a real feel for life in earlier times in Iceland, and even demonstrated how to card wool. It was nice to see her in period dress. It also tickled me that she was also the person featured on the front of the museum’s brochure that we saw displayed around town.

Wood stove, Árbær Open Air Museum

Being the avid cook that I am (check out my cooking blog), Im always very interested in seeing the old kitchens and equipment. Every house in the museum had a wood stove. Im pleased to say that I have one too—not as old as the one pictured above. Sadly, it doesn’t get used as much as it used to.

In summer months, the museum presents art-and-craft demonstrations including traditional handicrafts. Visitors can also see haymaking, vintage cars and livestock. There is also a cafe.

P.S. I didn’t add captions to all the photos because many are self-explanatory.

P.P.S. Aren’t Charlie and Hannah good sports!

Hannah and Charlie celebrating spring in Minnesota

Hannah and Charlie celebrating spring in Minnesota

12 April 2018 / leggypeggy

Giraffes slip silently on to the vulnerable list

Giraffes in Etosha national park, Namibia

A sad and disturbing article appeared on one of my news feeds the other day. It’s not new news. In fact, the article was from the December 2015 Smithsonian magazine, but the problem it describes isn’t going away.

According to the latest ‘red list’ compiled by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the giraffe—the world’s tallest animal—is at risk of extinction after suffering a devastating decline in numbers over the last 30 years. Numbers have plummeted from 157,000 individuals in 1985 to 97,500 at last count, and the giraffe is now listed as vulnerable.

Giraffes face two main threats, cities and towns encroaching on their habitat and poaching. Poaching has become increasingly problematic. Hungry villagers sometimes kill the animals for food, and there are reports that many giraffes are slaughtered for just their tails. They are considered status symbols in some cultures and have been used as bracelets, fly whisks and even as a dowry when asking a bride’s father for his daughter’s hand in marriage.

Giraffes in Etosha national park, Namibia

The biggest problem for giraffes, though, may be the lack of attention over the years. ‘I am absolutely amazed that no one has a clue’ about the dwindling numbers, said Julian Fennessy, executive director of Giraffe Conservation Foundation. It’s a silent extinction with some populations numbering less than 400. ‘That is more endangered than any gorilla, or almost any large mammal in the world.’

Duke University conservation biologist Stuart Pimm said ‘There’s a strong tendency to think that familiar species (such as giraffes, chimps, etc.) must be OK because they are familiar and we see them in zoos.’ In fact over the last century, giraffes have silently been going extinct across Africa. They have already disappeared from seven countries—Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Guinea, Malawi, Mauritania, Nigeria and Senegal.

Giraffe, Etosha national park

The first giraffe I saw in the wild

So why am I especially concerned about giraffes? Because they were some of the first big animals I saw in the wild during our overland truck trip in Africa. The first encounter was in Etosha national park in northwest Namibia.

We arrived at the park in the afternoon and set up camp. We were old hands at this by now, so it wasn’t long before Chris, our driver, hustled everyone into the truck so we could go exploring. We saw Thomson’s gazelles first and then came the giraffes. Individuals and small groups, adults and juveniles, then larger groups. The collective noun for a group of giraffes is rather obvious—a tower.

I have more than 40 pics from that day that include giraffes—in the bush, nuzzling offspring, grazing, waiting for a turn at the watering hole, drinking, canoodling?

Giraffes, canoodling? in Etosha national park, Namibia

Giraffes—some details
They are magnificent creatures so here’s a bit more about them.

As I already mentioned, giraffes are the world tallest animals. Males grow up to 18 feet tall with females reaching 14 feet, (or 5.5 and 4.3 metres, respectively). Males weigh up to 3000 pounds (1360 kilograms) and females are about half that.

Their body parts are big too. The tongue is purple and about 21 inches (55 centimetres) long. The neck and legs are 6 feet long (and to think I call myself leggypeggy!) The measurement that really struck me was their lung capacity. Their lungs can hold 12 gallons (55 litres) of air—nine times more than human lungs.

This was another surprise. According to PBS Nature, giraffes sleep about 20 minutes or less per day. Staying awake allows them to be constantly on alert for predators. They usually get their sleep in quick power naps that last just a couple of minutes. I wouldn’t mind perfecting that.

Giraffe waiting to drink, Etosha national park, NamibiaGiraffe drink, Etosha national park, NamibiaGiraffe drink, Etosha national park, Namibia

Giraffes are herbivores, which means they eat only plants. Their long necks allow them to reach leaves, seeds, fruits, buds and branches high up in mimosa and acacia trees. They can eat hundreds of pounds of leaves per week, but can go without drinking for weeks at a time because of the moisture in the vegetation they eat.

Just like our fingerprints and a zebra’s stripes, a giraffe’s coat pattern is unique to each animal. The pattern and the small hump on a giraffe’s back are similar to those of a leopard. Years ago, people thought the giraffe was a combination of a camel and a leopard, and called them ‘camel-leopards’.

And some final comments. I haven’t added captions to most of the pics here. They were all taken on the same day in Etosha national park. I’ll do more posts about Etosha, but I wanted to share the situation giraffes face in a post of its own.

Giraffes at dusk in Etosha national park, Namibia

Giraffes at dusk in Etosha national park, Namibia

2 April 2018 / leggypeggy

A magnificent church to mark Easter

St Isaac's Cathedral, St Petersburg

St Isaac’s Cathedral on the first day we saw it (sunny day)

The view from St Isaac's Cathedral, St Petersburg

Looking out from the roof of St Isaac’s Cathedral (cloudy day)

St Isaac's Cathedral tower staircase

Maybe not a bazillion stairs, but still a lot

I thought about saving the fabulous Fabergé eggs until Easter, but I couldn’t resist doing a post about them a couple of weeks ago. So instead and to mark this important Christian holiday, I thought I’d bring you the remarkable Saint Isaac’s Cathedral in St Petersburg, Russia.

Poor John and I first encountered this church on our free walking tour of the city. We think walking tours are a great way to get your bearings in a new city and to discover some of the best places to visit on subsequent days .

When we returned the next day, Poor John, as usual, was keen to climb the church tower. So after a bazillion stairs (yes, I’m exaggerating) we had fantastic views of St Petersburg. Then it was back to earth to visit the actual church.

View from St Isaac's Cathedra, St Petersburg

View from the top

St Issac’s breaks several records. It is the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in St Petersburg. It’s also the largest orthodox basilica and the fourth largest (by the volume under the cupola) cathedral in the world. It’s dedicated to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, a patron saint of Peter the Great, who was born on that saint’s feast day.

It is the fourth consecutive church to be built on its location and its construction was ordered by Tsar Alexander I. Designed by the French-born architect, Auguste de Montferrand, the cathedral took 40 years to build, starting in 1818. Overall cost was a million gold rubles.

The building sits on 10,000 tree trunks that were sunk by countless workers into the marshy banks upon which the cathedral sits.

The dome, St Isaac's Cathedra, St Petersburg

The Dome

Ceiling, St Isaac's Cathedra, St Petersburg

Ceiling

The main dome, which we saw from above and from inside the church, rises 101.5 metres (333 feet) and is plated with pure gold. Outside it’s decorated with twelve statues of angels by Josef Hermann. During World War II, the dome was painted grey to shield it from attack by enemy aircraft.

I was intrigued to learn that the design of the cathedral in general and the dome in particular later influenced the designs of the United States Capitol dome, the State Capitol in Wisconsin, and the Lutheran Cathedral in Helsinki (which we saw last year).

Under the Soviet government, the building was stripped of all religious furnishings. Then in 1931, it was turned into the Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism. Following the fall of communism, the museum was removed and regular worship resumed.

A bit more about the cathedral
The exterior is faced with grey and pink stone, and features a total of 112 red granite columns with Corinthian capitals. Some of the external doors are breathtaking.

These bronze doors (inside and out), covered in reliefs by Ivan Vitali, are patterned after the celebrated doors of the Battistero di San Giovanni in Florence, Italy, designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti. I saw a placard that said some of the doors weigh 20 tons.

Iconostatis, St Petersburg

The iconostasis (wall of icons and religious paintings) has eight columns—six of malachite and two of lazurite.

Upper view of iconostatis, St Petersburg

Looking up from the iconostatis

Centrepoint of the iconostatis, St Petersburg

Centrepoint of the iconostatis

The iconostasis (a wall of icons and religious paintings) is framed by eight columns of semi-precious stone—six are made of malachite and two smaller ones are of lazurite.

The interior was originally decorated with many paintings by Karl Bryullov and other Russian masters of the day. When these paintings began to deteriorate due to the cold, damp conditions inside the cathedral, Montferrand (the architect) ordered them to be painstakingly reproduced as mosaics, a technique introduced in Russia by Mikhail Lomonosov. This work was never completed.

Our visit
We spent ages in the cathedral. I was gobsmacked when we entered. The exterior, while stylish, and the climb up to the roof, plenty of steps, don’t prepare you for the sheer size and magnificence of the interior.

I consider this to be a don’t-miss destination in St Petersburg.

Bronze door, St Petersburg Cathedral

One of the bronze doors

Overhead mosaic, St Petersburg Cathedral

Overhead mosaic

St Isaac's Cathedral, St Petersburg

Inside the cathedral