The city has Been Renamed Three Times. The Third Time was Back to St. Petersburg
Due to anti-German sentiment during WWI, the city was renamed to the more Russian-sounding Petrograd. “We went to bed in Petersburg and woke up in Petrograd!” screamed jingoistic headlines. After the death of Vladimir Lenin, the city was renamed Leningrad. And it is this name that is forever associated with WWII and the blockade, the “Khrushchev thaw,” and perestroika. In September 1991, it was decided to restore the city’s historical name, St. Petersburg.
The Movable Bridges are a Beautiful Pain in the Neck
St. Petersburg is home to around 800 bridges, the most famous of which are movable. There are 12 movable bridges in total, and they are raised at specific times (usually at night) and lowered early in the morning. There are record breakers here as well: Blue Bridge is the widest bridge of its kind in the world (97.3 m), while Alexander Nevsky Bridge is the longest of its kind in the world (905.7 m).
The Huge Column on Palace Square is Free-Standing
The 600-ton Alexander Column has stood vertical for 185 years under nothing more than its own weight. In the early days, St. Petersburgers avoided it for fear of getting squashed—its creator Auguste de Montferrand had to walk under it every day to demonstrate to locals that his construction was safe.
It Would Take More Than 10 Years to See the Entire Hermitage
About three million people visit the Hermitage Museum annually, but none has ever seen the whole, vast collection of Russia’s most famous museum. It is estimated that if a visitor spent around one minute at each exhibit, it would take more than a decade to go round the entire museum.
Isaac’s Cathedral is Clearly Visible from the Air. Oddly Enough, That Saved it from Being Bombed
St. Isaac’s Cathedral is the fourth largest in the world (by the volume under the cupola). This saved it from destruction during WWII, since it is believed the Nazi troops used its lofty dome as a reference point for sighting. Perhaps for this reason, important museum valuables that could not be evacuated in time were stored right there in the basements of St. Isaac’s Cathedral.
The Petersburg Subway is One of the Deepest in the World
The deepest station, Admiralteyskaya, lies at a depth of 86m underground. Deeper subway stations are found only in Kiev and North Korea, where they were intentionally built that far down in case of war.
Petersburg has a Strange Monument That has Been Stolen 7 times
On a stone embankment of the Fontanka tributary stands a small statue of a bird, known to locals as Chizhik-Pyzhik, a reference to a famous comic song (which has its own story). Tourists toss coins at it in the hope of making their wishes come true. And more enterprising people have even nabbed the sculpture for themselves… no fewer than seven times. But on each occasion, the sculpture was invariably returned to its rightful place.
City of White Nights
White Nights is a particular symbol of St. Petersburg. This is an unusual natural phenomenon when it does not get dark at night from the end of May to mid-July. Many events take place in St. Petersburg at this time. One of the most prominent of them is the all-Russian Graduate Ball “Crimson Sails”. The annual celebration starts with a grand stage show concert in the city centre and finishes with a magnificent multimedia light show in the waters of the Neva. The show culminates with a ship with crimson sailing along the embankments.