Beyond the Shtetl
since its founding in 1703 by Peter the Great. But whether Imperial, Communist, or democratic, St. Petersburg has always remained a flourishing center of European cultural life and Russia’s most cosmopolitan city. Some of the greatest artists and thinkers in the world have called St. Petersburg home, giants like Pushkin, Chagall, and Dostoevsky, whose legacy can still be felt in the summer breezes that rush down Nevsky Prospect.
It is the dazzling urban landscape, however, that hooks the visitor before such subtler signs of the city’s rich history. Surrounded by pastel palaces and oniondomed churches, the Petersburg visitor feels as though she has stepped into a fairytale world, one full of brilliant whites, pale greens, and shimmering golds splashed across magnificent Petrine Baroque buildings and set amongst a network of glittering canals. Not for nothing was the city’s entire historic center designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Former seat of the imperial family, this “Venice of the North” is a visual dynamo, full of grand palaces and opulent museums whose enchanting exteriors rival the treasures they hold within.
The charm of St. Petersburg extends beyond its delightful waterways and impressive architecture. Any visit must include the Tsar’s summer palace Catherine’s Palace with its opulent Amber Room and extraordinary gardens as well as Peterhof, the “Russian Versailles.” And Milk & Honey invites you to a close-up look at this city’s long Jewish heritage and contemporary Jewish revival, to learn how life in Jewish Russia extended well beyond the shtetl. The Grand Choral Synagogue is one of the largest and most splendid prayer houses in Russia where one can explore the main hall, chuppah hall, women’s gallery and genizah. The Jewish community center YESOD is also well worth a visit. Round out your visit with the Hermitage and its vast collection of art and antiquities and you will leave St. Petersburg wanting to return!
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