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The frontage of the General Staff Building is the longest of any in St.Petersburg, running a total of 580 metres, or 1902 feet. At one end it stands next to the Pevchesky, or Choral Bridge over the Moika River, while at the other it runs to Nevsky Prospekt.
It was Tsar Alexander I who decided to build a headquarters building for the military's General Staff across the square from the Winter Palace. The idea was brought to life by architect Carlo Rossi. The exterior appearance of this classical-style masterpiece is elegant yet monolithic. But like a master tailor, Rossi managed to conceal hundreds of loose threads within the building. Every pillar is the result of painstaking calculations. In reality there are two buildings here, separated by a central Triumphal Arch – celebrating Russia's military victory over Napoleon. The winged chariot of Niké, the Goddess of Victory stands atop the arch, while six horses strain at the bit, reined in by two ancient armour-clad warriors. The weight of the sculptures was tightly reined in too, by deploying – for the first time – construction methods devised by English engineer Clark. Iron molds were used to cast the component parts of the statues, which were then covered in a thin sheet of copper. This technique reduced the potential weight of the entire sculpture by as much as 16 tonnes.
The Triumphal Arch at the centre of the General Staff Building spans a full 17 metres. This was considered a bold plan in the C19th, and the arch's span led to much consternation. Rossi, however, remained confident that he'd calculated everything exactly, exclaiming “If the arch falls, then I'll fall with it!”. And when the scaffolding was removed from the arch, Rossi was seen standing on the top of it, directly about the vault of the arch.
The western wing of the General Staff building has always belonged to the top brass. During the Russian Empire it housed the Ministry of War and the General Staff of the Imperial Armies. Today it's the HQ of Leningrad Military District. In Tsarist times the East Wing housed the Foreign Ministry and the Finance Ministry of the Russian Empire. After the Revolution its premises were taken over by domestic affairs bodies and project institutions.
The general public is strictly excluded from any access to the corridors of what's now the Leningrad Military District Headquaters. But you can get to see inside – if you rent the James Bond movie “Goldeneye”. Former city mayor Anatoly Sobchak gave special permission for the Hollywood blockbuster to be filmed inside.
The Eastern Wing of the General Staff Building was made over to the State Hermitage Museum several years ago, to provide additional display space. Currently rebuilding is going on to enable this – with an estimated budget of 5 billion roubles. Soon some of the Hermitage's treasured collections will go on display in the halls of the General Staff Building.
St. Petersburg is known as Russian cultural capital. It is also called “Northern Palmira” or “Northern Venice” as it was founded on islands in the delta of the Neva River and has a lot of architectural masterpieces.
Nevsky Prospect is the main avenue and one of the best-known streets in Russia. It is a real treasury of Russian culture. The street was planned by Peter the Great as beginning of the road to Novgorod and Moscow. It goes through the historical center of the city, firstly - from the Admiralty to the Moscow Railway Station and then, after making a turn at Vosstaniya Square, to the Alexander Nevsky Lavra.
Life on Nevsky Prospect has always been the object of attention of writers. For example, it was described by Nikolai Gogol in his story "Nevsky Prospect". Fyodor Dostoevsky often employed the Prospect as a setting within his works, such as Crime and Punishment and The Double: A Petersburg Poem.
It is best to start your walk from famous Palace Square where you can visit one of the most prominent world museums – the Hermitage. In the center of the square you will see the Alexander Column, a very popular among tourists place. With Your Audio Guide you will listen to the history of the square and all its attractions (The New Hermitage, The Winter Palace, the Alexander Column and The General Staff Building).
During the tour you will walk through the Alexander Gardens, past the Admiralty, see a lot of historical houses – real architectural “pearls” - Wawelberg's Mansion Apartments, The Sivers-Treiberg House, The Chaplin Brothers House, Chicherin's House, etc. The chief sights of the Prospect include palaces, churches and cathedrals, shopping centers and department stores. Among palaces are the Rastrelliesque Stroganov Palace, the Anichkov Palace, The Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace, Grand-Princess Yusopova's Residence and the Mikhailovsky, or Michael Palace.
Nevsky Prospect deserves the name "the street of religious tolerance". Religious buildings are presented by the huge neoclassical Kazan Cathedral, the picturesque Russian-style Cathedral of Our Savior on Spilt Blood – a place where terrorists exploded the Emperor Alexander II, the Alexander Nevsky Lavra, St.Catherine's Cathedral - the oldest Catholic Church in Russia, and The Armenian Church.
Nevsky Prospect is also the city’s central shopping street and the hub of the city’s entertainment and nightlife. For that You can visit the Art Nouveau Bookhouse,Elisseeff Emporium, half a dozen 18th-century churches, , an enormous 18th-century shopping mall “Gostinny Dvor”, a mid-19th-century department store “The Passage” and The Alexandrinsky Theatre, in the yard of which a monument to Catherine the Great is standing.
Your audio guide is glad to present you a wide audio tour of the Nevsky Prospeсt with map and descriptions. With this map, you will never get lost and you will always know what surprise awaits you ahead.