Founded in 1723 by Peter the Great and named in honor of his new wife, Catherine.
Perhaps this is the best place to mention the 101st anniversary of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath. An event by which Russia is defined by much of the west.
I remember Yalta. The Tsar's summer retreat. Sweet pictures of the family. The girls - Tatiana, Olga, Maria, and young Anastasia.
The Church on the Blood is on the site of their murders. For more on the various conspiracy theories that suggest one of them might have survived you should watch Bones of Contention - available on Amazon Prime.
The highlights of the city were the Yeltsin Center and the Afghan War Memorial. The Center provides an exhaustive and interesting review of the events of the 80's and 90's as the Soviet Union fell. The Afghan War Memorial captures the ultimate futility of that war. Finally, a war memorial that doesn't cater to the heroic and uber-patriotic.
The two days on the train were only marginally less scenic than the first three. A bit less epic. A few more settlements. A few more bales of hay and plowed fields. And birch. We must have passed a billion. And the colors of Autumn remain.
Two weeks so far and not an American in sight.
Next, across the Urals to Tatarstan. I'm psyched.