Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel
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Little Konushennaya Street in city center of St. Petersburg, Russia

Click on above photo to view it in large format: Little Konushennaya Street, one of several pedestrianized shopping streets in city center of St. Petersburg, Russia

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Freezing rain splashed off the massive stone walls of Belozersky Monastery, pelted my face, and trickled down my neck. I pulled my hood closer and surveyed the leaden surroundings. On my left, the monastery loomed dense and gray, threatening to tip the earth. Ahead of me lay a gray corpse of a lake. The only relief from the monotonous landscape was a stand of birch trees to my right, rising white and stately from a luxurious patch of grass.

“Beautiful, are they not?” remarked my tour guide. “Every spring and summer, we tap the trees for their sap, which is used to make a drink that has curative properties. Some of the sap is even frozen, so we have a supply throughout the winter.”

Stately stand of birch aside Belozersky Monastery, near Kirillov, Russia

Stately stand of birch aside Belozersky Monastery, near Kirillov, Russia

I had seen dense stands of white Birch trees earlier on my voyage down the Volga-Baltic waterway between Moscow and St. Petersburg. At one point I braved teeth-chattering temperatures to capture photos of flame tipped birches in the setting autumn sun. But as I would discover, to Russians, birches are more than just a pretty picture. Read More

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Alexander Pushkin Monument in St. Petersburg, Russia

Click on above photo to view it in large format: Alexander Pushkin Monument stands in a part in the city center of St. Petersburg, Russia

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Rostral Column on Vasilyevsky Island in St. Petersburg, Russia, once used as a lighthouse, displays prows of conquered ships to frighten off invaders

Click on above photo to view it in large format: Rostral Column on Vasilyevsky Island in St. Petersburg, Russia, once used as a lighthouse, displays prows of conquered ships to frighten off invaders

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Interior of Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral at Saint Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, Russia

Click on above photo to view it in large format: Exquisite interior of Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral at Saint Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, Russia

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Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral at Saint Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, Russia

Click on above photo to view it in large format: Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral at Saint Peter and Paul Fortress is the oldest landmark in St. Petersburg, Russia. Built between 1712 and 1733, its spire is the world’s tallest Orthodox bell tower.