If you happen to stay in a hotel close to the fortress, it will be hard to miss the lunchtime: the cannon shot from the Naryshkin bastion exactly at midday is well heard in the center. The spire of the cathedral is crowned with a figure of an angel, the guardian of the city: damaged by strong wind in 1830, it was repaired by a roofer by the name Telushkin, who climbed the 122 meters high tower using simple ropes only. A modest man, he only asked for a reward of a life-long free serving of drinks in all pubs of the city.
Peter and Paul Fortress, the birthplace of the city and its heart, is located on a small Hare island in the city centre. The fortress was founded by Peter the Great in 1703 as he needed to secure his positions on the Baltic coast in the course of the Northern war. The first builders came to the Hare Island on the 16 (27 by new calendar) of May in 1703. This day is considered the foundation day of the city.
The Peter and Paul Fortress is also known as “the Russian Bastille”: it never served its primary function of a fortress, but one of its main uses up to 1917 was that of a political prison. Many prominent figures of Russian history have spent time in its scary dungeons, starting with the elder son of Peter the Great: one could mention the decembrists, Dostoevsky or Lenin’s older brother. The only prisoner who ever managed to escape was the leader of Russian anarchists, the prince Pyotr Kropotkin; thus the fortress has better statistics than the legendary Alcatras. Visiting the cells in the Trubetskoy bastion can be quite an experience. On the grounds of the fortress one can also visit a Printing Workshop, exhibition the History of St.-Petersburg and some other sights.
The center of this architectural complex is the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral (architect Trezzini), which has served as a last resting place for Russian tsars during the whole of its history. In 1998 the remains of the last royal family, executed in 1918 near the Ural mountains, were also re-buried there: in the 1990ies the remains were subjected to a DNA-test which proved positive and the bodies of Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra and three of their five children were exhumed and transferred to St.-Petersburg. Despite all the legends and numerous impostors, the body of Anastasia was securely identified; missing are Maria and Alexey, the young and mortally ill heir to the throne. All descendants of Romanov family, who nowadays are spread all around the world, gathered for this ceremony.