My Times in Russia: ROTTR Amber Necklace

Amber Necklace from Rise of the Tomb Raider


The fact that this necklace is made of Baltic amber and from Russia fascinates me no end. It takes me back to the time I was in Russia and visited the Catherine Palace of Tsarskoye Selo near Saint Petersburg among many other beautiful places there. I shall expound upon those in later articles. The whole family, 9 of us, took another Disney cruise, only this adventure took us to many ports in Northern Europe. Of course, the educational benefit for the kids was unmatched. Also, I took the time to document many things, the researcher I am, hence my forthcoming Egyptology degree. This time around, we went to England, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Russia, and Estonia.  We were gone nearly a month because we extended our time in England. This installment will cover only  St. Petersburg, Peter the Great and the Catherine Palace.  Other articles about this trip shall follow later.

However, because of the amber necklace in the game, it provided me a launch pad for this article. Amber in jewelry is incredibly beautiful and was a favorite of the Royal family. The following photos are my personal photos from a fabulous trip to Russia.

Russian Gallery 

The Catherine Palace, exterior photos, me, and a piece of amber jewelry that my husband bought in Russia.





If you are noticing the stunning design and architecture of this magnificent palace resembling the Chateau of Versailles, France you are correct. Peter the Great took a year tour of Europe before assuming his duties. One of the countries he visited was France. He was quite taken with the beauty of Versailles as well as the Château de Marly, which is near Versailles, so the Catherine Palace is heavily influenced by French architecture and design.

Inner Catherine Palace Gallery 

The following photos are from the interior of Catherine Palace and of course, the famous “Amber Room” which is perfect in this case; because, of the amber necklace from Rise of the Tomb Raider and my husband’s beautiful amber tie tack. 




St Petersberg: From Swamp To Not


Something you may not think about when you first visit the city of St. Petersburg, Russia, is the fact that the city sits on a swamp system. The map illustrates that the city lies at the mouth of an enormous watershed. The two largest lakes in Europe are Lake Onega and Lake Ladoga, and they drain into the Neva river which empties into the Gulf of Finland.

Top View2

Peter realized that the Neva River was an essential natural source for transporting goods from Russia’s interior around the globe. The swampy land that stretched before him was in a strategic position for Peter to build a great powerful seaport city for his country. He also knew It was of urgent importances that a fortress was completed as soon as possible for he feared the Swedes would return and take the land back, Peter’s prize. 

It was at this time, in 1700, Peter began to investigate the general area and he defined a place for a great seaport.  He dreamed of one day having a seaport as commanding as the ones he saw in England when he toured Europe. He knew a strong navy was key in developing a powerful country. Peter’s vision was quite ambitious. Being a huge flood zone with hardly any land to build on anywhere, people would think you were daft to try and build a city here. Nevertheless, Peter knew what he must do to defeat the great power known as Sweden and grow his city and forthcoming military into a great force. 

Peter the Great
Alexandre Benois painting — Peter the Great contemplating his vision of building St. Petersburg on the Baltic Sea 1916

 His first choice of location was the Black Sea, but during his tour of Europe, he had found no allies against the Turks. He knew Russia could never defeat the Turks alone, so he decided on the Baltic Sea access instead. Although, this meant his stumbling block was powerful Sweden. It had a strong leader Charles X.   

 Why so determined?

Peter was met with much criticism by the builders he consulted with. He didn’t allow them to put him off; because, he had seen similar cities built on water. One such city was Amsterdam he visited previously. The fact Amsterdam was built on a river delta and sported canals throughout made Peter aware his plan was workable. Peter designed St. Petersburg after Amsterdam being impressed by the Dutch invention. 

Peter: A Harsh Leader

Peter used slave labor to bring large amounts of dirt in boats for the landfills. The conditions were horrible, cold, soggy and sloppy. Peter treated his labor force like trash caring nothing for their well-being. They received very little in return. Also, if they refused to work, they were whipped into submission. Not much of a choice I would say. In fact, the city has a nickname and that is “The City Built on bones” This is because of all the massive deaths that occurred due to the harsh working conditions and hunger.

People would die where they were working and Peter never let his pressure up. He thought only about his plans going forward and little else. Compassion was not part of his agenda; because the land was in a perfect position to grow Russia through trade and military might.  

Peter’s Fear

Peter had vivid nightmares of Charles seizing his land over and over again. Peter wanted a large port and a fortress for starters so he knew he needed plenty of land mass to accomplish this task. The first item on his agenda was the Peter and Paul Fortress. It was after that magnificent architectural feat, the main construction of the city began. 

Peter and Paul Fortress

After an 8 day siege, the Swedish surrendered at Nnienchanz and Peter then found himself faced with how to secure the land from the Swedes. He began to kick around ideas from former battles he fought against the Swedish and how various fortresses appeared and aided in defense.  He remembered one such island fortress of  NÖTBORG. The surrounding water was like a moat and made attack nearly impossible. This was the plan Peter used to launch the Peter and Paul Fortress in the middle of Hare’s Island on the Neva River. Location, location, location! 

 After that great task, the landfills raised the connected muddy islands in the swampy land above the waterline. The islands grew in size and became solid terrain for mass construction to begin.  The canal system was developed. The mighty Neva River was hemmed in by embankment walls along its shores and rerouted in five different directions before it spilled into the sea. City expansion was unending. 

The banks of the Neva today and the scope of this river. The Neva became the Volga of western Russia. St Petersburg was Peter’s his window to the world.




Finally in 1703, St. Petersburg was born, launching Russia into the political arena. It grew for three hundred years into a mighty influence that eventually rivaled the USA in power. However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. …

 Although Peter the Great was thrilled with the progress of his new ever growing city, now he had King Charles XII of Sweden to contend with, and he was quite aware of his achievement.

 Peter and Sweden

King Charles of Sweden sent several ships into the Gulf of Finland to investigate the rise of the new city construction. Since the groundbreaking of St. Petersburg Peter worried constantly of an invasion by Sweden. Sure enough, that day came when the king of Sweden Charles XII sent 4000 soldiers to thwart the construction and seize the land. However, Peter had a different plan and was ready for nearly anything.

Peter was prepared and from the start, he had several sentries posted on far boundaries to give fair warning in case of an attack. One of the first things he did is to establish a large regiment of soldiers as well as an Academy. Most of these men helped in the construction of the city, but they were soldiers first and foremost and knew how to do battle against an enemy.

Peter assembled an army of men numbering 7000, and they swiftly conquered the invading Swedes. The Swedish army fled. This victory didn’t stop the city progress, for Peter built warships for his new army which grew over time into a mighty force. At this point, he had no interest in conquering more land. His interests were served with his new Baltic seaport.

The ships were constructed in a shipyard on the other side of the Neva River called the Admiralty complex. Russia’s mighty navy was built there and these ships held their own in another attack by Charles’ fleet. Charles waited far too long before attacking Peter’s force of the seas. He realized he was not going to succeed and retreated. Peter had prepared and built a stronghold with his navy and fortress. A force the Swedes could not overtake.

St. Petersburg Russian Capital

Over the next 10 – 12 years Saint Petersburg grew considerably. More and more dirt was brought in and eventually, the land masses grew higher, firmer and even bigger. By the year 1712 Saint Petersburg was ready to become the new Russian capital. In 1714 Peter summoned wealthy merchants and chief thinkers to move to the new capital from Moscow. The chosen people knew that if they refused Peter’s requests it would not be in good favor. For Peter was a tyrant, and by this time had the reputation for such a disposition. Nobility built on one side of the Neva river and the merchants and artisans on the other.

The residents of Saint Petersburg were ordered to pay for various construction throughout the city such as canals, parks, embankments, bridges etc..

When Peter’s magnificent Winter Palace was done, it would become a residence of monarchs. At this point, the canals were curving gracefully and ribboned throughout the city.  It was unanimous that the beautiful canals of Saint Petersburg compared to Amsterdam and another famous canal city in northern Italy, Venice, in many ways. Hence the other nickname it acquired “The Venice of the North” 

 Thank you for reading Tomb Raider fans! Yes, travel is something I never get enough of. Untile I see you all again with the next update,

EXPLORE THE WORLD! Lara would not have it any other way! 




   “” Peter the Great Biography. A&E Television Networks, LLC, 30 january 2013. Web. 30 Jan 2013.

Dmytryshy, Basil. Imperial Russia. New York: 1967. Web.

Halsall, Paul, ed. “Peter the Great and the rise of Russia, 1682-1725.” Fordham University, 4 november 2011. Web. 22 Feb 2013.

“History Learning Site.”,uk. Web. 22 Feb 2013.

“Peter the Great, reigned 1682-1725.” National Maritime Museum, 30 january 2013. Web. 30 Jan 2013.

Popova, Natalia. Saint Petersburg. St. Petersburg: Art Publisher, 2007.

Randall , Maurice. Peter the Great’s naval preparations. 2013., Wales,England. Web. 22 Feb 2013.

Schlesinger, Arthur M. Peter the Grat. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 1991.

Stein, Richard J. The Reference Shelf. Vol. 82. New York: H.W Wilson Company, 2010.

Warens, David. Chroniscle of The Russian Tsars. New York: Thames and Hudson Inc., 2004.



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