Day 4 – St. Petersburg, Russia (Day 1 of 3)
Today we arrived in St. Petersburg, Russia. This was surreal for us both – having grown up during the ‘cold war’ it was really odd to realize we were now going on vacation to Russia! We really weren’t sure what to expect.
We woke up early and had breakfast, and prepared for our tour.
Our tour today was of the Hermitage Museum. Our tour guide, Anna was quite interesting and explained the rules for us. We were not allowed to wear our coats in the Museum, and had to leave them in the ‘coat check’ area. The museum had thousands of items on display, and we were told they have over 3 million items as part of the collection – and we were only seeing a small portion of the items. Each hall was filled with beautiful paintings, sculptures and furniture. The museum is billed as the 2nd best museum in the world, but our tour guide was quite proud of it, and believes it is the 1st best museum in the world.
After the museum, we were taken back to the ship. Because we do not have visitor visas we are not allowed to explore the city on our own, or we would. We don’t have any tour in the afternoon, so we will have a lazy relaxing day on-board.
Tomorrow we have an all-day tour to Catherine’s Palace.
Day 5 – St. Petersburg, Russia (Day 2 of 3)
We took a full-day tour today that was called “Classical St. Petersburg.” We started the tour with a drive through the city and out into the countryside to an area called Pushkin.
When we arrived at Catherine’s Palace, we were greeted with a small brass band.
We were among the very first groups to arrive at the Palace, and we had to line up outside the gate.
It was a beautiful and lavish Palace with tons of gold leave gilding throughout the Palace. A lot of work went into reconstructing the Palace after much of it was destroyed by the Germans during WW2. One of the highlights of the tour, to me, was a hallway – with ‘before and after’ photographs of the reconstruction work. They have really put a lot of work into reconstructing the decorations and furnishings of the palace. There are also many art collections on site. This palace was the summer palace for the Russian Czars.
After touring the Palace we also toured the gardens.
then we were driven to a location where we were treated to a traditional Russian luncheon. The place was called “The Biscuit” and when we were seated we found wine and vodka already had been poured for each of us. We had salad, and then delicious dumplings. (There was little slices of bread with caviar too, but Adam and I opted to not try it because neither of us have liked caviar in the past when we tried it). Dessert was ice cream and then we headed out for more touring.
Next stop was the Peter & Paul Cathedral. The Cathedral is inside of a fortress area, and it contains the graves of the Czars and their family members.
After the Peter & Paul Cathedral we were driven around the city while our guide provided a lot of history and interesting facts and information about the people and culture of the area. From time to time, the driver would stop for photos when we came to a particularly notable sight.
The last photo stop was at the Spilled Blood Cathedral which is a very intricately decorated church – that was just beautiful.
Then we returned to our ship for a relaxing evening. We had a nice dinner with some nice folks and enjoyed great conversation as we all shared stories about our adventures with one another.
Day 6 – St. Petersburg, Russia (Day 3 of 3)
On our last day, not wanting to waste any of our time in St. Petersburg, we took two tours! First tour was a trip to visit “Peter the Great’s Grand Palace, Peterhof.”
Peterhof (house of Peter) was another palace full of beautiful furniture and decorations. Many of the walls were decorated in rare silks, and the floors were inlaid exotic woods. Unfortunately – for whatever reason, no photography was allowed inside the Palace, so we don’t have any photos. We found it to be very much like the Hermitage and Catherine’s palace though – but with different art work. We also had to wear the booties on our shoes and check our coats – just like the other museums.
After visiting the palace, we were treated to visiting the gardens. There are two garden areas – the Upper Gardens, which we viewed as we were waiting to enter the palace, and the Lower Gardens which were full of spectacular fountains. Here are some photos of the “Upper Gardens”
At the end of our tour of the Palace, we exited to the “terrace” at the back – and were greeted with an amazing view of the ‘Lower Gardens’ and the famous fountains. We took a crazy amount of photos – because it was so beautiful At the top of the hour, they started the fountains, and played the national anthem – and we took too many photos of that too! Here are just *some* of the photos we took…
Although we had been given many warnings that the gardens were an area where there were pickpockets – we still had a member of our group be victimized. We were looking at a fountain that had a ‘hidden trigger’ where if you stepped on the right rock, you would get sprayed with water – our guide was demonstrating by walking across the stones, and while we were all watching her, an older woman suddenly ran across the stones as well – and moments later, one of our tour members called out ‘come back! She stole my wallet.” Another fellow in the group gave chase and was lucky enough to get the wallet back, but it’s a shame that it happened at all.
After completing our tour of the gardens, we returned to the coach and came back to the ship. Along the way we were educated about life in Russia and really had a great guide.
After we had a short lunch on board the ship, it was time for our next and last tour in Russia – a canal cruise and shopping. It was cold and overcast but we rode the ship in the open air portion of the ship and were treated to a guided tour of the canals – and commentary about the buildings and landmarks along the way.
After the canal tour we were taken to a large souvenir shop where they had lovely lacquer boxes, nesting dolls, Fabergé style eggs and amber jewelry. The items were lovely, but since we are trying to ‘declutter’ we didn’t choose anything for our home.
After shopping it was time to return to our ship and then it was our night in the specialty restaurant, the “Prime 7” which is the ship’s steakhouse. We had dinner with a lovely couple and enjoyed a delicious meal. I had Lobster and Adam had ‘surf and turf’ – the service was great, and the food was delicious.
Another early tour in the morning – so we called it an early night.