Sensory overload part 2

Trip Start Aug 04, 2011
Trip End Aug 19, 2011

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Flag of Russia  , North-West Russia,
Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I awoke this morning shivering in my bed since I fell asleep with all the windows open in my room, but nonetheless, I had a good, restful sleep and felt alive and refreshed as I assembled myself to begin my day.

I began the day simply enough by packing my suitcase, organizing my paperwork and getting showered and dressed. I had a check out time of noon but I also had booked a tour in English for this day, also beginning at noon from the enormous shopping center on Nevsky Prospect.

 It was a lovely, cool, sunny morning so I decided to go ahead and check out, leave my bag and do some walking to make my way into the central area.  It was only about 8:30 or 9 when I actually left the hotel and I chose to walk across a different bridge which, from my map, seemed a bit shorter than crossing the 2 islands as I had done the day before

 It proved to be a good idea and I found myself walking along a stretch of the Neva River and then following a beautiful canal that went along the oldest park in the city.  St. Petersburg is completely full of parks and gardens that date back to the origin of the city.

 Following this route, I passed several important and beautiful buildings and structures.  I don't read Russian so I really didn't know what they were when I was seeing them but later they were pointed out to me on the tour that I was about to embark on.  St. Petersburg is so lovely indeed, that no matter which way you look in the city center, you are visually stimulated and every angle gives you a new vision of what you thought you’d previously seen and every view is magnificent!!

The only drawbacks I have experienced are that 2 days is TOO short and I was constantly feeling nervous about the time.  Secondly: the money-exchange rate. Although prices of items are reasonable, it is hard to tell from the conversion from Euros to Rubles unless you can quickly divide by 40… 1E=40R. Try buying a sandwich for 350R and you’ll see what I mean! The next drawback is that I was constantly aware of the problem I had leaving the EU and there was this "sword of Damocles" hanging over me about my re-entry, which gave me a sense of worry through out my trip. And then, there’s the language/alphabet issue.

Regardless of the above mentioned issues, I had an absolutely pleasant day.  I arrived at the tour meeting destination about one hour early, I had time to cruise through this very large shopping center worthy of note because of it’s enormous size and the fact that, unlikely for the year in which it was designed, this urban shopping center was originally created as such, namely a public place for shopping indoors.  It is a huge, block long, 2 story building completely full of shops and services and has been this way for 3 centuries.

The meeting place for the tour was at the far corner, away from the busy plaza, where many of the larger busses were leaving from and I was pleased that this was guided by a live person rather than a recording. Since it was a small group of about 6 people, the information given was more directed at answering questions and there was ample time at each of the stops for photographs and even souvenir shopping.  The guide was very informed and even directed us to a shop which specialized in crafts made in Russia rather than the "junk" you can buy anywhere made in China.  This particular shop also offered free shots of vodka and schnapps (of which I partook,) restrooms, and very good information about the origins of these traditional handicrafts.  I was interested in buying only the most traditional style of items from here and the shop workers helped me quite a bit, explaining which patterns and colors were from what regions and their symbology.

The tour lasted all of 2 hours and included the stops I had already seen with some other sights mixed in, for example the oldest house in the city and the newest!! Also, some personal insights from the guide were thrown in for good measure.  I found it not only relaxing and enjoyable but highly insightful and informative.  It made me wish I had planned to stay much longer and see so much more.

With the tour behind me and only about one or two hours remaining, I had to make my way back to my hotel to pick up my luggage and get back to the ship, so, I retraced my earlier morning walk, now in the afternoon sun, seeing things in yet another new perspective.

When I reached my hotel, there was no more time and my pre-arranged transport was waiting to take me back to the cruise ship, which was just opening for check-in by the time I arrived.

The cab driver was eager to point out sights for me along the way in Russian but I had no way to tell him that I had seen them already and that I didn’t understand him anyway, so, I just thanked him. Most of the Russian people I met, seemed very friendly and helpful. (Or at least attempted to be!)

The St. Petersburgers seem to be very proud of their city and they should be!!  Before I had come here, I was told it was one of the most beautiful cities in the world and it most assuredly IS!!!

Back on board the Princess Maria, I have noticed a few familiar faces from the outgoing cruise but in addition, I have noticed that there are not only more people by order of magnitude but also younger and more boisterous.  Today is Wednesday, so I assume that either people who came for the weekend are returning or people are heading to EU for their upcoming weekend or maybe some completely different scenario. I don't know. But there is a completely different feeling aboard the ship.  More energy.

Going East, we lost an hour but now, we were heading west, so I’ll get my hour back. Because I want to be off the ship ASAP due to my apprehension about crossing borders and my close schedule, I am planning on pretty much hanging alone in my room and relaxing, getting to sleep earlier, although, I may venture up to one of the many cafes or to the lounge later to hear some live music and relax.  Indeed, on the way out, I enjoyed sipping a few cocktails and watching some of the entertainment, but, at this point, I have been walking, traveling and overloading my senses at every turn and could use the easily obtained down time.

So in my room I spent my time by showering, getting organized and re-assembling my bag, now, all that was left was to be on deck 4 at precisely 8:00 or even earlier so I could be the first to disembark at 8:30 a.m.  Once Off the ship, I have to transfer to the cross-town port where I am boarding a 2-hour ferry to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia and the EU capital of culture for 2011.  It is said to be the largest, best-preserved medieval city in Europe, along with being one of the newest members of the European Union.

So far this trip has proven to be everything I expected and more!! As I sit here writing this, I am filled with emotion looking back on the many irreplaceable experiences I have had over the last few years and mostly I am grateful for the wonderful people I have met along the way.
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Claire McCartin on

Dave, some info:
it's the winter palace, former residence of the tsars. the summer palace is peterhof which you get to by boat from in front of the winter palace. the winter palace is nowadays the Hermitage Museum.
The tsar assassinated in the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood is actually Alexander II.

davefremland on

Thanks!! I knew there was too much for me to get it right. Your info helps a lot! I wish I could have spent so much more time here as originally planned.

Claire McCartin on

I think you did a hell of a lot in just 2 days. Well done! Onto the next destination...

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