2nd big day out in St Petersburg

Trip Start May 23, 2013
Trip End Jun 28, 2013

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Flag of Russia  , North-West Russia,
Thursday, June 20, 2013

Yesterday when we docked there was one other ship in the harbour. Now there are 6!!!! Multiply that by an average of 3000 passengers and that's a lot of tourists in town. Add to that an International Economic Forum being held in St Petersburg today! 
Could be an interesting day???
Up at 5.30 this morning to depart at 7.30 (have to allow for extra traffic and expected road blocks in the city due to Forum.)  So many buses were lined up on the dock to take passengers from the 6 cruise ships to probably the same places we are going!
First stop today is Peterhof, a one hour drive from St Petersburg. It is a town of palaces, fountains, parks and the 'most brilliant' of all the summer residences of the Russian tsars. Conceived by Peter the Great to rival Versailles, the complex was officially opened in 1721. It too, was severely damaged in the war and has been reconstructed to its former glory. No photos are allowed inside the palace so the security guards were out in full force to implement this rule. More gold leaf and chandeliers adorned the walls and ceilings of this palace.
The gardens were quite spectacular with the Grand Cascade containing a series of 64 fountains, 37 gilt statues and 3 waterfalls. See photos for details.
A mediocre Russian lunch was had in l'Orangerie of the palace washed down with more champagne and vodka before walking through the gardens (following the No. 12 paddle!!) back to the bus. 
The next stop was to be highlight of our tour - the Hermitage Museum. What a disappointment - not for what it contained but for the limited time we had here, the hundreds and hundreds of people inside and the controlled nature of the tour. You guessed it - following paddle No. 12!!!
We lined up for 30 mins just to get to the entrance (which also served as the exit!!) and then to do battle with all the other tour groups inside. We only spent an hour and a half here - think you need at least 3 days! The part we wanted to see - The Hidden Treasures (famous art works hidden during the war and now located in the museum after a long legal battle) - we were swept through in about 5 mins!! Thank goodness we went to the Musee D'Orsay in Paris and were able to view similar pieces at a more civilised pace.
Back to the ship late - 30 mins after our scheduled departure. Just as well we went with a ship organised tour or they might have left without us!
Drinks and debrief with J&G before dinner at 8pm.
Into bed by 10.00 utterly exhausted - and we have another shore visit tomorrow!
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