Stunning St. Petersburg
Trip Start Aug 23, 2008
10Trip End Sep 09, 2008
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We visited this 2nd largest city in Russia and fourth largest in Europe for two very long but exciting days. Located on the Neva River, St. Petersburg boasts 60 rivers and canals and over 400 bridges of which we crossed and sailed among many.
Visiting Russia is not as simple as most other countries. We would have needed in advance of our arrival a Visa that would allow us to tour the city on our own
We used a company called Red October and prior to our visit - we were able to customize a tour just for the four of us. This arrangement included our own private van, driver and professional tour guide. We could not have been more pleased. Our driver always dropped us off right at the entrance to any of the sites and was always waiting with the door open when we arrived back to the van. Helen was a delight. She is an English teacher and knows all there is to know about Russian history - our heads were spinning - especially when she would periodically quiz us on what she had told us.
The first stop was at the St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral - one of the oldest in Russia. This was just a little something to break us in easy. A little gold - and a little opulance - for this church that dates back to 1743.
We then circled the city a bit viewing various buildings and statues before stopping to see the Marinsky Palace - and the monument to Nicholas I. The Marinsky Palace was once the home to Nicholas I's daughter Maria. She however, did not like the statue of her father facing toward St. Isaacs Cathedral which meant that her view was of his horses @$$ so she sold her palace - today this is the City Hall.
We visited the famous Bronze Horseman - A statue dedicated to the founder of St
We quickly visited the 3,000 + year old sphinx statues along the Neva River that were brought here from Egypt. Back in the time when beards were not in style - the beards were chisled off of these ancient statues.
By this time we were able to head to the Winter Palace and the Hermitage Museum. We had the option of entering the Palace/Museum before it opened so that we were able to be ahead of the tour groups. This was one wonderful advantage of using a private Russian tour company. There were just a few other people also in the Palace/Museum with us so we were able to make our way through quickly - as one could easily spend a week in the museum and still not have enough time to see all of the artwork - but we had more ground to cover - so we made somewhat of a quick trip hitting some of the more famous works - DaVinci, Rembrandt, Titian, Rafael, El Greco... What a grand life Catherine the Great built here along the Neva River. Comprised of 1,057 halls and rooms I can't imagine being the decorator. But almost every inch of wall and floor space is adorned with beautiful fabrics, tapestries and art. The parquet floors mostly were mirrored copies of the beautiful ceilings - unfortunately it was very difficult to capture all of this.
Time for lunch. Helen took us to a typical Russian 'restaurant'. A typical lunch is either a soup or a 'pie' of rabbit, chicken or beef, rice and vegetables
We had an interest in seeing the Yusupov Palace - along the Moika River - home to the wealthy Yusupov family who were related to the Romanovs by marriage. One of the two highlights - aside from the grand opulance of the living quarters is the Golden Theatre which is a replica of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. The second interesting highlight was seeing the cellar where Grigory Rasputin was assassinated prior to the Revolution. Although he didn't actually die here - this is where the first shots were fired that started the absurd path of death for the famous Rasputin.
Next stop - the Neva River to take the Hydrofoil to Peterhof - The summer residence of the Russian Tsars. This 30 minute ride across the edge of the Gulf of Finland gave us a chance to catch a much needed cat nap. Entering the Lower Gardens and seeing the Grand Cascade caused us to gasp - and then taking in the view of the Palace was amazing. I don't think Helen could ever tire of the expressions on peoples faces when they first catch a glimpse of these grand palaces. But before we got too close to the Palace we walked through the lower gardens and to the original "palace" belonging to Peter the Great and his formal French gardens
After leaving the Palace we stopped to take some photos of the exterior of the Saints Peter and Paul church.
We then had about an hour and a half drive back to the ship where we then grabbed a quick dinner and then went to bed in anticipation of another full day tomorrow.