Catherine's Palace and Church on Spilled Blood

Trip Start Aug 01, 2006
Trip End Aug 13, 2006

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Saturday, August 12, 2006
St. Petersburg, Russia
(Completed after return to Chicago)

Dear Readers:

In our original itinerary, this day was intended to be totally free for independent sightseeing in St. Petersburg. However, I have planned an optional tour to see Catherine's Palace in Pushkin, which is where the original "Amber Room" was located. Although the original was lost after the war, the room has recently been recreated, and I thought the guys might be interested in seeing it. I thought right! Everyone but one person joins the expedition to see Catherine's Palace.

The palace is painted an astonishingly vivid blue, and is far larger than I had imagined it would be. After seeing Peterhof yesterday, it is a little redundant. How many gilded statues can you really appreciate before your eyes glaze over? But the amber room is a marvel, and the group is happy we made the journey.

Some people had expressed to me that we didn't allow enough free time for photographs yesterday at Peterhof, so I decide to give everyone a full hour of free time here, to wander in the gardens and appreciate the beauty of the place. It is a mistake, as people are tired from going out the night before, and there really isn't anywhere to buy something good for lunch. I'm tired too, having stayed up until 2:30am finishing the awards, so when a client snaps at me about the waste of time here I snap right back and have to apologize later.

Even though everyone is hungry, we only have one more stop left in our tour, and that is to see the very ornate and colorful Church on Spilled Blood. The church is so named because it was built over the spot where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881. We aren't going to go inside, but just stop for a few minutes outside for photographs. We agree to take people back to the hotel after 20 minutes for photography, or else people are free to wander off on their own. Most people take advantage of this last opportunity to wander around this fabulous city.

I return with the bus to do my packing and prepare for the Farewell Dinner. The dinner is wonderful, and Svetlana does us the honor of attending even though she hadn't been with our group today. The awards go very well, and I copy them for your enjoyment below (deleting the names of who got what award).

We're out of the restaurant by 10:00pm and back to the hotel for farewells and bed. A group of us must leave the hotel at 3:30am in the morning, and we need a few hours of beauty rest!


-------------Czars and Caviar Awards------------

The Count Sheremetev Award for having Dachas in every gay capital around the world. We are grateful he allowed us to join him on this property scouting expedition.

The Old Fashioned Stalinist Diplomacy Award for scaring the crap out of potentially dangerous Muskovites by uttering the dreaded phrase "Don't Fuck With Me, Boys! I'm from New York."

The Perestroika Award for using for using "salve" warfare to soothe the locals with a charming smile and political correctness.

The Boris Badinoff Award for being good enough to get a Roman off.

Russian Roulet Award for pushing his luck with adventuresome menu choices and riding the metro with gypsy children.

The Peter The Great Award for taking a particular interest in the yanking of teeth. (he's a dentist, and Peter the Great was famous for liking to practice dentistry on poor unhappy wretches who complained that their teeth ached)

The Anti-Socialist Award for taking a day off from touring in our pleasant company to do exactly as he pleased.

The Swan Lake Award for the most graceful (but potentially crippling) landing at the Moscow Flea Market.

The Shadow Operative Award for blending into every crowd so perfectly he just might be a KGB Agent.

The Bearish-nikov Award for being the cutest, cuddliest and nicest bear in all of Russia.

The "Capitalism" Starts With "C" for "Cash" Award for learning the hard way how much Russians hate plastic.

The Babuschka Drag Award for buying Russian hats with so many tassels that even Cher would think they're over the top.

The Lenin's Revenge Award for being the first to fall victim to a Russian pathogen, and for not letting it keep him down.

The Dostoevsky "Crime Without Punishment" Award for a) getting pick-pocketed b) having a credit card stolen from his room, and c) getting cheated out of a good massage. Some people have all the luck!

The Sputnik Award for flying across the planet to take lots of photos of Mother Russia, and always making sure he had the best vantage point from which to do it.

The Matruska Doll Award for having to nest parts of his long frame in the zip-up closet portion of the overnight train berth.

The Tolstoy Plot Unraveler Award for meticulously tracking every one of the unexpected twists and turns in this epic Toto Russian saga.

The Beef Strok'n Off Award for taking so many photos of hot Russian men that he's promised to make us all calendars.

The Tchaikovsky "Music Lovers" Award for sharing the closeted composer's love of good music and theatricality without all of his personal melodrama.
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