Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Imperial Sites in St Petersburg, Russia


It took awhile to exit the ship because of the incredibly strict border security. We had pre-booked our two day St. Petersburg tour in Canada and met our guides at the port. There were fifteen people in our group.

Maria, our guide, and Alexi, our driver, were delighted because it was a bright sunny day. Maria informed us that usually they get about fifty sunny days a year in St. Petersburg and joked that winter starts in October and goes until the end of May.

We stopped a few times in the city of St Petersburg at some great picture vantage points. The sun sparkled on the rivers and canals. St. Petersburg calls itself the Venice of the North as it has more canals than Venice.

Maria warned us many times that we have to be careful because there are lots of pick pockets.

Our first tour stop was St Peter and St Paul Fortress and Cathedral. This was one of the first structures built in St Petersburg in 1703. The cathedral is the burial site of many of the Russian Tsars including Peter the Great and the last Tsar Nicholas II and his family who were assassinated in the revolution.

The cathedral is ornately decorated with much gilding.

We stopped at a Russian crafts shop at 11:00am where we had a free shots of vodka or coffee.

The rest of the day we spent out in the Russian countryside driving to Peterhof.

Peterhof Fountain Park and Gardens is often called the Versailles of Russia. This was Peter the Great’s summer palace.  The grounds are stunningly gorgeous with many gold statued fountains. 

Lunchtime consisted of an authentic Russian meal in a nearby restaurant. Of course it started with a shot of vodka, a small open faced herring sandwich, borscht (beet soup), sausage, grilled veggies, potatoes and Russian ice cream (which tasted a lot like North American ice cream).

In cheerful moods, we boarded our minibus and headed to the Summer Palace of Catherine the Great which is located in the town of Pushkin.

This lavish palace embodied everything I imagined the imperial lifestyle of the Russian Royal Family would be. Baroque in style, this palace was carefully reconstructed after the ravages of WWII. The most breathtaking was Catherine the Great’s Amber Room room ...sorry, I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of this.

Back in St Petersburg, we stopped at a subway station. After putting in our tokens, we boarded an escalator that went down and down and down. The station was beautifully decorated with marble walls with bronze embellishments. There was an impressive statue of Pushkin inside. It was like being in a palace.

On our ride back to the ship, I admired all the beautiful buildings and statues. 

Traffic was heavy. I noticed that many of the drivers were talking or texting on their cell phones.

Things seem to be pretty pricey here.

I wish we had more time to explore Russia. We are covering a lot over two days. I am impressed with how skillfully Maria and Alexi of SPBTours kept us moving from place to place. Maria is also very knowledgeable and well spoken. I have learned a lot.

We had to go through Russian border security to get back onto our ship,not like at the other ports where we just show the cruise staff our ship card.

We ended the night by watching a Russian Folklore Show by a St Petersburg song and dance troupe. 

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