Sunday, January 19, 2014

St. Petersburg, Day Two

Thursday, August 22, 201

This was a big day. One of our primary reasons for taking this particular cruise was to visit the city of St. Petersburg, Russia and more specifically go to the Hermitage Museum. This huge museum, consisting of six historic buildings, holds three million pieces of art and artifacts, including the largest collection of paintings in the world. Obviously, not all items are displayed at one time. The bulk are kept in storage facilities. The museum.was founded by Catherine the Great in 1764 and has been opened to the public since 1852. For years it was her personal, private collection. The museum got its name from her saying she liked to spend time with her art collection alone as though she were a hermit.

Obviously you can only see a representative sample in two to three hours. Our guide has a "Top 30" so we gratefully followed her to and fro, seeing a lot but contemplating little. There just isn't time to stop and really take in what is being seen. Aside from that, it was a thrill to be there and see what we did see.

A note about the guide. She was outfitted with a microphone attached to a wireless transmitter. Each of us had an earpiece and we were surprised at how clearly we could hear her, even in a busy, loud environment.

Highlights of what we saw were the French Impressionists rooms, two paintings by Leonardo de Vinci (there are only twelve in existence, the Mona Lisa being the most famous), a fantastic gold peacock clock with multiple moving's hard to narrow it down.
The visit was over all too soon and alas, we had to leave. We had gotten to the museum for an early entry, an hour before usual hours, that the cruise ships seem to have engineered. When we left the place was mobbed. We, surprisingly, were able to get around with what seemed like minimal crowds. This was truly a memorable experience.

Up the steps into the Hermitage


Van Gogh

Incredible inlaid floors

Somebody's throne

More amazing floors

People lined up to enter museum

Gold peacock moving clock

Crowds lined up at Leonardo da Vinci's paintings

Da Vinci

Da Vinci

Add caption

After another food court lunch we headed by bus to Peterhof, the summer residence of Peter the Great. The highlight here was the impressive and grand gardens and fountains. As you will see in the photos, there are plentiful and elegant fountains, all fed by natural water without the use of pumps.

After spending about an hour there we went back to the city via hydrofoil, were picked up by our bus and transported to the ship. One last pass through immigration and we were on the ship and on the way to Talllin, Estonia, our next stop on this amazing itinerary. 

Very upscale mall

The written language is something else

New apartment construction in suburbs

Fountains at summer residence of Peter the Great

President Putin's St Petersburg palace

Saturday, January 18, 2014

St. Petersburg, Russia

Thursday, August 22, 2013 St. Petersburg, Russia

First day of two days in St. Petersburg. We have signed up for two days of excursions plus an evening at the ballet.

The ship has several excursions that you can sign up for in each port of call (for a price...they are not included in the cruise price). It is a way to see highlights of the different stops of the itinerary.

Our first day's itinerary included a tour of Catherine's Palace, the summer home of the Russian tzars in the town of Pushkin, just outside St. Petersburg.  We also visited a couple of famous churches in St. Petersburg, St. Isaacs and Church of the Spilled Blood.  Before boarding the tour buses we had to go through immigration at the pier. The Russians have strict guidelines which must be followed as to documentation, no smiling, stay orderly, etc. The ship excursion people took care of all visas, etc. for us.

Once aboard the bus we rode for a long time, passing through downtown St. Petersburg. My overall impression is ugly buildings and backed up traffic. Most people live in high rise rather unattractive apartment buildings. St. Petersburg has 5 million inhabitants so it is very congested.

Housing in St. Petersburg

A bit more upscale
  We arrived at the palace and our entry into the building was marked by a small band of uniformed musicians. Once inside we were led about by our guide who provided a running commentary complete with anecdotes about Catherine the Great, her family, and their life. We went through room after room of heavily ornate walls, ceilings, inlayed wood floors, period furniture. One is struck by the opulence of the heads of state in those times. The attached photos will give an idea of this.
Summer Palace of Catherine the Great

Ornate Porcelain

Detail of filagree.  Wood carving with gold leaf.

Great hall-throne room-ballroom.  So glad to see such efficient
multi purposing of space.

Beautiful inlaid floors
More floors

Porcelain heaters.  Coals were placed inside to take the
chill out of the room.

Set up for a simple meal!

Proper dress for affairs of state

Back of palace overlooking gardens

 We took a brief walk about the garden area before heading for lunch. We drove a long way through traffic to a shopping mall with a food court. Not very elegant but a good way to feed a bus full of tourists. We had a Russian pancake, which is somewhat like a crepe with savory or sweet fillings. Pretty tasty really.

Lunch at food court.  We chose fast food over MacDonald's
Burger King, and KFC

Russian pancake.  This crepe like batter was cooked and filled
with your choice of sweet or savory filling.  

St. Petersburg has lots of canals and bridges
 Back to the bus again and off to St. Isaac's church, the largest in St. Petersburg and center of the Russian Orthodox Church in the city. As with all the points of interest, crowds are huge and traffic around the sites is very congested. The church is beautiful and contains an impressive array of paintings and art. The vastness of places like this stretch the imagination.
St. Isaac's Cathedral

Paintings of various saints

We were able to hear our guide through earpieces
Next we went to the Church of thr Savior on Spilled Blood. This is a gorgeous church which is decorated inside with mosaics-not one painting-all mosaics. What a sight.  Words can't describe.  Our reaction: goosebumps of awe.
Church of the Spilled Blood

All art is mosaics - no paintings

 We got back to the ship a little after five which gave time for a brief rest before before heading back out to go to a ballet of excerpts from Swan Lake. A lovely evening of classical ballet and beautiful music executed by talented professionals.

Whew, long day. We were back at the ship at eleven pm, just a few hours before our eight a.m. departure for day two's excursion highlighting The Hermitage Museum! 

Back to ship after the Ballet