St. Petersburg, Russia, July 17-20, 2011

The train trip from Helsinki was fast and uneventful.  We did Finnish emigration and Russian immigration on the train.  On arrival we were met by Tatiana and went to the river boat docked in the suburbs at Salt Pier. Tatiana is the guide for my group right though until we leave Moscow.  She is informative, funny and knows just how much to tell you without boring you.  The first day we did a city tour stopping at various spots such as the Smolny Cathedral, St. Basil’s Cathedral, the viewpoint for the Fortress of Peter and Paul and the Hermitage, the Cathedral of the Spilled Blood and much more.  During one of the stops, an itinerant salesman of hockey jerseys saw Canada on my nametag and thought I might really like one with Tretiak on it!  We went to Swan Lake at the Conservatory that evening.  The dancers were recent graduates and not all were up to par though the principal ballerina  was quite good.  The next day we went to the Catherine Palace at Pushkin, formerly known as Tsarskoe Selo.  It was quite beautiful as much of it has been restored.  They have replicated the famous Amber Room which was stolen during WWII and has never been located.  I always had the impression that the amber was in large sheets but actually it is placed on the walls like mosaics.  Unfortunately it was the only room in which we could not take photos.  The gardens have also been restored.  Much restoration is done on a volunteer basis or by donations from abroad.  One of the Romanov descendants helped get the money for the Amber room.  Putin has also been instrumental in providing funds or materials ( like gold for gilding) to aid in the restoration of St. Petersburg.  The next stop was the Hermitage.   They say it could take nine years to view each item in the collections for one minute.  We had three hours in the midst of large crowds.  However, Tatiana did a very good job of showing us the highlights and giving us an hour to see what we each wanted to particularly see.  I went to the permanent collection of Impressionists.  I had no time for ceramics or Asian Art.  I definitely need another trip for that.  The next morning we went to Peterhof on the shore of the Gulf of Finland to see the palace and gardens which contain marvellous fountains.  This palace was spectacular though we were not permitted pictures inside.  No expense has been spared to rebuild it from a complete ruin.  Both it and the Catherine Palace were heavily shelled during the siege of Leningrad and not all of the collections inside were saved.  However, much was, and the Russian  restorers have done a brilliant job of restoring the fabric of the buildings. Peterhof in particular is extensively gilded, silk wallpaper has been replicated and each room simply shines.    In the afternoon I had a choice of another palace or a cruise on the rivers and canals of the city.  On the recommendation of a friend who was here in June, I did the cruise.  I really was worthwhile to see all of the buildings from a different perspective.   Returning to the boat, we set sail for our five day cruise to Moscow. The first stop will be Mandrogyi.  The pictures below are of Smolny Cathedral,  St Basil’s Cathedral, the Grand Hall at the Catherine palace  and the fountains and palace at Peterhof.

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2 Responses to St. Petersburg, Russia, July 17-20, 2011

  1. TAS says:

    Fabulous – we will be leaving in a few days for the same cruise. Your blog is informative and well written.

  2. lholland6365 says:

    Thanks, I hope you enjoy the cruise as much as I did.
    Leslie

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