We had an early start afer my having 2 hours of sleep because I just could not sleep the night before…I survived, though.
Getting through customs took a while! The queues! Thank goodness it’s not like that anywhere else! But get through it we did, and then we were on our little bus with 12 other people and our guide Alexander, and driver Yuri. Some of the people got lost on the way to the bus, so we were actually the last to leave.
Alexander was amusing. He’s probably around late 20’s or early 30’s, and his english is impeccable. Yuri couldn’t speak any, though 🙂
Anyway, first stop was at Kazan Cathedral. It was strange with all the columns – like a mini St Peter’s in Rome. The church is still used, so no photos were allowed to be taken. It was really beautiful inside, too.
Across the street from it was the Singer Building. It’s actually an American company and no longer owned by them, obviously. It’s pretty though!
We could also have a look up and down Nevskiy Prospect, but it wasn’t all that interesting to photograph with all the cars and buses on it. The power cables everywhere were incredible! The buildings on each side are most impressive, though.
Next stop was Isaac’s Square and the church on it. Another gorgeous building, inside and out:
The mosaics are quite amazing. They’re about a centimeter square and all handmade glass smolt tiles.
Then it was back on the bus and off to the Hermitage/Winter Palace. It’s been many colours, apparently, currently it’s pale aqua. Lovely:
It’s one of the sides of the Palace square, another of which is the Arch of the General staff and containing the Alexander Column:
It was Monday and the museum is actually closed on Mondays. However, the tour companies can buy more expensive tickets. And they do: we stood in line with all the other tour groups for a good 30 minutes! And it was so full inside! I’d hate to see it when it’s open!
Our guide told us that if you spent 1 minute looking at every item in the museum, you’d be in there for 11 years. Unfortunately, we only had about an hour and so we rushed through a few rooms and corridors and looked at maybe 3 paintings in detail (2 by Leonardo da Vinci and one by Rubens). The palace had been destroyed in WWII, like so many others, so nearly everything is reproduction.
After this, it was back on the bus and then to lunch. Lunch was fine, but nothing great. The soup (chicken noodle) was nice enough but the main fried rice dish with 1 piece of meat was not very interesting. Dessert of chocolate and vanilla icecream was even less so. But we were hungry by this time, so ate it 🙂
Next was a drive out to Pushkin. Pushkin is a famous poet and author – the equivalent of Shakespeare, apparently. This is where he went to university etc, so there’s a statue to him:
It’s right next door to the Catherine Summer Palace. The palace is huge! And similar to the Winter Palace (same architecht) in many ways. It’s still being renovated, but they’ve come a long way already in 60 years (another WWII destruction). It’s really beautiful inside – with all the gilding etc, it’s very Baroque.
We had a very short walk through the gardens on the way back to the bus. They were lovely!
We hopped back on the bus for the trip back to the ship and end of Day 1 of the tour, for everyone else.
We got to use the machine at the terminal for a coffee and eat the dry bagels that we’d pinched at breakfast and had in our backpack all day. Yum. Not 🙂
St Petersburg by night a.k.a. The Vodka Tour
Then Alexander picked us up again (lucky him!), along with 4 people here and gave us a drink of Vodka. We then went back to the city and picked up the other 6 before we went for a little stroll along the Nivskiy Prospect:
Then we went to the famous Eliseevsky Food Hall. This is a beautiful Art Nouveau Building with lovely (and expensive) pastries and alcohol and a little cafe area. We looked and took photos 🙂
We stopped at the Anichkov Bridge with its horse statues. They’re really very good! One on each corner – they’re all different, too.
Back on the bus then, to our secret Vodka hideaway. This is a little courtyard with lots of little bars and cafes, including one where you pay by the hour, using these old-fashioned clocks. Eileen and I went and had a look. I would’ve loved to take photos, but I don’t think the locals would’ve appreciated it! It was really quirky.
We stayed and drank with Alexander and most of the others in the craft beer place. I had a horseradish vodka (after the local wheat beer, of course!). It was nice, but I had to shoot it and eat a pickled gherkin straight after. Couldn’t savour it, unfortunately.
Then it was time for our canal cruise. Wow! It was cold!! We were supplied blankets, which is just as well! 🙂 But I ended up moving around taking photos and it kept falling off. Or maybe that was the vodka shots we kept having… It was a beautiful night though – no rain! And the lit up buildings were gorgeous.
We finished up all the vodka Alexander had brought – 4 bottles of different types – classic, rabbit (because there was something inside it that looked like rabbit droppings) and baby seal blood (can’t remember why he called it that, aside from the colour). They were all good, but my favourite was the classic.
After the tour it was back on the bus, dropping Alexander off at the Metro so he could get home, and then back to the passenger terminal, and on board by about 11.30pm.
I slept like the dead!
Another early day, but at least I’d had a bit more sleep. We met Alexander, our guide, at 7.50am and then we were off to town. First part was another cruise. This was on a slightly bigger boat, with other tour groups, and a differennt guide (Anna) who was very amusing. It took us past a few of the same things as the previous evening, but was not identical. It started off near the Admiralty embankment and Winter Palace:
Then further down the river and past Peter the Great’s palace, which is this tiny little one, compared to Catherine’s and Elizabeth’s palaces.
And past some views of Peter and Paul’s Fortress and other nice buildings which I can’t remember the names of:
Then we went over to Peter and Paul’s Fortress itself and had a look at the Cathedral there, which contains the graves of the last several Tsars. It was almost plain, compared to some of the other churches.
The fortress itself is not so interesting:
Next stop was the Savior on the Spilled Blood Church. Its actual name is longer than that, but that will do 🙂 It’s pretty amazing inside and out. The mosaics were unbelievable. So bright and gorgeous.
There’s some nice views of the canals/rivers here too.
Then we were off on a drive into the country – to Peterhof Palace. It’s probably 45 minutes or so (wasn’t paying attention) out there. This palace and gardens were partially destroyed in WWII as well, but they’ve been slowly restoring it. We only had time to see the Grand Cascades. Unfortunately, my SD card was full part way through the tour and I didn’t have my spare on me. Didn’t matter though, I think I had enough to show its magnificence:
Then back to the ship and time to say goodbye to Alexander and Yuri. We saw so much, but everything was full of tourists. It would definitely be better to come when there’s no ships in port – I think there were 10 or so. And perhaps in early Spring or late Autumn. If you can stand the temperatures. It was COLD, even though it was technically summer!