Friday, June 27, 2008

Back to the Land of My Ancestry

27 June 08
Leaving St Petersburg, Russia

I have just had the BEST two days EVER!!! I just can’t believe I have been in RUSSIA!!

Ok, so I will start with yesterday; our first day in St Petersburg. I am probably going to struggle with actually writing my blog. There was so much to see, so much to learn and I am still trying to digest it all. So as they say “A picture is worth 1000 words” and I will leave it mostly to the pictures.

Got up early to “work” for a few before having to meet the tour group at 8am. (ha ha - I needed to make an appearance so I didn't get a bollocking for buggering off all day and night on tours) I got my bus-load all settled and we left a few mins early even. We headed out of the port and our guide said we were going to do the City Tour first. So basically that is consisting of driving around the city, making a few stops at some important “Kodak Spots” and then moving on. The city tour was going to take a few hours before we stopped for lunch.

We passed St Nicholas church, the Maly Theatre (where the ballet will be that evening) the Summer Palace, Peter & Paul Fortress and the Winter Circus. Had a few mins to stop at the Naval Academy, Cruiser Aurora, Resurrection Cathedral and the Church of the Spilled Blood for pictures and to walk around for a bit.

What a morning!! I had taken about over 100 pictures by the time we were done and heading to lunch at 11.45!

Had lunch at Academia; a local restaurant (pectopah) that has live entertainment. The food was excellent; A yummy salad – I think I have had it before; I will have to ask my Mother. (I think my Aunt Julia has made it) Excellent challah bread and the butter I am used to having at my Grandparents house. The main course was a nice beef stroganoff and dessert was a lemon and peach thin sponge cake. It really felt like I was back in the states, visiting my relatives and having dinner there!

After lunch we stopped at the Alexander Monument for some pictures of it as well as St Isaac’s Cathedral and the Senate buildings on the opposite side. When we finished there, we then made our way to the Winter Palace and Hermitage Museum.
The palace was amazing! Completely speechless about it, so I will let the pics do the talking. The Hermitage is attached to the Palace so you can easily go from one to the other. You will tell in some of the pictures that the rooms start to ‘tone down’ on the ornate décor as it transitions. It really reminded me of Versailles in France; with the palace and museum. Although, there was not enough space when it was built to add the gardens like Versailles has. (The Palace is built right along the Neva River)

After a few hours, when we finished that portion of the tour we went out into the Palace Square to take some pictures before going to our next stop. Our next and final stop was the State Academic Capella for a choral performance. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was moved to tears when they sang. First of all, the acoustics in the center is said to be one of the best in all of Russia and now I know why. Secondly, although it was all in Russian it was simply brilliant. I literally had tears and goose bumps! (My mother would have been bawling I am sure) I have to say I was gutted when we left and they didn’t have their gift shop open. I wanted to purchase a CD. But I am going to look online and see if I can find anything about the group.

We headed back to the coach and into rush hour traffic on the way back to the ship. It seems ‘rush hour’ starts after lunch and goes right through to dinner. Doesn’t make any sense to me, but our guide said they don’t have any large roads to go around the city, so if you want to get from one side to another, you have to go right through it. (I will mention Day 2’s debacle with such traffic in my next post) Took us over an hour to get back to the ship. I think it should have only taken about 20 mins if we didn’t have the traffic. OY!

I got back to the ship at 6 and had to rush on and to my cabin to change; I had to be getting my group at 6.30 for the ballet! I was already wiped out, but a change of clothes and a quick bite to eat upstairs would do the trick. I made it to my group on time and off we went to the coach again. Once we were on our way, I actually fell asleep on the way there; I was completely knackered!

The ride was short but we hit some traffic and got to the drop off point at about 7.45 (the show was at 8pm) but we had to hussle it on the walk over (just around the corner really). Once I got my group there, they were on their own to the seats (as everyone was scattered about) and I made my way to my box seat with the other escorts. Not sure how we managed that, but we weren’t complaining!

I didn’t bring my camera as I knew we couldn’t take any pictures and even though I could turn the flash off and be sneaky, the shutter makes that proper clicking sound, so I wouldn’t be able to get away with it. Tanya had hers and snuck a few pics, so I will take a look and see if any of them are any good. We were lucky and got to see the performance of Swan Lake!! It was only that night, so I was glad our itinerary had been changed. (If we had been staying tonight, it was a different show) It is the Rimsky-Korsakov Ballet School. I thought they were amazing; certainly not "students" in my opinion!!

St Petersburg Pictures ~ Day 1:

Stay tuned for Day 2 .. it is definitely a little more interesting! LOL :P

No comments: