ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA


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(Russia Map)


3 HOUR AND 28 MINUTE VIDEO OF ALL MY TRAVELS IN RUSSIA.
(Individual videos can be found below and on sesequent pages.)

All of the images below are thumbnails and can be clicked on for a larger image.

THURSDAY, AUGUST 4, 2011:

The highlight of my 11-day Baltic cruise was our overnight stay in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Saint Petersburg is located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea.
In 1914 the name of the city was changed to Petrograd,
in 1924 to Leningrad and in 1991 back to Saint Petersburg.
We sailed into St. Petersburg's harbor very early on Thursday morning.
Shortly after sunrise we were off the ship and starting two very busy days of sightseeing.

We passed the Narva Triumphal Arch on our way to Peterhof. It was erected as a memorial to the war of 1812.
Sunrise in St. Petersburg, Russia RCL's Jewel of the Seas sailing into St. Petersburg, Russia The Narva Triumphal Arch in St. Petersburg, Russia

The Peterhof Palace is actually a series of palaces and gardens, laid out on the orders of Peter the Great.
These Palaces and gardens are sometimes referred as the "Russian Versailles".
We toured the interior of the palace where no pictures were allowed.
Peterhof Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia Me at Peterhof Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia The Grand Cascade at Peterhof Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia

After our tour of the palce we adjourned to the gardens for the Grand Cascade.
Perhaps the greatest technological achievement of Peterhof is that all of the fountains operate without the use of pumps.
Water is supplied from natural springs and collects in reservoirs in the Upper Gardens.
The elevation difference creates the pressure that drives most of the fountains of the Lower Gardens.
The Grand Cascade at Peterhof Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia The Grand Cascade at Peterhof Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia The Grand Cascade at Peterhof Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia

5 minute video of the Grand Cascade at Peterhof.

After leaving Petrhof we had lunch and then visited Saint Isaac's Cathedral.
The cathedral's main dome rises 333 feet and is plated with pure gold.
Saint Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia Saint Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia

Saint Isaac's Cathedral is the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city.
It is dedicated to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, a patron saint of Peter the Great.
Saint Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia Saint Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia

The magnificent Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of St. Petersburg's most memorable landmarks.
The church, built at the end of the 19th century, is constructed in a classical Russian style decorated with
colorful domes and glazed tiles. Built to honor tsar Alexander II of Russia, who was assassinated at the
site where the church now sits, hence the reference to "spilled blood".
Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg, Russia Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg, Russia Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg, Russia

Next we made a shopping stop, YUCK! So I took a walk along the River Neva instead.
The River Neva in St. Petersburg, Russia

After a short break back at the ship we headed out for the evening.
We battled rush-hour traffic as we made our way to Catherine Palace about fifteen miles south-east of the city.
The Catherine Palace was the Rococo summer residence of the Russian tsars.
We were the first to arrive for the Imperial Reception.
The band played and they opened the gates for us.
Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia

The palace is best known for Rastrelli's grand suit of formal rooms known as the Golden Enfilade.
It starts at the spacious airy ballroom, the "Grand Hall" or the "Hall of Lights", with a spectacular painted ceiling,
and comprises numerous distinctively decorated smaller rooms, including the reproduced Amber Room.
Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia Rastrelli's grand suit of formal rooms at Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia The Amber Room at Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia

Empress Catherine II greeted us in the palace's Throne Hall for a champagne reception.
A string quartet performed selections of classical music as dancers in period costume demonstrated
courtly dances while Imperial hussars heralded the arrival of the noble couple with a fanfare of trumpets.
Rastrelli's grand suit of formal rooms at Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia Imperial Reception at Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia Imperial Reception at Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia

We then adjourned to the courtyard where there was another dancing performance.
We then had a traditional Russian dinner which was accompanied by lively Russian entertainment.
We got a nice night time view of St. Petersburg on the drive back to the ship.
We got back to the ship about midnight, where we had to sleep fast for another early rise on Friday.
Imperial Reception at Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia Night time view of St. Petersburg, Russia

27 minute video of the Imperial Reception at Catherine Palace.




FRIDAY, AUGUST 5, 2011:



After only a few hours sleep I continued my whirlwind tour of St. Petersburg, Russia.
We lost our beautiful sunshine from yesterday and the St. Petersburg sky was its more typical grey color.
We began the day by driving along Nevsky Prospect, the main street in the city.
We made a stop at Palace Square, the central city square of St Petersburg and of the former Russian Empire.
The centre of the square is marked with the Alexander Column (1830–34).
This red granite column (the tallest of its kind in the world) is 156 feet high and weighs some 500 tons.
It was the setting of many events of worldwide significance, including Bloody Sunday (1905) and the October Revolution of 1917.
Our next stop was at the Rostral Columns which are opposite The Old Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange building.
Palace Square in St. Petersburg, Russia The Old Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange and Rostral Columns seen from the Neva River Rostral Column in St. Petersburg, Russia

Our first major stop of the day was as Peter and Paul Fortress.
The Peter and Paul Fortress is the original citadel of St. Petersburg, founded by Peter the Great in 1703.
The cathedral is the burial place of most Russian tsars from Peter I to Alexander III.
Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, Russia Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, Russia Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, Russia

Next it was across the Neva River for our tour of the Hermitage Museum.
The Hermitage is a museum of art and culture, one of the largest and oldest museums of the world.
It was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great. Its collections comprise nearly 3 million items,
including the largest collection of paintings in the world. The collections occupy a large complex of six historic
buildings along Palace Embankment, including the Winter Palace (seen below), a former residence of Russian emperors.
The Winter Palace (Hermitage Museum) in St. Petersburg, Russia The Winter Palace (Hermitage Museum) in St. Petersburg, Russia Staircase in Hermitage Museum

The collection of Rembrandt's paintings in Russian Museums is one of the most outstanding in the world.
It is concentrated in the Hermitage Museum, two of which are pictured below,
"Danaë" and "Portait of an Old Man in Red."
Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia Rembrandt in Hermitage Museum Rembrandt in Hermitage Museum

The masterpieces pictured below, left to right are:
Madonna and Child (The Conestabile Madonna) by Raphael,
Madonna and Child (The Litta Madonna) by Leonardo da Vinci,
and Crouching Boy sculpture by Italian painter and sculptor Michelangelo.
Madonna and Child (The Conestabile Madonna) by Raphael in Hermitage Museum Madonna and Child (The Litta Madonna) by Leonardo da Vinci in Hermitage Museum Crouching Boy sculpture by Italian painter and sculptor Michelangelo

There are three large interiors with red walls lit by a skylight from above enclosed in the middle of the
Hermitage complex. They are adorned with 19th-century Russian lapidary works and feature Italian and Spanish
canvases of the 16th-18th centuries, including Veronese, Tintoretto, Velázquez and Murillo.
Skylight Room in Hermitage Museum

As we left the Hermitage Museum the sun returned just in time for our cruise.
We started the cruise on the Moika River and then sailed into the larger Neva River.
On the Neva we passed Peter and Paul Fortress and several other places we had visited earlier.
Moika River in St. Petersburg, Russia Peter and Paul Fortress from Neva River Neva River with Trinity Bridge, Old Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange and Rostral Columns in distance

During the hour long cruise a young boy ran along with us the entire time.
Everytime we sailed under a bridge he would be in the center of it waving to us.
Neva River in St. Petersburg, Russia Young boy who likes to run in St. Petersburg, Russia Moika River in St. Petersburg, Russia

15 minute video of my boat cruise in St. Petersburg, Russia.

After the cruise we went to lunch at a local Armenian restaurant.
After lunch we visited the Yusupov Palace, our last stop on the tour.
The Yusupov Palace or Moika Palace was once the primary residence in St. Petersburg of the House of Yusupov.
The palace is most famous because of the actions of its last prince Felix Yusupov.
The exact events surrounding Rasputin's death are much in dispute. The story, according to Yusupov,
is that on the night of December 16, 1916 he, along with Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of the House of Romanov,
invited Grigori Rasputin to the Moika Palace. Supposedly, they served Rasputin cakes and red wine laced with
cyanide—supposedly enough poison to kill five men. Concerned that Rasputin appeared unaffected,
Yusupov retrieved a gun and shot Rasputin in the back. Taking him for dead, the party prepared to leave.
Yusupov returned a short while later to find Rasputin still alive. He and his conspirators shot Rasputin,
at close range, three more times, but Rasputin was still attempting to stand back up and flee.
Desperate they clubbed Rasputin in the head repeatedly with an iron bar, wrapped him in a blanket,
walked outside and tossed him into the Moika River. His autopsy supposedly found that neither the poison,
nor the multiple gunshot wounds, nor the clubbing caused his death—instead he died of hypothermia.
Yusupov Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia Yusupov Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia Yusupov Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia

After leaving Yusupov Palace we returned to the ship docked at the new cruise terminal.

We sailed away at 6:00.

100 minute video of my entire 2-day visit to St. Petersburg, Russia.

MY DAILY EMAIL SENT ON AUGUST 5, 2011
Thursday & Friday, August 4 & 5:

It has been an amazing 36 hours in Russia. We docked in St. Petersburg at 6:00am Thursday morning and only minutes later I was off the ship and heading for the first sight on my 2-day mega-tour of the city. Our first stop was Peterhof, the magnificent palace built by Peter the Great. The palace opened up early just for us so we were the only ones there so there were no crowds to fight. We spent a couple hours touring the interior of the palace. There was gold everywhere. No photography was allowed inside so I can't send photos of the interior. Below is the exterior of the palace.

The Grand Cascade at Peterhof Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia

At 11:00am they turn on the fountains in a special ceremony called "The Grand Cascade." It was beautiful. The picture below was taken from the terrace looking down on the fountains and gardens.

The Grand Cascade at Peterhof Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia

After Peterhof Palace we went to lunch. We went to a local restaurant. There was barely room on the table for food between all the glasses. Wine, vodka, Champaign. I guess all the booze helps wash down the Russian cooking. Some musicians entertained us during our lunch.

Next we visited St. Isaac's Cathedral which is pictured below.

Saint Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia

There are no pews in Russian churches as the congregation is not allowed to sit.

Saint Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia

Next we visited the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. The church occupies the spot where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated. The multicolored facade of the church was spectacular.

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg, Russia

There was a shopping stop and then it was back to the ship for about an hour to dress for our evening out. It took over 90 minutes of driving through rush hour traffic to get to Catherine Palace. We got to the Palace a little before 8:00. The Palace was closed and was being opened up just for us. My group was the first to arrive. As we got there the gates were closed and then the band started to play and the gates opened.

Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia

It was a beautiful evening, not a cloud in the sky. We had cocktails and canopies before entering the palace.

Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia

We were the very first people to enter the palace, we had the whole place to ourselves. The picture below does not do justice to the experience, but this is looking down a long series of rooms with all the doorways trimmed in gold. It was like looking into a mirror but there were no mirrors.

Rastrelli's grand suit of formal rooms at Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia


All the rooms were the most extravagant things I have ever seen. Below is the Amber Room. The wall coverings in just this one room are worth more than 50 million dollars. Normally photography is not allowed in the palace, but we were special people and could take as many pictures as we wanted.

The Amber Room at Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia

The tour of the palace ended in the Throne Hall. Here Catherine the Great welcomed us and there was a champagne toast to friendship between our countries. Then a string quartet played court dances for performers in traditional costume.

Imperial Reception at Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia

Then we were taken into the courtyard where the band played and then horse drawn carriages arrived and dancers got out and performed in the courtyard.

Imperial Reception at Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia

You wouldn't know it to look at the picture above, but it was after ten at night when that was taken. Next we were taken back into the palace for dinner where Russian singers and dancers entertained us as we ate. As we finished dinner it was after 11:00 and was almost dark. We drove back through the city with all the buildings lit up. There were no traffic jams to fight on the way back and we got back to the ship at midnight. It was a long but amazing day. We all had to sleep fast though, we had to be back on the bus at 7:00am.

This morning started off quite cloudy. We started the day with several photo stops that would be impossible to do later in the day due to the traffic. Below is Palace Square, the third largest square in the world. This city is kept immaculately clean. The street cleaners had just finished cleaning the square before this picture was taken.

Palace Square in St. Petersburg, Russia

Next we visited the Peter and Paul Fortress.

Peter and Paul Fortress from Neva River

Next it was off to the Hermitage. Yet again the place was opened early just for us. The Hermitage is huge and totals six buildings in all. It houses over three million works of art.

Skylight Room in Hermitage Museum

Below is a Rembrandt.

Rembrandt in Hermitage Museum

Below is a work by Leionardo Da Vinci. All the museums have these "museum ladies" in them and they are everywhere. If you touch a wall or lean too far over a rope barrier they are on you faster than a bee on honey. And then you get a good scolding. It reminded me of the nuns in Catholic school.

Madonna and Child (The Litta Madonna) by Leonardo da Vinci in Hermitage Museum


By the time we got out of the Hermitage the skies had cleared and it was bright and sunny again. Just in time for our canal cruise. This is the second city that I have visited on this trip that said they were "the Venice of the North."

Moika River in St. Petersburg, Russia

It was a very scenic cruise through the many canals and rivers in the city.

Neva River with Trinity Bridge, Old Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange and Rostral Columns in distance

Of course there was more champagne on the boat. If I actually drank all the booze I was given in the last 36 hours I probably would have no memory of ever being here.

Moika River in St. Petersburg, Russia

As we left on the cruise there was this boy waving at us. He than ran to the first bridge we went under, stood in the middle of it and waved. He repeated this throughout the entire cruise. Every time we went under a bridge he would be standing on it waving at us. We almost missed the sites of the city we were too busy watching him. The cruise lasted one hour and he ran the entire time. We all gave him money when we got off the boat. There has got to be an easier way to earn a buck.

Young boy who likes to run in St. Petersburg, Russia

It was time for lunch after the cruise. As usual lots of booze and lousy food. We finished the tour after lunch with a visit to Yusupov Palace. This is where Rasputin was murdered. Everybody was pretty worn out by the time we left here.

Young boy who likes to run in St. Petersburg, Russia

This was a special elite tour where the group sizes were smaller than the normal tours. We had the same tour guide for the entire two days. She was outstanding. There was a total of eight buses doing this same tour at the same time. We were bus #2 and were always first to see and do everything. Every place we went that had a performance we were sitting front row center. There was a friendly competition between us and bus #1 but they always lagged a little behind. It was a fantastic two days. We are now back in the Baltic Sea sailing for Finland.

More still to come,

Tim

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I returned to St. Petersburg in 2013. Click HERE for the details.


Click on the arrow above to continue to the next adventure, Helsinki, Finland!



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