Thursday, June 05, 2008

St. Petersburg, Russia - June 3, 2008

This morning we awoke in Russia! After such perfect weather, it seemed almost fitting that we were greeted with the traditional Russian cold, damp and cloudy weather. This properly set the mood for our first day to explore St. Petersburg. We were on a formal organized bus tour today. We had a very nice Russian guide who was born in this area, but may have benefited from some deodorant.

The security was tight leaving the ship and we were required to maintain close contact with the guide at all times. We hit several major sights throughout the city today, but many of those were simply drive-by sightings. From a moving bus it is very difficult to take any good pictures.

Our first brief stop for pictures was St. Isaac’s Cathedral, we stopped once more briefly near the Navel Museum before parking at the St Peter and Paul fortress. The traffic in town was very heavy as St Petersburg is the most populous city we’ve visited thus far. The tourist stops were also made worse by the several thousand extra visitors from the four very large cruise ships that were ported for a visit today. Our own cruise ship had no less than 9 full-sized tour busses operating on the same route as our own.

We had a very brief stop at the Church of our Savior of Spilled Blood and a small market plaza and didn’t realize it would be our only shopping excursion. We ran out of time before we could haggle with the vendors for the best trinkets. We enjoyed a lunch in town at the Academy restaurant and had live entertainment with lunch by traditional Russian folk musicians. Everyone tried the caviar, but not everyone enjoyed it.

Most of the afternoon was spent at the Hermitage Museum (Winter Palace). Neither the words on a blog nor a few snap shots can properly describe this place. The opulence and grandeur of the palace was amazing and the very small portion of the art work we could see in a few hours was stunning. This included Picasso, Monet, Michelangelo, Leonardo Divinci, Renoir and many others. They told us if you were to just look at each piece of artwork for only 10 seconds for 24 hours a day, the collection is so large, that it would take ten years to see everything!

All of the Russia Pictures can be found here:

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