2013 0804 St. Petersburg: By the time we got up around 7:00, we were already docked in St. Petersburg. And there were three other cruise ships in the same docking area as well. Nothing to see from the ship … just some nuclear plant towers and industrial buildings and apartment blocks. Had breakfast in our suite, per usual.

About 8:30, we headed off the ship to go through passport control. They won’t let you into Russia without your passport, a visa or tour voucher, and an entry/exit form. While there were five border agents, it was about a 20 minute wait in line to get through. Marina, our guide from Esperance Travel was waiting for us in the lobby. We had a van to ourselves with Sergei as the driver.

Got to the Hermitage for early admission at 9:30. Besides the fact that there are several linked buildings (including the winter palace, the new Hermitage, etc.), it contains one of the greatest art collections in the world – over 3 million works of art. So, it’s overwhelming from the history, the rooms and furnishings, and the art. Marina taught history of art; thus we were well taken care of throughout – just the two of us and her. And she has an acerbic sense of humor, too! So we went from room to room, from one treasure to another. At 11:00, we were admitted into the Gold Room, where a colleague of Merina did consecutive translation from the Hermitage guide and showed us the gold treasures from the Bronze Age onward. Unbelievable stuff … naturally, no pix allowed. Boggling! Then Merina took us up to the Impressionist galleries for Cezanne, Van Gogh, Picasso, Renoir, Gauguin, etc. Oh, earlier we saw some work by Leonardo, Titian, Rembrandt, to name just a few. It’s obvious you could spend days in the Hermitage and not see everything. Days and days.

Lunch followed in a small, local place by the building that had housed the riding academy pre-revolution. Sweet and savory pies. Excellent.

We next drove to the Church of the Spilled Blood, which is erected on the site where one of the czars was murdered. Ornate is an understatement. It’s not used as a church anymore. And there is a whole history of trying to blow it up after the Revolution, its conversion to a storage facility, and rhe restoration in the 1970s where they discovered lots of mold in the mosaics that covered the walls and columns.

Last stop of the day was the Yusupov palace, where Rasputin was eventually killed. It was a private “residence” until the revolution when it became owned by the state. Lots of original furniture and paintings and varied room colors. Huge. It took us about an hour and a half to get through it at some speed.

We were tired and this was the itinerary for today, so we got back to the ship a bit after 4:00, washed up, and went to tea. Gotta have scones every day! Marian took a nap while I did pix and wrote. About 7:30 or so, we went to the Grand Dining Room for a lovely dinner. Back to the suite after 9:00 with soft light in the sky, sun still up.

Interesting to me that all these cruise ships have propellers on the side of the bow and stern so they can move sideways to and from a dock without the need of a tug.




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