We went on a cruise of the Baltic Sea. St. Petersburg was one port of call. We were there for two days. This is where I booked excursions for everyone in spite of detesting commercialism of any kind because I am a little bit afraid of Russia. Besides that, not one of us speaks one word of Russian and I wouldn’t expect the residents to know much English. Better, safer, to stick with a tour guide here.
We took a tour called Explore St Petersburg. 3 hours of driving around listening to a screeching PA system. Our guide was nice, spoke understandable English and explained some history as she pointed out the sights. It was basically a driving tour with a stop now and then at a postcard-worthy spot. We saw the Winter Palace, The Hermitage, The River Neva, and many other places.
Eventually we were let off the bus for almost 3 hours to wander around on our own. The first thing we did was go into a tourist shop and purchase stacking dolls and vodka. Elizabeth was *quite* anxious to see the subways. Randall was anxious that she get to see them and knew she wouldn’t get to do it on her own (tranlation: he wanted to go, too) so those two and Markayla went to the subway, following the directions our tour guide. They found their way to our meeting spot by using their own brains, which allowed them to cut off about 45 minutes of walking by riding the subway to a closer station than she sent them to.
Mark, Martina, Travis and I went to lunch on Nevsky Prospekt and I had some delicious ‘dumplings’ aka perogies, filled with mushrooms and potatoes with mushroom gravy. Yum. I mean YUM. This food was took a long time to get to the table but it was so worth it!
We sat in a park for a bit and watched people while waiting for the subway crew to arrive. We thought about walking to the market behind the Church of the Spilled Blood but honestly, I was too tired. So we sat.
St Petersburg is ugly, beautiful, depressing, intriguing. There are few plants, the grass is not mown, the buildings are stark and often falling apart. I suppose that landscaping would be ridiculous in such a harsh climate.
The guys saw a yacht that had just left from the shipyard! It was docked along the Neva.
For our second excursion, we went to the Evening Folkloric and the show was fantastic. Amazing, amazing voices and the really cool Russian dances. Oh my. Great and fully recommended. I’m not even sad to have not seen a ballet after our experience there, obnoxious Italian teenaged boys not withstanding.
St Petersburg is filled with sunbathers in nice weather. Unfortunately I missed the guy who stripped naked right by the bus. Where was I looking ? Who knows.
The time of year near midsummer is known at The White Nights that far north. It really doesn’t get dark and this makes sleep elusive. Sunset at 11:45 pm, Sunrise at 4:22 am. Half light in between. We quickly learned to hang a blanket over the window because the curtain let in too much light.
On day 2, Mark, Martina, Elizabeth, Travis and I went on an excursion called Murder on the Moika. This took us on a boat tour of the canals and out into the River Neva. We debarked and walked to the Yusupov Palace, scene of the murder of Rasputin. The palace was beautiful, though cracking around the edges in many places. Once again I was struck by the veneer of beauty that seemed to overlay deep decay that exemplified my experience of St Petersburg.
The boat captain and bus driver were amazing. Nothing there is designed for large craft and these drivers manage to weave their way through intricate streets and canals with their vehicles and no room to spare.
St Petersburg was fascinating and I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to go, but I it’s not on my list of places I want to go again.