Our very first visit to Russia. As a child of the cold war, I have embedded preconceptions about this place, and I find it amazing that I could grow up in an era where a visit to Russia was not even remotely possible, and now we can cruise into the harbor for a visit, and we don’t even worry about the KGB sending us off to Siberia.
We have arrived in St. Petersburg’s new cruise port, which is a horseshoe shaped pier that can accommodate up to 8 ships. Unlike most ports, a visa is required to get off of the ship, which is automatically provided if you are on one of the ships tours, so there is no independent travel. A face to face with passport control officers (grandchildren of the KGB guys, I am sure) is also required.
We met out guide, Tatanya, aboard the bus and began our tour into St. Petersburg. The city, the second largest in Russia with a population of 5,000,000, was founded by Peter the Great in 1703, after he pushed the Swedish army out of the area. He was so enamored of the area that he decided to build a prominent city here, and began massive development projects to turn the swampy area into a city patterned after Amsterdam, with dozens of canals. In 1712 it was named the capital of Russia and all the court, institutions, and officials moved here. Originally Peter proclaimed that there would be no bridges across the canals and instead he instructed the citizens to learn sailing and boating – a proclamation that inevitably was reversed.
St. Petersburg’s architecture is not at all what I expected – I was thinking gray Russian buildings, and instead we got buildings that looked like any other European city. Very nice!
In case you cant read the Russian cyrillic alphabet, this says Stroganoff Restaurant. Apparently Mr. Stroganoff, a Russian nobleman, had no teeth, so a dish was invented for him where the beef was cut into small pieces and served with a cream sauce, so he could chew it.
Peter the Great – founder of the city.
This is the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood. Built from 1883 til 1907, on the spot that Tsar Alexandria the II was murdered in 1881. When the communists came to power, they used this beautiful church as a morgue.
On a bridge near the Church of the Spilled Blood – this is a tradition we have seen in many parts of the world. Lovers write messages on the locks and then padlock them to a railing.
Time for a lunch break – at this restaurant, complete with Vodka, Beef Stroganoff, and a Russian trio.
After lunch we proceeded to Hermitage – Russia’s premier museum and once the summer palace of the Tsars.
To be continued in the next entry……..