Category Archives: Russia

Thankful for Travel, 2019 Edition

This post began with and is adapted from http://www.maryo.co/giving-thanks-day-7-october-24-2017/

Today I’m thankful for Travel.

We’ve been fortunate to be able to travel to several interesting places.

Last fall, we were able to go to Copenhagen to embark on a Baltic Cruise.  This was the best cruise ever, although a little tiring!  I’m still catching up on these blog posts but I have done posts for Copenhagen, embarkation, Warnemunde, the first sea day, Tallinn and the first day of St. Petersburg so far.  Hopefully, I’ll get the rest done before next year!

 

 

In the Fall of 2018, we did a cruise to Canada.  It looks like I still need to write those posts, too.

oops

Some trips, like Iceland, we just lucked in to. We’d wanted to go to Ireland but the travel agent couldn’t get us in at any time over that summer. She did get us a deal where, if we flew Iceland Air, they’d give us a free week in a hotel in Iceland before flying us to London. Duh! Wonderful trip.

A couple years ago we were in Costa Rica and took a day trip to Nicaragua where we stood at the rim of Masaya, a live volcano.

 

Masaya Volcano, Nicaragua

 

And a neat train in Alaska (more about this trip here: http://www.cushingsonline.com/Alaska/alaska.htm)

 

Our bus driver was a very good driver who told us all about the history of Skagway and the surrounding areas. Our first stop was Liarsville (http://www.klondiketours.com/goldcampshow.html), a tent village for gold miners. It was called Liarsville because many newspaper reporters were there publishing tales of how “easy” it was to find gold and become rich. No Way! The locals did a show for us and let us pan for gold. Of course, most everyone found some little gold flakes. A very hard way to make a living!

We made our way up the White Pass on the Klondike Highway to a 3,000 ft waterfall, Dead Horse Gulch (a lot of packhorses couldn’t make it the whole way), the Moore Bridge, Yukon Suspension Bridge at Tutshi Canyon and up over the West White Pass into Fraser British Columbia Canda, the same way that the miners had to walk or go with pack animal and 2,000 pounds of supplies. Much easier by heated bus! It was very scenic and we took lots of pictures. 

At the summit of that, in Fraser, British Columbia, we got on the White Pass & Yukon Route (WP&YR) Railroad train.

The WP&YR was originally built to help those miners who were hauling the ton of supplies up the pass but they finished building the railroad a year after the gold rush had ended. There’s more info about this railroad at http://www.wpyr.com We went over trestle bridges, through tunnels, over glaciers. Definitely a worthwhile trip.

WP&YR webcam: http://www.whitepassrailroad.com/multimedia/webcam.html

Here’s a bit of our train trip. Tom took this from the platform between the cars:

 

 

A very scary road between Stirling and Kinlochard, Scotland:

 

 

A helicopter around Barbados (more about this trip at http://beautiful-barbados.blogspot.com/2008/08/wednesday-week-one-helicopter-day.html)

Helicopter

 

Edinburgh Tattoo – twice! (Hoping for a third in 2020)

 

 

Panama Canal.  In the volcano image above, I’m wearing the t-shirt for the Panama Canal Railway that runs through the jungle.

 

 

 

Costa Rica and the Oh My God bridge.  They took this down while we were there – thank goodness!

 

 

 

And the not so good: Fire ants in Hilton Head, Thunderstorm while walking on a very slippery wooden walkway through the Everglades, Africanized Killer Bee in Costa Rica, …

 

Baltic Cruise 2019: Russia, Day One

September 18, 2019

Our most popular tour–and the most comprehensive tour at the most competitive price on the Baltic–the 2-day Deluxe Tour in St. Petersburg includes two full days of visits to the most sought-after sites as well as traditional Russian lunches. An experience accompanied by an expert yet conducted through a personal presentation of the city. There are also opportunities for sightseeing and shopping. This tour is for those who want to make the most of their two days in St. Petersburg.

Guided Visits:

Hermitage Museum (Winter Palace) – Enjoy a guided tour of the museum’s most famous halls, including major highlights such as the Jordan Staircase, the Raphael Loggias, the Pavilion Hall with the famous Peacock clock, and many others, along with the world class collection of artworks. Our tour is designed to give you a thorough introduction to truly one of the greatest museums in the world.

Church of our Saviour on the Spilled Blood – The iconic Orthodox church where Alexander II was fatally wounded, the richly decorated exterior and the exquisite mosaic interior are a must-see for any visitor to St. Petersburg.

St. Isaac’s Cathedral – This is the largest cathedral in St. Petersburg, and the fourth largest in the world. This is an awe inspiring structure from outside and from inside.

Peter & Paul Fortress and Cathedral – First established in 1703, the original timber fortress was one of the first structures erected in the city. This area has since played an important role in the history of the city and the country, not only for its military significance but also as a political prison, as well as the burial site of the Russian Tzars.

Peterhof Fountain Park and Gardens – The summer residence of Peter the Great, this estate features meticulously maintained gardens and a collection of gold statued fountains that is unlike anywhere else in the world. The Grand Cascade (the park’s centrepiece) contains 64 fountains alone, with the Samson statue at its centre shooting a powerful jet 20 meters into the sky.

**Catherine’s Palace with Amber Room – This Rococo palace was once the summer residence of the Russian Tzars and represents the peak of imperial opulence. A visit wouldn’t be complete without seeing the Amber Room, which has been completed reconstructed in great detail, some say even more exquisitely than the original.

Yusupov Palace – Although not of royal lineage, the Yusupov family was exceptionally wealthy and had great influence in Russia. Their residence, seated on the bank of the Moyka River, showcases ornately designed rooms, stairwells and a stunning private theatre. A visit to the room where Rasputin was murdered is also included on the tour.

Find some more information about the City sightseeing tour.

ST. PETERSBURG DELUXE TOUR

DAY 1

8:00 (may vary depending on your ship arrival time) Meeting next to the ship

  • City Tour “The Historical Capital of Russia”
  • Hydrofoil ride to Peterhof
  • Peterhof Upper gardens and Lower Fountain Park Tour
  • Traditional Russian lunch
  • Journey to Tsars’ Village/ Pushkin
  • Catherine’s Palace Tour including the Amber Room
  • Merto Ride
  • St Isaac’s Cathedral
  • Church on Spilt Blood

18:30 Return to the ship or optional evening activities

Where we actually went:

 

In the morning, we could see the Viking Sky “parked” next to us at the Morskoy Port Terminal 1 (Морской Порт Терминал 1).  That’s the ship that was arriving as we were leaving Germany on September 15.

After breakfast, we tackled Russian passport control.  It wasn’t so bad but I’m glad that the visas were taken care for us by our tour company.

We met Natalia, who would be our guide for the next 2 days.  We were on a Mercedes 16-person bus which was really nice.  We had the same bus and driver for the entire trip.  Each seat had a water bottle provided and they gave us a new one the second day.  We were also provided with raincoats.  Mine is still in my backpack.

Our first stop was Quay with Sphinxes (Сфинксы) at Университетская наб. The two ancient sphinxes were brought from Egypt to Russia at the height of Egyptomania in 1832.

We also saw the Rostral Columns (Ростральные колонны). Natalia said that they lit the torches on the tops on major holidays. These two columns stand. on the Strelka (“spit”) of Vasilyevsky Island. For over two centuries, they have formed an integral part of the city’s central panorama over the River Neva.

 

We went across the Palace Bridge (Дворцовый мост) – actually, we went across is several times on this trip and got to Peter and Paul Cathedral (Петропавловский собор) and Peter and Paul Fortress (Петропавловская крепость).   Note that everyone is wearing jackets and hats!


The Cathedral is a Russian Orthodox cathedral located inside the Peter and Paul Fortress and is the first and oldest landmark in St. Petersburg.

It was built between 1712 and 1733 on Hare Island along the Neva River. Both the cathedral and the fortress were originally built under Peter the Great.

The cathedral’s bell tower is the world’s tallest Orthodox bell tower. Since the belfry is not standalone, but an integral part of the main building, the cathedral is sometimes considered the highest Orthodox Church in the world.

The cathedral houses the remains of almost all the Russian emperors and empresses from Peter the Great to Nicholas II and his family, who were finally laid to rest in July 1998. Among the emperors and empresses buried here was Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia for 34 years.

We stopped at a gift shop that also had free coffee/tea and restrooms.  HOORAY!  Then, our driver made a slick u-turn in traffic.

Next up was Peterhof Museum Reserve (Музей-заповедник «Петергоф»).  Peter the Great wasn’t shy naming things after himself

They had lots of interesting fountains.  This walkway periodically would shoot water and people would get wet!  There was also a bench which sprayed with water if the correct stones were stepped upon getting to it.

 

They were getting ready for some sort of big concert.  I have no idea what that big face was for.

I’m thinking that this is the name of the concert?

 

This fountain was pretty neat

 

After that, we had lunch at a fancy restaurant called Aleksandriya Peterhof.  We had a “typical” Russian lunch.  Maybe Peter the Great had this but I doubt that the comrades were so lucky.

We had chicken pate, borscht, sausage, grilled peppers, potatoes and several types of Ice cream.

Next up, The Catherine Palace (Екатерининский дворец).  We had to check our coats (free), and wear paper things on our.shoes.

Catherine Palace (also called Tsarskoye Selo or the Tsar’s Village) is located in the small town of Pushkin, about 17 miles south of St. Petersburg. The palace’s ornate, baroque design is breathtaking, and its  2427 feet length is massive. Like many St. Petersburg structures, the Catherine Palace is brightly painted. The exterior is a brilliant robin’s egg blue, trimmed in white and gilded with over 200 pounds of gold.

Peter the Great presented the palace’s estate to his wife Catherine in 1710, and it served as the imperial family’s summer residence until the time of the last Tsar in 1917.

One of the banquet halls


This is a fireplace

This is the outside

This is also the outside.

This is one of the many pianos

 

We went in the Amber Room (Янтарная комната) but weren’t allowed to take pictures.  King Frederick William of Prussia gave Peter the Great the original inlaid amber panels after Peter admired them in a room in Frederick’s palace. The 16-foot jigsaw-looking panels were constructed of over 100,000 perfectly fitted pieces of amber.

The Nazis dismantled the amber panels and shipped them from Russia to Germany during World War II, and they have never been found. Much mystery surrounds the fate of the amber room panels, and many Russians believe that they still exist somewhere in Germany.

Russian artists began recreating the amber panels using the old techniques in the early 1980’s, and the room was opened to the public in 2003.

Back to the ship, exhausted.  After a 9.5 hour day, walking 4.4 miles, I’m glad we opted not to go to the night-time entertainment.  There was a choice of a ballet or a folk show.  If we had gone, we would have had to have taken dressy clothes with us on the bus and changed in some restaurant bathroom.  I really didn’t care to see Swan Lake again, especially if there weren’t going to be any famous Russian dancers.

It was Asian night at the buffet onboard.  I usually had some sort of Asian food for dinner, anyway, so it wasn’t quite as special as it could have been.

And, we got lucky!  There was an excellent Folk show in the theater.  No changing required.

 

Slideshow of the “Live Photos”

Slideshow of the still photos

 

Tomorrow will be another long day in Russia.  We have to get through Immigration and meet our group by 7:45am

 

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