Stanley Reports] ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hi Boys and Girls! Flat
Stanley here in still in St.
Petersburg, Russia. We had a busy, crowded, wet, windy and wild
day! And silly Mrs. Rickly left her
camera bag in the tour van with me in it..again! She stayed out way passed her bedtime and
did not get back to the ship until 2:30 in the morning. So, we are a bit late at telling you about
today’s adventures. But do not go
away. We will tell you about what we did
We do want to thank our night tour guide, Inna. Her full name is Mkrtchian Inna, and she was our guide
for our very-late boat ride on the Neva River.
She had to put up with rain, wind, and us, but she was really
knowledgeable, helpful, and fun during our middle-of-the-night trip. You made this part of the trip special,
Inna. Many thanks!
See you later!
This day started early and ended tomorrow. We met Masha and Valeriy outside the cruise
terminal a little after 9am. Our sun had
gone away but at least it was not raining at the start of the day. First up on the agenda was Catherine Palace. Masha had tickets for 10:30am and we dared
not be late. The Palace is in Pushkin, a
village about 1 ½ hours away from the cruise terminal. It was nice to get out of the old city and
see a little of the outskirts of St. Petersburg. Huge new apartment buildings and some rather
nice shopping areas dominated the sides of the road. Arriving at the Palace, we were again impressed
at its imposing size as we had experienced when we first saw the Peterhof
Peter the great had
preferred a smaller, homier, summer dwelling, but when his daughter, Elizabeth
came to power, she found her mother’s and father’s residence outdated. She had it demolished and built a much-grander
palace. The palace was 230 meters long
and 100 kilograms of gold were used to gild the stucco facade. Behind the palace is a great formal garden overlooking
a huge man-made lake. Catherine the Great took power and made even more
changes. Catherine insisted on water features, but
despised fountains and realized water pressure was not strong enough for large
fountains. She settled for a lake
Upon entering the building, we again noticed the lavish use of gold to
gild almost every room. Most stunning was
the Great Hall or ballroom. Painted in
just two colors of gold and ivory, the ballroom spans the entire width of the palace
and is 325 meters long—about 3 football fields.
There are 696 lamps lit on 12-15 chandeliers that hang in front of huge
mirrors to reflect the light. Can you
image when those chandeliers contained 696 candles? We passed through dining rooms, portrait
halls, a Chinese Drawing Room, and a boudoir of Alexander I.
Probably the most famous room is the Amber
Room. Amber is golden-colored fossilized
tree sap. Each small piece of sap was
inserted in panels and arranged against mirrors and gold leaf to make an
amazing room of gold. Unfortunately,
this room was the only room that had signs saying NO PICTURES!
During World War II, the workers at Catherine Palace tried to cover
the amber walls with wallpaper to hide it from the German Nazi army, but did
not stop the looters from crating the amber and sending it back to
Germany. To this day, the original amber
has never been found and many believe it burned in a great fire at Konigsberg
Leaving the Palace, Masha took
us to a nearby restaurant. We were all
going to try the dumplings, but the restaurant had run out. Rox tried the borscht soup which didn't
really have a "beet" taste. We
found pieces of sausage and a piece of ham in it. Larry did a Chicken Kiev and Rox had beef round. Both were quite good. We really enjoyed the quiet respite and a
place to rest. On the return trip we
both nodded off for a bit but perked up as we returned to the city.
Rain had begun to fall, and we donned
raincoats for the next two stops, both of which were churches.
The first church we visited was Saint Isaac’s Cathedral. The church is dedicated Saint Isaac of
Dalmatia, a patron saint of Peter the Great, who had been born on the feast day
of Saint Isaac. Originally built as a
cathedral, it operates mostly as a museum today. The church took forty years to build. The foundation consists of 25,000 wooden
piles driven in the marshy land of St. Petersburg. Covered in salt water, oxygen does not reach
the wood and it does not rot. There is a
large 101.5-meter-tall central dome plated in pure gold with four smaller
surrounding domes. The gold was mixed
with mercury and sprayed on the dome.
Vapors from the fumes is reported to have killed over 60 men. (The dome
was painted gray during the German invasion to hide it.) It is said the U.S. Capitol dome was
influenced by this great dome. There are
112 red granite columns in place around the dome with each weighing as much as
The second church was The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. The church was built on the site where
Emperor Alexander II was fatally wounded in March 1881. A portion of the cobblestone street where
Alexander was killed is still visible within the church. The walls of this church were covered in
paintings, but the overall atmosphere was somber and dark.
Despite the rain, we had enjoyed a great day with Masha. Actually we made one more quick
stop in a modern shopping mall to visit a jewelry store. Rox had asked Masha for a suggestion for a
jewelry souvenir for our granddaughter.
Masha suggested some really cute little bird earrings that were all the
rage among Russian girls. We were able
to find them here.
By 6:00pm we were back on the ship and ready for an early dinner. Our disappointment from earlier in the
day when our lunch restaurant had run out of dumplings was tempered when we
found that the Pool Grill on the ship was having a Russian meal of dumplings
and Beef Stroganoff. Masha was right, the dumplings are quite tasty.
Returning to our room, we tried to nap a bit
before the night activity. We were very
nervous about returning to the streets of St. Petersburg at midnight but didn’t
want to miss this once in a lifetime opportunity for a boat ride on the Neva
River to see two of the drawbridges open at 1:30 am to allow ship passage down
the river. Not only the bridges are lit
up but also the buildings are lit along the river. Our tour company arranged for our trusty driver,
Valeriy and a new guide, Inna. Inna was
fun to be with and suggested some photo stops before we got to the ship. Did we forget to say that is was very cold
and still spitting some occasional rain?
Fortunately, the ship also had an interior heated space with chairs,
tables, and a bar. There was even a
saxophone player to entertain us. When
we neared the bridges, everyone grabbed blankets and headed on deck for
viewing. Fortunately, the rain had stopped,
and we reveled with the others as the bridges rose into the night sky. Our boat also passed through the open passage
and we enjoyed snapping photos. Since
our driver had crossed from the cruise port island over these bridges to the
old town island, we were stuck for an hour until the bridges closed. We spent the time walking on the streets and
taking additional night photos. The town
was still very much alive with many people still on the streets despite the
cold. Finally, the bridges closed and we
were able to return to our ship at 3:00 am.
What an experience! Good thing we
didn’t need to meet our guide Masha until 9:30am.