Dressed and ready to go we stopped briefly on the pier for our first photo opportunity.
The good news about this tour, it did not involve much walking and we would be able to see quite a bit of the city, tour the fortress, stop for photo opportunities and, at some point, stop to shop.
There was a message in the tour catalog alerting us to the fact that due to traffic and other conditions, the tour guides may alter tour itinerary and the order in which the tour is accomplished.
So many people on our bus inquired about shopping that the tour guide moved our stop to the souvenir shop from the finish of the tour to the beginning. Everyone on the bus was delighted.
The shop was quite nice and filled to capacity with beautiful souvenirs. Randy spotted a large, fierce looking stuffed Russian bear in one of the rooms and just had to have his picture taken. In another room you could get a cup of coffee or a little taste of Vodka. Many people opted for the Vodka. Very funny!
The one sad fact that she shared with us is that the Soviets turned many of the beautiful churches that grace the city into ordinary places to gather such as skating rinks, a decompression chamber for the Navy and other things that I cannot remember.
Then we were off to start our tour in earnest. Our first photo stop was St. Isaac’s Square where we could admire St. Isaac’s Cathedral and the monument to Nicholas I. On our way, our tour guide shared little interesting facts about the city like the fact that St. Petersburg was a city of weird museums. There are museums for cats, toys, dreams, non-conformist art, hygiene, water, political police and the list goes on.
From there we proceeded to a park on Vasilievsky Island where we could see and admire the Rostral Columns, The Old Stock Exchange (which now houses the home of the Naval Museum) and a great view of the Peter and Paul Fortress across the Neva River. The columns were originally used as oil-fired navigation beacons in the 1800’s.
The bus dropped us off at the entrance to the Fortress and we walked into a large parade ground. There were benches in front of the Peter and Paul Cathedral so people could rest while being told about this beautiful building.
We learned that the cathedral is the burial place of all the Russian Emperors and Empresses from Peter the Great to Alexander III. She also pointed at the weathervane atop the cathedral’s beautiful golden spire and told us that it was an angel holding a cross and stands 122.5 meters.
We spent considerable time walking around the grounds as we listened to our guide explain the various sights we were seeing and giving us a little history of the fortress and cathedral. Other buildings within the fortress include the City History Museum and the Mint, one of only two places in Russia where coins and medals are minted.
One of the more interesting sights was a bronze statue of Peter I (Peter the Great) in front of the guardhouse. The whole statue looked out of proportion with a small head, large torso and skeletal fingers. And, yet the tourist flocked to this unusual sight and clicked away with their cameras.
Next, we made our way down to a view point looking across the Neva River where we could see the St. Petersburg skyline. It was beautiful. There were steps that led down to the water and, of course, Randy had to go down and test the temperature of the water.
When he came back up the steps, all he said was, “Wow, that water is cold. I would not want to put my foot in it”.
We made our way back to the bus to head to our next photo stop, the Church on the Spilled Blood (originally known as Church of the Resurrection).
From the moment we sighted the church from the bus window we knew it was going to be just amazing. The church is so colorful and topped with beautiful onion domes that Russia is so famous for. I could not wait to get off the bus.
We were only given 20 minutes to walk to the church, take pictures and return. There was so much traffic and so many people. Not just tourists but buses, cars, trucks, vendors, locals dressed in period costumes offering to take pictures with the tourists, food carts; it was like a circus and all vying for the perfect picture of the church.
We did our best walking around and enjoying this beautiful building but because of the congestion on the street we could not get back far enough to capture the entire building. Oh, well, maybe next time.
The tour was coming to an end so the bus made its way back to the pier. Along the way we managed to see some interesting sights. One in particular was the two Sphinxes on the University Embankment. I thought that was an odd sight. By the time I realized what I was looking at the bus was well on its way passing it by.
After a short rest in the afternoon, Randy and I prepared for the evening. We met Steve, LuAnn, Tom and Maryann at the lounge enjoying a few cocktails and talking about our day. Always fun!
When Randy talked about our tour he told everyone with great enthusiasm about our visit to the Church on the Spilled Blood, “We only saw this church from the outside and it is amazing how beautiful it is. It is located next to a canal with thousands of people taking pictures and vendors selling their wares”.
Dinner with our tablemates was, as always, wonderful. I especially enjoyed my meal this evening. I chose the Mustard-crusted Roast Beef dinner with au jus, Yorkshire pudding, potato gratin and fresh vegetables. The dinner was delicious and very filling. So much so, I could not eat a dessert.
We left the dining room and went back to the cabin to watch as the ship left port and spend some time relaxing. Randy enjoyed watching the pilot boat make its way back to the port.
Me, I just sat on the balcony and waited for the sun to set. For my patience, I was treated to yet another beautiful, explosion of color in the sky as the sun set slowly beyond the horizon.
Tomorrow we will dock in Helsinki, Finland.