Today we docked in St. Petersburg, Russia and were very happy to see bright, sunny skies and learn that temperatures would reach the mid-seventies.
We will be in St. Petersburg for two days. Last year we visited St. Petersburg and had an amazing tour of the Hermitage Museum.
The second day we visited the Peter and Paul Fortress and had an informative bus tour around the town with several stops including the Church of our Savior on Spilled Blood with its beautiful onion domes.
At the end of that trip I had mentioned to Randy that if we ever came this way again I would love to go the Katherine’s summer palace and the Peterhof palace. However, after Sue and I talked we both decided to participate in tours that gave us a feel for what it would be like to live in the city and see the city from the perspective of the canals.
We slept in, which for us, meant sleeping until 7 AM. We dressed quickly and made our way up to the lounge for breakfast with Doug, Sue and Karen. We were in no rush because our scheduled tour did not begin until 1:30 PM.
It was suggested that passengers participating in tours arrive at immigration at least 45 minutes early because the lines are long and the process slow. We went down to the port by 12:30. As it turned out the lines were shorter than the last time we were here but they were still very slow.
As we stood in line one of the doors suddenly opened and an immigration officer burst through the door and yelled, “Why are you here? Are you on a tour?” Then when we responded yes she yelled, “Why are you here so early?” and slammed the door shut behind her. Within a few minutes two more immigration officers were in place and the line started to move a little faster.
We boarded the bus for a short ride into downtown St. Petersburg and readied to go down into the Metro for our train ride to the Kuznechny Market. After our guide gave us each one train token we walked a short distance to the Metro station. The St. Petersburg Metro system was opened in 1955 and has 67 stations traveling on 5 lines.
I could not believe how far down we had to ride the escalator. We learned that the system’s deepest station, Admiralteyskaya is 86 meters below ground. Can you imagine? Riding the metro today was to serve two purposes. First was to get a feel what it would be like for a resident to move about the city using mass transportation. Second was to see and enjoy the beauty of the several stations.
We rode the Green line passing four stations, boarded a second train on the Red line finally arriving at the stop that would take us to the market. As we walked through the stations we were amazed at the beautiful marble walls, wonderful chandeliers, bronze plaques, mosaics, golden carvings, murals and beautiful statues creating a museum feel to the stations. We learned each station is dedicated to something important in Russian history. I must say it really was quite impressive.
We finally arrived at our stop and proceeded to the Kuznechny Market. The market was built in the 1920’s and houses open-air food and fresh produce stands, glass display cases filled with meats and cheeses, flowers, handicrafts and so much more. Everything in the market looked and smelled very fresh and I was impressed that samples were available for the asking.
But what I found a little dismaying is the level of disrepair of the market. The counter tops were crumbling, there were tiles missing and at least one of the scales was very rusted and the floors were in terrible shape. It was as though nothing had been done to keep the market in good repair for a long time.
While Randy and I waited for the others to come out of the market I walked around the street a little and came across a sign that looked familiar. It was a Starbucks sign. It really is a small world, I thought. Sue bought some delicious Bing cherries to share while we waited for everyone to gather together and start our walk to the next stop on our tour.
We walked for quite a while through an interesting part of the city walking past a beautiful church all covered in sheeting for renovation and finally arrived at the Biscuit Restaurant. This restaurant was ready for our group with tables set with bottles of water, small chocolates and a slice of chocolate cake. A very nice server came along and offered to fill our cups with hot coffee.
After our very long walk through the city, sitting down for a short rest, hot coffee and chocolate was a treat indeed. The coffee was some of the best we had had so far. The cake was creamy like a mousse and the candy tasted just like a favorite of mine when I was a child. These tiny morsels of chocolate were filled with fruit and nuts and quite good.
On our way back to the ship the bus took us on a tour of the city down Nevsky Prospekt pointing out many of the city’s prominent buildings. Traffic was a nightmare. I wondered if every resident in the city owned a car. We moved along at a snail’s pace.
While we were busy traveling around the city Vilma and the others were on their first day of a two-day tour that would take them to Catherine’s Palace, , the Hermitage, Peter and Paul Fortress, St. Issacs, Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood and the Peterhof Palace. Today they visited Catherine’s summer palace, the Peterhof Palace and had a fabulous lunch in small cabins.
After a busy day of walking I was ready for a quiet evening. With that in mind, we made our way up to the lounge for a cocktail, then down to the dining room for a great meal, and finally, back to the cabin for a good night’s sleep.
I asked Randy how he felt about the day. “Our tours were very nice and informative and I loved the stop for coffee and cake”.
Tomorrow we are on our second tour in St. Petersburg.