I woke up this morning at 5 AM. Randy was sleeping so peacefully I did not want to waken him. I peeked through the curtains to see a dreary morning sky and rain drops falling quietly on the balcony.
I noticed that several other cruise ships had arrived this morning. By 7 AM I was ready to start my day and jumped into the shower and dressed.
Around 8:30 AM we made our way up to the lounge for coffee. Before too long Doug joined us and then Dale and Karen. Sue had an appointment for a massage and joined us later. We all sat around sipping coffee after a bit of breakfast and laughed away the morning hours.
The air was thick with fog and rain this morning as we made our way to our first stop at the opulent palace of the Yusupovs. The Yusupov Palace was also the place where the murder of Grigory Efimovich Rasputin was planned and carried out.
There was more than one tour group in the palace and no discernible line so everyone had to be vigilant to keep up with our tour guide Irina. We slowly walked from one room to another with each room seeming more opulent than the other.
There was a beautiful theater accessed by a beautiful white marble staircase in the lower quarters of the palace complete with stage, balcony and boxes completely decorated in red velvet and gold gilt.
The ceilings, walls, floors were almost as beautiful as the furniture, paintings, chandeliers and other pieces of art in the palace. There were pictures of the family and the monarchy throughout the house and Irina shared little stories about each one.
My very favorite room in the entire palace was the little dining room in the basement. We turned into the room and saw a Madam Tussaud wax recreation of the murder of Grigory Efimovich Rasputin. . As we stood by, Irina recounted the events of that fateful night. It was quite interesting.
The recounting of the murder was almost comical if it was not so tragic. Evidently, Rasputin could not be killed. During the evening the murderers tried to poison him, shoot him several times and eventually threw his body into the Malaya Nevka River. According to his autopsy, a small amount of water was found in his lungs leading people to believe that he was still alive when thrown into the river. Amazing.
Over the years I have read several Russian history books and novels so I was very excited to see and hear about this murderous event in the very home it occurred in. I found it fascinating.
Afterwards, we made our way back to the cloak room, retrieved our belongings, wound our way through very congested streets to meet the canal tour boat for our cruise along the Moika River.
While we were in the palace the rain had stopped and the air was actually getting a little warmer. By the time Randy and I boarded the boat all the seats on top were taken so we had to go inside. There was plenty of seating and the windows of the boat opened assuring us of clear views of the landmarks we would be passing as we cruised along. After a while, Sue came down and told me there was one seat left and off I went.
It was quite interesting to see the city from the viewpoint of the canals and rivers. The boat cruises along at a nice steady speed and a steady stream of information about what we were seeing was announced over a loud speaker.
There are fifteen bridges that span of the Moika River all with different and distinct decorations and several bridges that are different colors. There is a blue, green and red bridge. As we traveled under the bridges people could be seen waving as the boats went by. We learned later that Vilma and the others stood on one of the bridges waving at the boats hoping we would see them. We did not but how fun would have been!
We also went out onto the Neva River giving us a beautiful view of the Hermitage, the Peter and Paul Fortress as well as other important sites along the city landscape. According to what I read, “Now more than 20 bridges span the river and its armlets. Most of these bridges are bascule bridges and are opened at night during the navigational season for large vessels to pass through”.
This was to be a four hour tour but it was obvious that it had gone a bit longer. Part of that was due to the fact that traffic was thick as mud making our return to the ship very slow. As we pulled into the port we noticed that several other buses suffered the same fate.
The immigration officers hurried us through quickly and we went directly to the dining room where we joined Vilma, Jim, Mickey and Betty and had a great time sharing stories about our last day in St. Petersburg. Everyone had a good time. Doug and Sue had a reservation at Chops Grille.
While we were visiting the palace and cruising along the canals Vilma and the others were finishing their great two-day tour of the city.
The dining room staff put on a show for that was musical, lively and just plain fun. They do this a couple of times during the cruise to show their appreciation for our supporting the cruise line.
I went on to the cabin while Randy and Jim went to deck 5 to watch the ship make its way through the channel. When he returned I asked where he and Jim had gone to.
“During dinner I talked to Jim about the area we would be going through on the way to the Baltic Sea. I told him that we would be able to see old and new Russian ships and old WWI and WWII defenses,” Randy said.
He went on to say, “We went out on deck together and saw the things I was talking about, then went in to the Centrum found a place to sit and had a drink together. Then we talked about old times together, cars and guns,”. He smiled and said that he enjoyed this quiet time with Jim and I thought, very nice.
Tomorrow we will be in Helsinki, Finland.