Thursday, June 2, 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011 – St. Petersburg, Russia – Cloudy and Rainy – 57F

The party’s over…

The two ships with us yesterday are gone and the Vision of the Seas is now docked.

 Vision OTS (Small)

Our tour today is “Panoramic St. Petersburg” and our guide, Julia (“Youl-ya”) speaks excellent English and is clearly knowledgeable about the city and its history.  The bus takes the same route as earlier from the pier to the Neva River. The guide informed us that the area of the pier all the way to the Neva River is actually an island called “Basil Island”.

Our route along the river gives a good view of the two identical Egyptian Sphinxes (over 2000 years old) (below) acquired by Catherine the Great on her quest to fill the city with art and artifacts.

Sphinx 1 (Small) Sphinx 2 2000 yrs old (Small)

Our first stop is at the twin Rostra Lighthouse Monuments.  Protruding from the lighthouse are ships bows (rostra) containing animals (below).  We were told that these were ships captured by the Russians.  The four statues at the base of the monument represent the four major Russian Rivers, including the Neva and Volga (far below).

Lighthouse monument 2 (Small)

Poseidon on Lighthouse base (Small) 

This seemed like a good spot for a photo op.  We were able to walk down to the actual edge of the river bank for one of the pictures.

 H and E Lighthouses (Small)  H and E Neva River (Small) 

I was really hoping to stop at the Peter and Paul Fortress located on an adjacent island and built by Peter the Great in 1703.  The fort, the first structure in St. Petersburg, was built to protect the city from the Swedes but it never fired a shot in battle.  The Citadel today contains the former Royal Mint, the Peter and Paul Cathedral (burial place of Tsars and their families). 

On this tour, the bus only drove by the citadel on this tour. 

Peter and Paul fortress from bus 1 (Small)

Peter and Paul Cathedral (golden spire)

Our next stop was at the site of the Battleship Aurora (below).  This ship, now a naval training site, aimed it cannons at the Winter Palace in 1917 and fired a blank round signaling the start of the Russian Revolution.

Aurora (Small)

The building below reminded me of Russian architecture even though it is made of glass.

Modern bldg on Neva (Small) 

Our next stop was to be the Church of Spilled Blood, the site of the assassination (a bomb) of Tsar Alexander II in 1881.  It started to rain and the passengers (not me) voted not to get out for pictures.  A few minutes later when the rain stopped, the bus driver tried to go back to the church but couldn’t due to the heavy traffic.

St. Petersburg has a network of over 60 rivers and canals – one of these, the Fountain River, is shown below.

Fountain River (Small)

The tour took us closed to St. Michaels Castle, the residence of Emperor Paul I.  He was so concerned about assassination after the bombing death of Alexander II that he refused to live in the Winter Palace.  Instead, he built another palace (below) and constructed a moat  (formed by rivers and canals).

He only lived in the Palace for 40 days until dismissed army officers assassinated him in his bedroom.  Hard to get good help.

 House Paul I 1 (Small)

One of the many canals, the Swan Canal, is shown below.

Swan Canal (Small)

The bus then turned onto Nevksy Prospekt, the main shopping Center of St. Petersburg.  This wide street is full of people, high end shops, busses, trams, and just about everything else.  Although it was only a small consolation, we were able to get a shop of the Church of Spilled Blood from this street.

Church of Spilled Blood from walkway (Small)

Nevsky Prospekt may be a high end street but there is still something for everyone – 6 inch sub anyone.

Subway Subs (Small)

Our final official stop of the day is St. Isaac’s Cathedral – the largest church in St. Petersburg.  It is located on Decemberists Square and was built between 1818 and 1858.  The architect of the church stated that he would remain alive until the church was built – hence the forty year construction period (many modifications to the plans perhaps).  He died in 1859 – I guess the plan worked.

St Isaac 1 (Small)

While Ellen was looking for souvenirs, I walked through the park across the street from St. Isaac’s to get a picture of the statue of Tsar Nicholas I.  Nicholas I was the father of Alexander II, who was the grandfather of Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia.

 Nicholas I 1 (Small) 

The Park adjacent to St. Isaac’s had wonderful tulips circling the grassy area (below).

 St Isaac Tulips (Small)

As we were leaving St. Isaacs, we could see the damage to the columns caused by German artillery shells during WWII.

St Isaac artillery damage (Small) St Isaac artillery damage 1 (Small)

As we got closer to the Neva River, we got a good look at the bronze equestrian statue of Peter the Great (below).  There is a lot of symbolism in the statue – a serpent behind the horse (enemies of Russia); the rock shaped like a wave.  Legend has it that St. Petersburg will never be defeated while the statue exists.  The statue was sheltered during the 900 day siege of the city in WWII and is essentially undamaged.

Peter the Great (Small)

Our final stop was a shopping stop on the more industrial banks of the Neva (many factories).  Clean bathrooms were the highlight.  Before we re-boarded the bus I got a nice shot of Ellen already on board.

E on Tour Bus (Small)

A relatively quick ride back to the pier and a much quicker pass through immigration and soon we were in the Windjammer for dinner.  As we were leaving St. Petersburg, Captain Stig came on the PA to indicate that the ship would be passed by a convoy of vintage Russian ships (headed for St. Petersburg for some type of festival).  Some of them are captured below.

 Vintage Russian Ship (Small) Vintage Tug (Small) Russian Coast Guard (Small)

The top two boats are vintage but the bottom boat is a Russian Coast Guard cutter.

The St. Petersburg sail away was interesting including the fort like structure below

St Pete sail away (Small) St Pete sail away 1 (Small) 

The Showtime Headliner tonight was Jacqui Scott, a veteran West End performer.  She put on a great show but I wish she had done more show tunes.  She did bring the place down with “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” sung alongside black and white images of her in the role of Eva Peron. 

Jacqui Scott (Small) 

Jacqui Scott 1 (Small) 

After the show, Clo came out in her 70s outfit (below).

Clo 70s nite (Small) (2)

On our way down to our room later, we did stop by the Centrum, which was packed solid with people.

Clo 70s nite 1 (Small) (2)

Clo in 70s gear

70s nite centrum (Small)

70s Night in the Centrum

Smooth seas…

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