Our memories must be failing – it seems a very long time since leaving Moscow. We have arrived in Saint Petersburg after being delayed by heavy Artic fog during our cruise down the waterways of Russia. Today, we are able to keep to the original timetable and all is back to the way things are usually done in Russia.
While having another Scenic breakfast, we dock some 40 minutes from the city center. Coaches are ready to take us to what Saint Petersburg is famous for. Our ‘No 2’ ambassador is a local and has had vast experience tour guiding in his city and enjoys comparing Saint Petersburg to Moscow and how the traffic here is less chaotic.
Saint Petersburg has had several names, the most recent being Leningrad. After the fall of the USSR, the locals wanted the name to revert to the name Peter The Great, the founder, had given it. The temperature is not as cold as it has been in the north. Our morning tour is through ‘The Hermitage Museum’. In many ways, I am reminded of the tour through the Vatican; great tapestries and artwork. Some of the halls are enormous and gold leaf is a plenty. There are crowds of people and we are told that this is just a 5 out of 10 in intensity of tourists. The summer crowds are usually 9 out of ten and so we can make it through the museum in less than 4 hours. Not being racist, we are reminded that Asians want to do and see things immediately and it is better to ‘let them through’ than to try and keep order. There are 5 buildings that make up ‘The Hermitage Museum’; we manage to tour part of 4. The fifth is a concert hall, which doesn’t contain anything of significance.
Lunch is taken in another historically significant restaurant, but the cake shop on the way has my interest. (Mmmm must return during ‘free-time’) Being vegetarians, the salmon steak is not too inviting, but the cheese soup is a good take. When we come to having tea and coffee, we ask for milk and are told that it is not included in the meal (Wish I knew where the local MacDonald’s was so I could get FREE milk).
After viewing the Cathedral of the Spilt Blood, we are shown where various touristy spots of interest are and are set loose on the town. The two gift shops we are directed to, have some very nice local souvenirs in and we eventually find some pins of the Russian Flag to attach to our vests with the other flags of countries we have visited this year. The amber jewelry is noticeable. Of course, the matryoshka dolls are a plenty.
Some of the department stores are very swish. The clothes on display are winter stock – not good for us coming into summer – so we save a lot of money, yeah! Yes, we find ‘that cake shop’ again, and enjoy some chocolate cake decorated with interesting cream swirls. However, they do not have hot chocolate. We find a coffee club shop to satisfy that desire. The chocolate is so thick, you can almost stand the spoon upright in it. Has anyone tried hot chocolate with pancakes? Not bad, not bad!!
This evening, we are treated to an hour of the Russian Ballet. It is held in a theatre which was built by Catherine the Great for private entertainment and has a grand staircase at the entryway. The 25-piece orchestra accompanied 9 ballerinas, and whatever the word is for male ballerinas. It was just enough for many in the group as the end of the day often sees them kipping on the side.
The evening meal is welcome after arriving back at the ship at 9:45pm. Not many stay up to dance into the wee hours of the night tonight, for tomorrow is a packed full day of visiting 2 palaces in the outer suburbs.