Good morning from St. Petersburg, Russia! Wow, we made it here! Russia has always been one of those places we’ve talked about going to, but it had always seemed that political tensions were ever right and it always seemed to make us a little nervous. Feelings aside, we concluded that there is no time like the present and this city was one of the biggest reasons for this trip.
Our first stop on the agenda was to Nevesky Prospect, a popular street with great photo opportunities.
Our first stop on this tour was to visit the Hermitage Museum. The Hermitage Museum is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world, it was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and has been open to the public since 1852. Of the six buildings of the main museum complex, five, named the Winter Palace, Small Hermitage, Old Hermitage, New Hermitage and Hermitage Theatre, are open to the public. The Hermitage Museum has 3 million pieces in the collection. If you were to spend one minute at each piece it would take you 11 years to go through the museum. We saw numerous pieces of art, statues, and some of the jewels of Russia.
For our second stop, we visited the The Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, which was built between 1883 and 1907. This iconic cathedral has been on our bucket list for many years and it was just as gorgeous as we thought. This Church was built on the site where Emperor Alexander II was fatally wounded in March 1881. We enjoyed being in a famously photographed location and learning the history behind the cathedral.
Next on the agenda was a Russian lunch and musical and folkloric entertainment. We enjoyed socializing with our group mates and enjoying the cultural moment.
After lunch, we visited Yusupov Palace or The Moika Palace, was once the primary residence in St. Petersburg, Russia of the House of Yusupov. The palace is most famous, however, for the murder of Rasputin at the hands of Prince Felix Yusupov over Russian involvement in the First World War. This Palace contained many beautiful rooms and detailed decorations of the time.
The final stop for a day tour included St. Isaac's Cathedral. This cathedral is the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city. St. Isaac's is the largest orthodox basilica and the fourth largest (by the volume under the cupola) cathedral in the world. On average, if completely filled, the cathedral can hold approximately 10,000 people without pews. In the Russian Orthodox religion there are no pews in the cathedral and it is considered part of a meditation to stand the entire service,
After a busy day out and about, we returned to the ship for a brief time to change for the special event evening activity.
Tonight was a wonderful Russian experience of Catherine’s Palace, music, a live orchestra in the Great Hall, dinner, and folklore. We started the evening with a visit to Catherine’s Carriage House and a vodka and appetizer reception.
After the reception, we were off to the formal entrance of Catherine’s Palace. We walked through the main gates and walked down the long drive and were welcomed by the red carpet and brass band, Upon entering the Palace, we enjoyed a lovely private tour of the various rooms, in addition to the Amber Room and Gold Rooms. At the end of our tour we all met in the beautifully decorated Grand Hall for a champagne and string orchestra concert and formal Russian dancing display. It was a beautiful setting for a special private evening in a gorgeous palace. After the concert, it was off to a 10:00om dinner and folkloric show.
All in all, it was a long 6am - 12:30am day and tomorrow morning we are to meet at 6:55am to start our last day in St. Petersburg. It’s been a great first full day and we are excited for what tomorrow holds for us!