St.Petersburg, August 14-15, rainy
We also toured Yusupov Palace, noted as the site of the assassination of the monk Rasputin. We saw the “actual celler where Rasputin was poisoned”. Seems there was even more to the story, he didn’t die from the poison, but escaped to a garden where he was shot multiple times, was then dumped into a river. The autopsy showed that he was still alive when dumped into the river, as there was water in his lungs. He drowned. Poor bastard! Aside from that grisly drama, the palace itself is very beautiful and we enjoyed touring it. Though we endured more “KGB system on your ear”, as J&K’s guide called it. Afterward we were given way too much time at what another passenger calleda Russian mafia shop. It sold all sorts of souvenirs, including a set of nesting dolls made up of Russian rulers, the largest one was Putin. So, tempted to buy a shirtless Putin magnet, we resisted and didn’t buy anything.
The passport control back on to the ship took forever, and many people missed their evening excursion to the ballet. What a mess!!
The next morning, in line for passport control, then….. we went on a canal cruise on the Fontanka River or the Moika River, don’t know which. It was cold and rainy, but I could image that it would be really gorgeous in the summer. Wait, this is the summer! The palaces along the river really do look beautiful and you could see that this is the Disney front with the workings behind. The boat crew gave us wool blankets and served Russian sparkling wine. Credit given here for honest description, it’s not champagne. Really, it was a nice trip.
Finally, we went to the Hermitage, the place I most wanted to see. It is closed to the public on the day we are there and I hope for a little space, only cruise ships passengers are allowed in, but it is still packed. Though we were required to go through with our guide and were shuffled through by prison matrons. The rooms are amazing. It would have been great to see more of the artwork, especially the French impressionists work which were recently moved to another building, but we were “there”, made it to see the Hermitage.
I can almost understand some of what the guide is saying now, what I thought was “double giggles” as the symbol of Russia (TOTALLY inappropriate!), turned out to be “double eagles”, and the St. Petersburg lines on buildings , are actually lions. She is automatronic, I just know, she sort of winds up then groans out information and is unaware of the group to whom she is speaking. Some of our tour group members complain that they are left behind as she rushes into crowds without us.
Then, another lunch that is nearly identical to yesterday, and then we are off to the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, a magnificently restored building that was built on the site of the March 1st, 1881 assassination of Tsar Alexander II. Then to the awe-inspiring St. Isaac’s Cathedral, capped with a massive central dome, lavishly covered with 220 pounds of pure gold. then to the Peter and Paul fortress, which was originally built to protect the city from Swedish attack. The fortress soon became a place for imprisoning political prisoners, including Peter the Great’s own son. Within it is the city’s second tallest structure, the Peter and Paul Cathedral, which boasts an ornate gilded interior, 18th-century paintings, and the tomb of Catherine the Great.
A too long stop at another Russian Mafia souvenir shop, and I am happy to have checked St.Petersburg off my “must see” list. Not planning a return trip, but I am glad that we were able to see what we did see.