Two days isn’t enough, really, to explore Saint Petersburg, the former capital and the cultural heart of Russia. But it’s what we had on the Royal Caribbean cruise of the Baltic Sea.
Steve and I booked a two-day tour in ‘small group’. It was expensive, yes, but being twelve in a minibus instead of on an army in big busses is so much nicer. And Marina, the guide form Arctur Travel, did her best to let us see a maximum. Arctur was hired as a subcontractor for Royal Caribbean.
1: Екатерининский дворец
We started off with Catherine Palace and Garden at Tsarskoye Selo, now Puskin. The Rococo palace was built for czarina Catherine I (which is not the same person as Catherine II the Great!)
It’s a great introduction to the Romanows‘ splendor. Catherine was Peter The Great‘s second wife. In the Museum of Horse Carriages you get to see the berline in which czar Alexander II was attacked. He later died of these wounds.
2: Церковь Спаса на Кров
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood was built by Alexander III to commemorate his father’s death. The architecture, in romantic nationalist, almost Byzantine style, contrasts with the western rococo and neoclassical buildings in Saint Petersburg.
3: Исаа́киевский Собо́р
Saint Isaac’s Cathedral is totally different. Its neoclassical style reminds you of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City in Rome. If it weren’t for the door hiding the altar or the absence of chairs, you’d mistake the cathedral for a Roman Catholic church.
4: Дворец Юсуповых на Мойке
At the Yusupov Palace, once owned by the princes Yusupov, we got the story of the mysterious and clumsy death of Rasputin in 1917. It was too little, too late to save the Romanov dynasty and czarist Russia.
4: Обзорная экскурсия по Санкт-Петербургу
We started day 2 with an hourlong boat tour of Saint-Petersburg, which gave an overview of the city. The green building is the Bolshoi.
5: Госуда́рственный Эрмита́ж
Saint Petersburg was the highpoint of the cruise. The Hermitage is the highpoint of Saint Petersburg. By chance we were the first group inside and groups et an 1,5 hour head start on individuals. As a result, we could make photos of tourist free (except us) rooms.
Marina piloted us through some forty rooms and halls, focussing on the architecture and features rather than the art. A wise choice.
After a lunch with blini’s, borscht and beef Stroganov, we visited the Peterhof, with its many gravity operated fountains. Better than Versailles in Paris.
7: Петропа́вловская кре́пость
We should have ended with the Peter and Paul Fortress, where the czars are buried. It was the 18th of July 2018, one hundred years after the regicide of Nicholas II and his family. Unfortunately, there was no time.
We’ll have to go back.