St. Petersburg Russia, Day One
Posted in Travel
Afternoon watch, 3 bells (1:46 pm)

Yesterday we saw St. Petersburg. The shipyards here are immense. I'm told that a large percentage of the old Russian naval ships were built here, and given the amount of room, cranes, etc I believe it. We started the day off waiting to take the tour. We had conflicting information from the Russian authorities as to the debarkation process, which was not terribly confusing, but seemed to take forever. Perhaps that's because they had maybe four immigrations officers to handle a ship of over 3,000 people. But we cleared easily, they didn't even ask us any questions. We found our bus shortly thereafter, and wish we hadn't. Our real bus had broken down, and the one awaiting us was terrible. It was an old, broken-down city bus that smelled terrible, had fumes coming inside the cabin area, and a hodgpodge of seats you wouldn't believe.

We headed directly for Peterhof, the palace of Peter the Great, where we were to have our longest stop and by which time we should have our replacement bus. Peterhof was amazing, the grounds were beautiful, and the fountain with all the gold statues was nigh-unbelievable. I think they outshined the interior, although it was very posh with its giant gold-leaf picture frames, artwork, silk walls, and decorations. The lines to get in to Peterhof were terribly long, they let only a few people in at a time. You also had to wear little blue booties over our shoes. The floors were mostly inlaid wood. They also had two Chinese themed rooms that were beautiful, but you couldn't take pictures in them.

After Peterhof, we drove by the Church of the Spilled Blood, where we got stuck for about 20 minutes in traffic because about 20 couples were getting married and had left their limos and stretched hummers all over the street and cars couldn't pass by. Apparently Russians need to carry their brides over a bridge when they get married. It's probably a throwback to some ritual pillaging of villages and carrying off women or something. Anyway, everybody was getting very cranky because the janky bus had no air conditioning, just like a normal old city bus and it was hot outside. Combined with the nauseous fumes, it was a tough ride.

We got to have lunch in this cafe, which was a little expensive, but had really nice atmosphere. A group of people within our group were really cool and ordered a huge lunch, when most everyone else bailed out and left the cafe because they felt $10-12 for lunch was "way too much." In (most) of their defense, we had a rough day and it just wasn't expected. Myself, I feel that when I travel just like in regular life, I try to take things as they happen and roll with the punches. Things rarely end up being perfect.

Whatever the case, after that we saw a fortress, the name escapes me. The square outside was cobbled with stones from all over Russia by Peter something-or-other (the Great, I think). He required people to pay their entrance in stone or be taxed, and used the stones to pave the square. Nice idea, that. After that place, we had a quick run through St. Isaac's cathedral (at least that's what my wife tells me was the name). We literally walked in one end and walked out the other without stopping, because we didn't have much time. After the cathedral, our group split into two: one returning to the ship; the other heading off to see a folk dance called "Feel Yourself Russian." The singing and dancing were great, despite the fact that none of us understood the words to the songs. The performers themselves came out before and after the show and during intermission to sell DVDs, CDs, and other souvenirs from the show. We asked one man during the intermission what he did since we hadn't seen him perform yet, and he said he sang in the second part. I replied "SO they save the best for last, eh?" to which he replied, "No, I'm a tenor, you're a bass." Best, bass, same difference in Russia.

Lorien wanted to pick up the DVD of the show, which we did so we can share it with everyone back home. After the show finished around 8:30pm, we took the bus back to the ship and tried to get some dinner. The dining rooms had closed at 9pm, we were about 15 minutes too late, so we headed up to the Lido deck and had some panini goodness.

Here is a picture of the fountains at Peterhof:

Peterhof Fountains

Here is a picture of a Russian playing an accordion:

Russian accordion player

Here is a picture of a Russian playing a very small accordion:

A Russian playing a very small accordion

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