Monday, May 30, 2011

Wednesday May 18 - St. Petersburg

DAY 10, Wednesday - St. Petersburg City Tour

Enjoy a morning city tour of St. Petersburg. This panoramic tour takes you to Palace Square, St. Isaac's Cathedral and Square, the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood and many more sights along the way. In the afternoon visit the famous museum, the Hermitage, home to one of the largest and richest collections of Western art in the world. Among the museum's vast collection, which spans six buildings (the most famous being the Winter Palace), priceless works by artists such as Michelangelo, da Vinci, Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, and many others are displayed amid opulent architectural design. This evening, enjoy dinner and the night at leisure on board.
St. Petersburg Folk Show (PM)
This evening, enjoy a performance showcasing the culture of the Cossacks, a martial people who have been an integral part of Russian history since the 15th century, and who for a long time were the personal guard of the emperor. Admire a showcase of traditional Cossack song and dance amid elaborate sets and costumes in this exciting one of a kind show.
Overnight: Cruise
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Today we are in St.Petersburg our base for the next few days aboard the boat. It is the first rainy day we have had. It was miserable while visiting Peter and Paul. We will have an opportunity to revisit these sights when we are on our own on the weekend and will have much better photos.

St. Isaac's Cathedral was originally the city's main church and the largest cathedral in Russia. It was built between 1818 and 1858, by the French-born architect Auguste Montferrand, to be one of the most impressive landmarks of the Russian Imperial capital. One hundred and eighty years later the gilded dome of St. Isaac's still dominates the skyline of St. Petersburg. Although the cathedral is considerably smaller than the newly rebuilt Church of Christ the Savior in Moscow, it boasts much more impressive fades and interiors.

The cathedral's facades are decorated with sculptures and massive granite columns (made of single pieces of red granite), while the interior is adorned with incredibly detailed mosaic icons, paintings and columns made of malachite and lapis lazuli. A large, brightly colored stained glass window of the "Resurrected Christ" takes pride of place inside the main altar. The church, designed to accommodate 14,000 standing worshipers, was closed in the early 1930s and reopened as a museum. Today, church services are held here only on major ecclesiastical occasions.

 Maritime Museum

 Looking across at the Hermitage
 Looking backwards at St. Peter and Paul

Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood

This marvelous Russian-style church was built on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated in March 1881. After assuming power in 1855 in the wake of Russia’s disastrous defeat in the Crimean war against Britain, France and Turkey, Alexander II initiated a number of reforms. In 1861 he freed the Russian serfs (peasants, who were almost enslaved to their owners) from their ties to their masters and undertook a rigorous program of military, judicial and urban reforms, never before attempted in Russia. However, during the second half of his reign Alexander II grew wary of the dangers of his system of reforms, having only barely survived a series of attempts on his life, including an explosion in the Winter Palace and the derailment of a train. Alexander II was finally assassinated in 1881 by a group of revolutionaries, who threw a bomb at his royal carriage.

The decision was taken to build a church on the spot where the Emperor was mortally wounded. The church was built between 1883 and 1907 and was officially called the Resurrection of Christ Church (a.k.a. The Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood ). The construction of the church was almost entirely funded by the Imperial family and thousands of private donators. Both the interior and exterior of the church is decorated with incredibly detailed mosaics, designed and created by the most prominent Russian artists of the day (V.M. Vasnetsov, M.V. Nesterov and M.A. Vrubel). Interestingly, despite the church’s very obviously Russian aspect, its principle architect, A. Parland, was not even Russian by birth.

The church was closed for services in the 1930s, when the Bolsheviks went on an offensive against religion and destroyed churches all over the country. It remained closed and under restoration for over 30 years and was finally re-opened in 1997 in all its dazzling former glory. The view of the church fromNevsky Prospekt is absolutely breathtaking.

The Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul is the oldest church in St. Petersburg, and also the second-tallest building in the city (after the television tower).

One major attraction is the graves of most of the Romanov rulers of Russia from Peter the Great onward. Peter's grave is at the front right, and people still leave fresh flowers on it. Also here are both Catherines, Elizabeth, all three Alexanders, Paul, Peter III, Anne - and now both Nicholases as well, as the remains of Nicholas II and his family were re-interred in the small Chapel of St. Catherine on July 17, 1998.

Nothing can describe the beauty of St. Petersburg!

Tuesday May 17 - Mandrogi

DAY 9, Tuesday - Daylight Sailing
Enjoy daylight sailing and the morning at leisure on board. Stop in the romantic village of Mandrogi, whose name literally means "pine-trees on the bog," to enjoy time at leisure to explore the city. Rejoin the ship and continue sailing for St. Petersburg. This evening, celebrate your final night sailing at a farewell dinner and gala talent show.
Overnight: Cruise
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

The morning was at leisure and it was chilly and overcast so after breakfast we sat in the lounge read and drank tea.

We arrived at Mandrogi at 11am. This is a riverside village dotted with wooden and stone cottages mainly for the tourists. There are a number of artisan shops and a pub. The men were getting a little bleary with the shopping so Darren and John headed to the pub. 

Group number six were to meet at 12:45 for a BBQ lunch. It was too bad that today turned out to be the coldest so far but still the food was very good. We had selected our type of meat last night and we were served huge kabobs of our choice with baked potato, bread, a stuffed bread with meat, cabbage, beets. They were selling beer and vodka shots.

Back on board at 2:15 for our final sailing to St. Petersburg which is 1805 km from Moscow.
At 5:30 the women are going to the master-class on making good luck dolls, we had bought out materials last night for 250 ruples.

Tonight was the Captain's Dinner in celebration of our last night of sailing. Dress was smart casual once again. This really doesn't mean too much but some people do make an effort to dress up.

The captain going from table to table toasting the passengers

Baked Alaska