A few weeks ago we went on a Baltic adventure. I’m going to do a few posts of our days ashore, along with lots of photos. Our third port was St Petersburg in Russia. We had an overnight there so two very full days.
In my last post I showed you photos from our second morning. Lots of photos. We ended at the beautiful Yusupov Palace at just after 11am. Because of our early start, we’d already had four stops!
Next we were headed for one of the tour highlights, the Church on the Spilled Blood. It’s a stunning building but unfortunately not only was it partly obscured by the FIFA fan zone, (the world cup was on), but there was some restoration work going on so the topmost dome was covered. I’d have loved to have seen it in all its glory, but these things happen and you could still see how beautiful it was. Apparently they only have three months of the year to do exterior work, due to the climate, so we were bound to see work going on. This is one of the best shots that we got of the exterior.I got quite a few close-ups though. The inside is spectacular. The walls, columns and ceiling are completely covered in mosaics. As we entered you could hear the ooohs and ahhhs as we looked around. We did take quite a few photos, but there was no way to show how amazing it was with still photos, so I took a little video. It still doesn’t show the full beauty but it gives an idea.
The correct name for the church is actually The Church of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and is known to Petersburgers as the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood – or even just the Church on the Blood – as it marks the spot where Alexander II was fatally wounded in an assassination attempt on March 1 1881. Once again, Anna gave us loads of interesting information while we were looking round and once again it was brilliant having the headsets as we could wander round looking and taking photos without missing a word.
We’d still got one more stop before lunch, and it was somewhere that we’d seen a few times as we’d travelled round St Petersburg – the Peter and Paul fortress. As we left the church, we heard a cannon to mark 12 noon. Anna told us that it was at Peter and Paul, and we later saw the cannon.
It was the first structure to be built in St. Petersburg, and thus the birthplace of the city, it never served its intended defensive function. Instead it has had a rich, hugely varied, and sometimes sinister history as a military base, a home of government departments, the burial ground of the Russian Imperial family, the site of groundbreaking scientific experiments, and a forbidding jail that held some of Russia’s most prominent political prisoners. (nicked from my new favourite website – Saint-Petersburg.com)
The outside is quite striking. There are lots of buildings making up the fortress but we only went into one – the Saints Peter and Paul cathedral. It was another gorgeous building with the most beautiful colours inside. There were a number of tombs inside, which Anna talked about, telling us who was in each one and a bit about them.
After we’d seen everything in there, we headed back to the minibus, where we found our packed lunches on our seats. The tour we’d booked had included one sit down restaurant meal, but had a packed lunch on the second day to save time for more sightseeing. We thought it was a great idea and all really enjoyed our lunch on the bus, as we sped along the new fast road to Peterhof.
Our lunch consisted of two packs of club sandwiches, a muffin, an apple, a box of juice, a pack with hand wipes, toothpicks etc, and finally a bottle of Russian beer. The last item went down very well. Anna chatted to us during our drive out, which took about 40 minutes.
Our final stop of the tour was Peterhof gardens. The palace looked lovely from the outside but is apparently very similar to Catherine palace inside so our tour covered the gardens instead. Peterhof is known as the Russian Versailles although many say that it’s far better.
There were so many lovely things to point our cameras at, that until we got to Peterhof, we’d neglected to point them at each other. Just to prove that we were actually there, here’s the only two pics of us from that day. Even though we didn’t go into the palace, we still took several photos of the outside. Isn’t it pretty? The main attraction in the gardens is the Grand Cascade, which links the upper and lower gardens. It was quite spectacular. We took several photos from the top looking down.It runs all the way to the Gulf of Finland, which you can see in the distance. Do you see those smaller buildings on either side of the cascade? We were heading for the one on the right to hear more about the fountains and take more photos.
First we walked down the steps at the side, which gave us a much better view of the fountains.We took some detail shots as well.Then we walked up a few steps into that small building, which gave us a bit of height to take yet more photos of the Grand cascade with the gorgeous palace behind it.To our left we could see another part of the palace and another smaller fountain.We felt that small fountain needed a closer look.See those clouds? The weather was definitely on the turn but we still had a fair bit of sun, as it peeked from between the clouds, and it was still warm.
When we were ready to move on, we headed towards the Gulf of Finland, walking down lovely tree-lined avenues. At one point we spotted some red squirrels and were all distracted by trying to catch a photo of them. They were too quick for me, sadly.
We detoured to see this fountain, which was really pretty and had another lovely small building behind it. After a few more minutes walking, we reached the sea. We had a view across to St Petersburg and with the help of a zoom lens, could see our ship, the world cup stadium and a tall bullet-shaped building that we’d seen from on board our ship. It was still under construction then, I think it’s almost finished now, and at 462m is the tallest skyscraper in Europe. It was quite impressive.We then started walking back towards the palace and spent some time near the Summer palace and the beautiful gardens that were next to it. Next Anna told us about a joke fountain that squirted water over the path. It’s only turned on at certain times during the day so a crowd had gathered to watch the brave souls who’d decided to make a run for it.We saw a few more fountains on the walk back. These are a couple of them. Finally we made our way back to the minibus for the last time and headed back to the ship. We thanked Anna and Nikolai and made our way back through immigration. We’d had the most brilliant time and we’d loved every minute of it. I’d go back to St Petersburg in a heartbeat. Alla tours were fantastic and lived up to their stellar reputation.
We were quite tired by the time we got back to our cabin so we relaxed for a while. It was quite windy on the balcony so we didn’t spend too much time out there. We were due to sail at 6pm but the wind was up to 35kts so we had to wait for a second tug. We finally got underway at 8pm while we were eating dinner in the Glasshouse. We had pizza this time and it was very nice.
We really enjoyed the show in the Broadway lounge. It was a couple called Braximusic, Brandy and Alex, who performed songs by Bowie, Queen, Bonnie Tyler and various show tunes and opera songs, all in a sort of operatic style. It was something a bit different and really well done.
At 10pm the pilot boat came alongside to take the pilots off. That happens right beneath our balcony so we have a brilliant view. It was really windy and quite choppy so the boat was up and down and it looked impossible to do the transfer, but the two pilots just stepped across. They must have nerves of steel. It was so exciting to watch.
If you’ve made it to the end of this, well done. Sorry about all the photos. I just couldn’t narrow it down any more. I’m going to be printing hundreds and will probably be scrapping them for years 😉
Next up will be Finland.