St. Petersburg, Russia – Part 2 | Baltic Cruise

Our second day in St. Petersburg started out with another round of getting through immigration. This time was much easier than the day before. The lines were much shorter and the overall process was much quicker. Thank goodness because we were tired from the previous day, and I’m not sure how kind I would have been to questioning.

Our first stop of the day was to the TJ Tours office. Here we tried some vodka and bought souvenirs like Matryoshka dolls and amber jewelry. This is also where you can pay if you didn’t prepay for your tour. I highly recommend saving your souvenir shopping for here. I was shocked by how low the prices of the items were here compared to the prices at the shops in the cruise port, or the one other shop we got to look at while on our tour. Shopping is practically non-existent while on this tour because you need to pack so many things in. I was worried the store would be overpriced and full of stuff we didn’t want, but the selection is large and the items are at affordable price points. You can find inexpensive, moderate priced and expensive Matryoshka dolls here as well as amber pieces. They also have magnet, t-shirts, Christmas ornaments, etc.

So, we tried the vodka to wake us up. It was so good and so smooth. It didn’t burn at all. It was almost like drinking water. My favorite kind was a raspberry vodka that tasted like juice. It was dangerous and I could have drank the whole bottle probably. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), they didn’t have the raspberry vodka in stock, so I couldn’t take any home with me.

Our next stop was a ride on the St. Petersburg metro system. I was not all that excited for it like the others in our group were. I mean, I’ve ridden the metro in a ton of different countries. Aren’t they all the same? Well, yeah, typical metro stations are all the same, but the ones in St. Petersburg are called the “palaces for the common people”.

This was in the area right before you put your token in to enter. It is a mosaic. Already this metro station had art, which is an improvement over other European stations, for sure.

Then we took this escalator down to the train area. It’s like the 2nd longest escalator in a metro station in the world. Moscow was the first. This one goes very deep since the metro will run under the river.

This is the inside of one of the stations. I was honestly expecting it to be a lot more elaborate. I mean these are supposed to be like a palace. But I will say that they are a lot more decorative, clean, and bright than 99% of the other metro stations that I’ve been in, so it is an improvement.

I had to laugh about this because while the metro stations are all fancy, the metro cars themselves still look like something you’d see in the 80’s.  They were clean, though!

This is the inside of a newer station. As you can see, they have columns and a mosaic up on the wall.

 

I can’t remember who this guy is, but they had important Russians up everywhere in this metro station. Each station has a theme for the name of the station and the decor to match.

And another large mosaic on the wall.

Next, we went to the Hermitage, which looks almost exactly like Catherine’s Palace from the outside. This is actually a collection of buildings. The Hermitage and the Winter Palace and I think a few other buildings, too.

It’s quite large. If you wanted to look at everything it would probably take you several months to do so. The Hermitage has almost twice the amount of square feet at the Louvre, but not all of that is available to the public.

I’m not really a museum person, so it was difficult for me to stay engaged during our 3 hour tour. As you can see, Russia still very much loves its gold. Above are some of the rooms in the Winter Palace. The red room is all fabric, and the second set of pictures is a small chapel within the palace. The blue room was used as a waiting area. Behind the white doors is a theater.

Highlights included seeing a da Vinci. This is the “Benois Madonna”.

And “Return of the Prodigal Son” by Rembrant.

This hallway, inspired by the Sistine Chapel, was also a highlight. Our tour guide went on, and on, and on about how this was so much larger than the Sistine Chapel, and therefore so much better. I disagree. The Hermitage has a lot of great things in it, so I’m not quite sure why a replica was supposed to be better. It’s still beautiful, but I wouldn’t say it even comes close to the Sistine Chapel, just my two cents.

Then we went to The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. Whew, what a name. THIS is what I really wanted to see. It’s so colorful, so Russian. Unfortunately it was very dark and rainy, so the pictures are just ok.

The church is built on the site where Alexander II was fatally wounded in March 1881. All of the artwork in the church are mosaics. Tiny little tiles, too. It was sometimes difficult to tell that it was a mosaic and not a painting.

The church went through a period of severe neglect between the Russian Revolution and WWII. It was used as everything from a farmer’s market to a morgue. It took 27 years to restore it to its current state. The church is not used as a worship place today,  but rather as a museum. Apparently a lot of locals want to change this according to our tour guide. She wasn’t sure if it did become a church if it would remain open as a museum for tourists. I hope it does because it was the highlight of the trip for me.

This is the alter resurrected in the spot where Alexander II was killed.

After we left the church we headed to Peter and Paul Fortress, specifically Peter and Paul Cathedral. As you can see, more gold! 😀

The cathedral is the burial place of all Russian tsars from Peter I to Alexander III with the exception of Peter II and Ivan VI.

The remains of the famous Romanov family are also buried here in a side chapel built for them. This was the family of Anastasia, if you didn’t know.

After this we drove back to the ship. I wanted to show some pictures of what the city looks like beyond the tourist sites. You can see all the power lines above.

 

And a Baskin Robbins. It was funny to see popular places in the US like Subway, McDonalds, KFC, etc. with the Russian logos.

I would like to mention one thing. Someone in our group asked our guide about how it was to live in Russia during the Soviet era. She answered, but it was a scripted response, I’m sure of it. This made me question a lot of what we heard during the tour. Was it all scripted? Was just that portion scripted? I don’t think it was all scripted. She clearly had a passion for what she did and she had a lot of knowledge, but just know that if you ask a question like that, you probably won’t get a 100% honest answer.

We had a great time in St. Petersburg and I would 100% recommend that people go. It isn’t “dangerous” in the sense that most people make it out to be. It’s a big city, and it’s a city with a lot of tourism, which means crime and theft like you would see everywhere. I often hear people warn against going to Russia. They’ve all “heard” things. Well, everyone I’ve ever known to actually go has had a great time. Go and see for yourself. Be cautious and know what you need to legally go, but go and have fun. It’s definitely different from other European cities.

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