Day two in St. Petersburg

Note: I wrote this and didn’t have time to post it, so it’s a day late. But hey, I’m on vacation. 🙂

We didn’t have to get up as early, which was nice. We were meeting our guide and driver at 9am and immigration/customs was going to be quicker. We had a new guide as our other guide was requested by a group of art historians (which she knows a ton about) but our new guide was just as friendly.  Christina was a little easier to understand, too.

We went to a church (no pictures) and took a ride on the world-famous Metro. No pictures are allowed on the metro either, as it’s still considered a state secret. Kinda funny, if you think about it — it’s public.

Our next stop was at the Church of St. Paul on the way to the Peterhof. Bruce got his Russian hat that he had been asking for from a vendor next to it, and it was camouflage (his emphasis).

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We drove to the palace and got our tickets.  The “tickets” looked like a certificate, it was kind of cute.  We wandered into the palace grounds towards the fountains and waited for them to turn on. They were scheduled to come on at 11. I wondered what all the fuss was about, but when they were turned on, it was quite fabulous!

IMG_1109 We saw a few more fountains, including a “trick” fountain (which apparently there were a lot of) that Peter the Great built to play tricks on his guests. A hidden rock or something would make the fountain come on.

We toured the bath house, which is the first that was ever built in Russia. Again, no pictures allowed in here –  not sure why.

Next to the bath house was a Japanese garden that was quite beautiful. The vases in the picture are Japanese porcelain and are from the 17th century.

IMG_1133Then we rode a boat (hydrofoil) back to St. Petersburg and were going to the highlight of our trip (okay, one of them!) – lunch with a Russian family.

It wasn’t an actual family, it was a Russian woman. Her apartment was on the fourth floor and was just as I imagined it would be. She had lived there her entire life (she’s probably in her late 50’s) and her mother had lived there since she was seven. She was also born in the house, as was her son and daughter.

She made an incredible lunch for us: appetizers of crab salad (delicious!), vegetables, salami, borscht for a soup, chicken and boiled potatoes for the main, and cookies  and tea for dessert. We were stuffed. Oh, and candies with dessert too. Bruce tried one and it was chocolate covered marmalade…hahahaha! He doesn’t like marmalade. 😉 He had ice cream though, always a crowd pleaser.

Jake did most of the talking and our guide interpreted for us. When asked about what it was like to live during Soviet times, she said she actually preferred it to how it is now because she never really wanted for anything. She had a job in manufacturing and could get or do anything she wanted. Now, not so much. Our guide thinks the opposite – it’s better now for her family than it was back then.

There is also quite a rivalry between Moscow and St. Petersburg. Each city inhabitants think theirs is the best, and the best AT everything too.  The best theater, the best chocolates, the best cookies, the best buildings, etc. It was really interesting to talk to them about the history of their city – it’s a perspective you just can’t get from a history book! Too soon, we had to go.

We stopped at a souvenir shop. We had actually asked to go shopping, so I guess that’s what they thought we meant. We were pressed for time however, so probably couldn’t SHOP shop. I got an absolutely gorgeous jewelry box. It’s hand painted and truly amazing.

Jake and Bruce toured the Cruiser Aurora. We didn’t have much time and it was raining and very windy so I stayed in the car. I picked the wrong day to wear a skirt – yesterday was much warmer! Bruce was thrilled, however, and thought it was the coolest.  🙂

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We had just enough time to stop at the mosque that Jake wanted to take pictures of. It’s the (second?) largest in the world. We made it back to the boat in plenty of time.

Bruce and I grabbed a bite to eat and hung out for a while. Then Jake and I hit the tables at the casino. We played some blackjack and got decimated, so he went to play poker and I played Pai Gow.

Oh, and I made a cruise-friend, Carolina. We went up to the Spinnaker lounge and danced for a while before chatting on the deck. She’s on the cruise with her family.

Tomorrow, Helsinke!