September 22, 2017

St. Petersburg Visit with Viking Cruises Review – So Much to Learn & Enjoy

Our optional excursion during our Viking Homelands trip. “The Ultimate St. Petersburg” two day itinerary included visits to Catherine's Palace, the Hermitage, The Church of our Saviour on Spilled Blood, the Winter Palace, Peterhof , a performance of Swan Lake, a hydrfoil ride on the Gulf of Finland, and bus touring throughout the city. Text and Photos by Dianne R. Davis and Burt Davis

St. Petersburg, Russia. We grew up with notions of “Russia” which we were told was our enemy. And there we were with Viking Cruises visiting this far-off city. Would the Russians be friendly? Would it be as modern as our big US cities?

Our bus took us  past many notable sights including state buildings,  parks, and shopping areas where people scurried about as they do in all major cities. Photo by Dianne R. Davis

We signed up for an optional excursion during our Viking Homelands trip. “The Ultimate St. Petersburg” two day itinerary included visits to Catherine’s Palace, the Hermitage, The Church of our Saviour on Spilled Blood, the Winter Palace (technically part of the Hermitage), Peterhof – Peter the Great’s extravagant palace, a performance of Swan Lake at the Hermitage, a boat ride on the Gulf of Finland, and bus touring throughout the city. We enjoyed a full fledged Russian lunch in a rustic Russian country setting with costumed staff, entertainment, and Russian Vodka.

There are many canals throughout the modern city Photo by Burt Davis

The tour was designed to give us a taste of the city’s extensive history as well as a quick look at the modern city it has become. As with most tours, this one offered us samples which whet our appetites, but in an effort to cram so much into so little time, we often wished we had a full day or more at many of the sites. But we came away feeling that we had good glimpses of the grandeur of the Palaces, the talent of some of the historically prominent artists, and a feeling for the present city and its residents.

In addition to the history, we looked to the future as we passed the stadium being constructed for the 2018 World Cup Tournament to be held in St. Petersburg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our knowledgeable guide Helen told us that St. Petersburg was founded in 1705 – the brainchild of Peter the Great who wanted a major city on the Baltic Sea that mirrored some of the great European Capitols. Wide roadways and multiple bridges recall the looks of Paris or Vienna.

Even before you enter Catherine’s Palace, you’ll be impressed by the exterior   Photos by Dianne R. Davis

 

A band greeted us at the entrance  Video by Dianne R. Davis

Our tour began at Catherine’s Palace, a magnificent structure filled with ornately decorated rooms which was built by Catherine the First and occupied and expanded by Catherine The Great. The Palace was occupied by the Nazis during World War II when their troops were billeted at there as they bombarded the city. Regretfully, they destroyed much of the Palace, but there’s been enormous ongoing restoration to allow visitors to glimpse this historic time in Russian history.

We were awed by the extent of the opulence Photo by Dianne R. Davis

 

The Grand Mirror Room contains more than 50 pounds of gold Photo by Dianne R. Davis

 

Photo by Dianne R. Davis

After a 1½ hour guided tour, we proceeded to the beautiful grounds where Catherine had some “private” rooms for “special” events in a separate building. Helen was a bit more specific about the activities rumored to have taken place

 

 

Lunch was ethnic and entertaining. Traditional Russian dishes included beef stroganoff, Russian salads with beets, borscht with sour cream and of course the frozen vodka which made for good spirits.

Photo by Burt Davis

 

The entertainment added to the overall atmosphere and ethnicity of the experience.  Video by Dianne R. Davis

We were impressed with the cleanliness of the streets. Photo by Burt Davis

We stopped at the Church of our Savior on Spilled Blood. This classic styled Russian Orthodox Church was commissioned by Czar Nicholas III to honor his father Czar Nicholas II who was assassinated on that spot in 1881.

The Church of our Savior on Spilled Blood Photos   by Dianne R. Davis

The magnificent structure opened in 1907, but was closed by Stalin in 1930 and turned into a warehouse. The much needed repairs to the church were completed in 1997. It is now a major attraction and place of worship.

Swan Lake Photo by Burt Davis

That evening, we attended the ballet. Our tour group and other Viking guests were treated to a performance of Swan Lake held in a private theater in the Winter Palace. This was certainly not a Bolshoi Ballet production, but it was quite enjoyable.

Our second day began with a visit to the famed Hermitage Museum. Viking had arranged an early entry for our group, so we were able to begin our visit to the famed structure before the crowds. The Hermitage was founded by Catherine the Great in 1754 and contains one of the largest museum collections in the world. We were able to view much of the museum in the three hours our tour allowed.

We could have spend days exploring the many works of art in the Hermitage Photo by Dianne R. Davis

The Peacock Clock  Photo by Dianne R. Davis

We were impressed by the Peacock Clock, which was given as a gift to Empress Catherine the Great and is the only large example of 18th century robotics to have survived unaltered into the 21st century. Helen told us that there is a curator who’s only job is to take care of the clock.

 

The gardens and fountains adjacent to the palace are impressive Photo by Dianne R. Davis

Next we visited Peter the Great’s summer residence, the Peterhof Castle. As we took the nearly hour drive to the country we were again able to see St. Petersburg’s lovely boulevards and well maintained highways.The interior of the palace is exquisite. The throne room was one of the highlights

The hydrofoil Photo by Burt Davis

We walked down the beautiful path leading to the Gulf of Finland where a high speed hydrofoil ship awaited our group to take us for a short ride on the Gulf of Finland Photo by Burt Davis

As we rode the bus the short distance back to our 930 passenger ship, the Viking Star, Helen recapped our two day adventure in the magnificent city of Saint Petersburg.

Photo by Dianne Davis

This detailed optional tour was definitely worth taking. Viking Cruises did an excellent job of providing a local guide with a depth of knowledge and willingness to share her knowledge and opinions to help create a memorable tour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*