I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Baltic Cruise - May 2017 Day 9 - St. Petersburg (3)

It was a much later start today thank goodness.  Our first stop was a park to see a lovely statue of Catherine the Great.  The monument was unveiled in 1873. The Empress was adored by the people of St. Petersburg for all her efforts to improve the life and education provided by the city and her reign has long been known as the "golden age" of Russia. The statue of Catherine is surrounded by delicately carved figures of the most prominent individuals of her reign: politicians and poets, military men and courtiers many of whom were her lovers.

On our way back to the coach Kate told us that in the winter the snow is often up to the top of this fence!

I love these buildings.  The first one is the Alexandrinsky Drama Theater and the two in the other photo are banks. 

It was then the Faberge Museum which I had been really looking forward to.  The museum owes its existence to by Viktor Vekselberg, who, in 2004 began The Link of Times Cultural and Historical Foundation with the idea of returning Russian culturally significant artefacts and artworks for public display to Russia. The nine Fabergé eggs which form the core of the collection were purchased by him from American entrepreneur Malcolm Forbes in 2004 at a cost of $100 million.

The first Fabergé egg was crafted for Tsar Alexander III, who had decided to give his wife, the Empress Maria Fedorovna, an Easter egg in 1885, possibly to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their betrothal. Although there is no official record of the Tsar's inspiration for it, many believe that he was moved by an egg owned by the Empress’s aunt, Princess Vilhelmine Marie of Denmark, which had captivated Maria’s imagination in her childhood and of which the Tsar was well aware. Known as the Hen Egg, the very first Fabergé egg is crafted from a foundation of gold. Its opaque white enameled "shell" opens to reveal a matte yellow-gold yolk. This in turn opens to reveal a multicolored gold hen that also opens. The hen contained a minute diamond replica of the imperial crown from which a small ruby pendant was suspended, but these last two elements have been lost.  The Tsarina and the Tsar enjoyed the egg so much that Alexander III ordered a new egg from Fabergé for his wife every Easter thereafter.

Records have shown that there were 50 imperial Easter eggs.  Eggs were made each year except 1904 and 1905, during the Russo-Japanese War.  The imperial eggs enjoyed great fame, and Fabergé was commissioned to make similar eggs for a few private clients.  These are just a few of the Imperial eggs.

We then drove to a panorama point where we could see the Peter and Paul Fortress amongst other places.

 It was a short drive to the Peter and Paul Fortress.  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 such as 200 of the conspirators involved in the Decembrist Uprising of 1825; Fyodor Dostoevsky; the anarchist Prince Kropotkin (who was the first prisoner to escape from the fortress in 1873); Nikolay Chernyshevsky; Lenin's elder brother, Alexander Ulianov; and Josip Broz Tito, the Communist leader of Yugoslavia, who spent three weeks in the fortress in 1917 for his role in revolutionary activities. The last prisoners to be held in the Peter and Paul Fortress were the participants in the 1921 Kronstadt Uprising.

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). It is intimately linked to both the history of the city and to the Romanov dynasty, as it is home to the graves of nearly all the rulers of Russia since Peter the Great.

The first Church was built of wood just one month after St. Petersburg was officially founded, and the church was consecrated on April 1, 1704. In 1712, the current, stone Peter and Paul Cathedral was and was consecrated on June 29, 1733.

The bell-tower has a colourful, often tragic history. As the tallest structure for many miles, it was often the victim of lightning, and in fact burned down on the night of April 29-30, 1756, in a particularly severe fire. In 1766, Catherine the Great ordered the bell tower to be rebuilt exactly as it had been, and the new tower was unveiled in 1776.

The Cathedral is full of sarcophagi where most of the Romanov rulers of Russia are buried.  From Peter the Great, both Catherines, Elizabeth, all three Alexanders, Paul, Peter III, Anne - and now both Nicholases as well, as the remains of Nicholas II, his wife and three of his five children were re-interred in the small Chapel of St. Catherine on July 17, 1998.  However controversy reigns regarding the other two children, Maria and Alexei.  The bodies had been found and a funeral arranged but The Russian Orthodox Church interceded, questioning — not for the first time — whether any of the remains were authentic, and the service was postponed indefinitely. 

 From the Cathedral we went for lunch to a pie shop.  We had mushroom soup, followed by a pie which was made of a bread like pastry and Russian salad followed by linden berry pie.

Next stop was the St. Petersburg Metro. 

It opened on 15 November 1955 and the system exhibits many typical Soviet designs and features exquisite decorations and artwork making it one of the most attractive and elegant metros in the world. Due to the city's unique geology, the Saint Petersburg Metro is one of the deepest metro systems in the world and the deepest by the average depth of all the stations. The system's deepest station, Admiralteyskaya, is 86 metres below ground. Serving about 2 million passengers daily, it is also the 19th busiest metro system in the world.  The escalator to go down is extremely steep and very long.  You are not allowed to take photos while you are on the escalator and I can understand why – you need to hold on for grim death!  This was our first platform.

We caught the train and went two stops where we found a lovely mosaic.

 Back to our original station and up the escalator and into the sunshine again. 

Our final stop was the Yusopov Palace.  In 1830, the palace was purchased by Prince Nikolay Borisovich Yusupov, and it remained in the ownership of the family until seized by the Bolsheviks in 1917. The legends surrounding Rasputin's murder, which took place in the basement of the Yusupov Palace on 16 December 1916, are mostly based on the sensationalist account in the autobiography of Prince Felix Yusupov, who claimed to have led the plotters in first poisoning, then shooting, then beating Rasputin with clubs and throwing him into the icy Malaya Nevka River, where the Mad Monk eventually died of hypothermia.  We were to have very little time there so I stayed on the bus – exhausted!

It was sad to say goodbye to Kate and our driver Daniel.  Over the three days we had all become friends.  But it was time as the ship was sailing at 6pm.

Back on board we changed for dinner – tonight it was our second speciality restaurant which was the Tuscan Grill.  Celebrity say “Celebrate warm Italian hospitality and big, bold flavours at Tuscan Grille, our onboard steakhouse. We’ve taken traditional Tuscan cuisine, with its sunsoaked flavours and timeless combinations, and given it a modern luxury twist with innovative cooking techniques.”  The food was good but not as good as Murano however we had the most amazing view as we ate.  There had been five cruise ships waiting to leave St. Petersburg and we were to be the last – an hour later than expected.  We finally pulled away just after 7pm as we took our seats.  We ate and watched St. Petersburg disappearing in the evening sunshine.  It really was a beautiful ending to three wonderful days.  These photos are Penny and Jim's as the ones I took on my mobile were all blue.

We missed the show again as we just wanted to stay and watch the view.

As we returned to our cabins it was time for the Pilot to leave us and return to his Pilot ship. 

Sunset at sea 😊

“Home is where the anchor drops” Nautical saying

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