Tony and I woke up very early on day 2 in Russia for our on-shore excursion. One of the things we didn’t realize about St. Petersburg is how incredibly spread out the city is. We wanted to view both of the main palaces, and they were on completely opposite ends of the city.
We started with the palace of Catherine, the second wife of Peter the Great. Where the Russian ballet theater was lacking in opulence, Catherine’s palace certainly made up for it. Even walking upon it was an experience. It was so incredibly beautiful, with its bright blue walls lined with white and gold trim.
Catherine was the second wife of Peter the Great. Originally named Marta, she was allegedly a beautiful laundress that Peter fell in love with. She and Peter had 12 children, but only two of them survived – Anna and Elizabeth.
Inside the palace, we were required to check any bags or coats, and were made to wear shoe coverings. Throughout the tour, we were allowed to take pictures. Tony and I snapped away in every room except one – the Amber room. This was the only room we were not allowed to take photos.
I have to pause to cover off on the most amazing thing about Catherine’s and Peter’s palaces – they were almost completed reconstructed after WWII. Most of both palaces were damaged after extensive bombings by the German military. That fact alone made everything we saw even more amazing, because the restoration effort took so much time and care to get every detail correct. The Amber Room alone took 20 years and $12 million dollars to properly restore.
The gold gilding that could found in every room was magnificent. Everything felt so special and superior, and I would expect nothing less for the Empress of Russia. I tried to imagine attending balls or dinner parties in such a place. What did the ladies wear? What type of music did they listen to? And what did they eat?
After our visit of Catherine’s Palace, we continued through Catherine Park off to where the kitchens used to reside. This is where we ended up enjoying a very Russian meal, topped off with a shot of vodka. I of course didn’t partake, but when in Russia, a shot of vodka at lunch seems like a great idea to me!
The bus ride to Peter’s Palace, or Peterhof, took about an hour. The sun had started to peek its head out from behind the clouds, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. We weren’t able to take photos inside of Peterhof, but that was fine by me – the beauty was on the outside.
I hadn’t yet seen enough gold at Catherine’s Palace, so thankfully, Peterhof took care of that for me. 🙂 The palace is called the “Versailles of Russia” and overlooks the Gulf of Finland. We were almost able to see our next port stop from the fountains of Peterhof. The fountains themselves were also pumping via natural pressure vs. electronic which made them that much more impressive.
Given the travel time and the distance between the two palaces, by the time we finished with Peterhof, it was time to head back to the ship. I didn’t get to see nearly as much of St. Petersburg as I wanted, but my love for the city and the country of Russia was only made more powerful by this visit. Tony and I fully intend on taking our little baby back to Russia. There is still so much to see and explore, and I already know the baby likes Russian food. 🙂
The Missus’ Picks:
As I’ve said many a time, Russia is a fantastic place and one of my favorite countries to visit. If planning a trip specifically to St. Petersburg, I suggest at least 4-5 days. The city is very large and spread out and if you want to take in a ballet, plus the palaces and a canal cruise, you will need that much time. My top picks include:
- Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood – even though I didn’t get to see it, this is built in a similar style as St. Basil’s
- Peterhof and Catherine Palaces
- The Russian Ballet – try to see Swan Lake if possible and any theater is acceptable
- Canal Cruise
- If you visit in the fall/winter, eat beef stroganoff and sample the vodka…and caviar if you’re brave
- If you visit in the spring/summer, try kvass – you can find it on many street corners for cheap
Until next time….