On our Baltic Sea cruise, we visited St. Petersburg Russia for two days and managed to see three palaces, do a tour of the city, visit a church, and attend a Russian Ballet performance of Swan Lake. Needless to say, we were a bit worn down after Russia.
Peter the Great planned this city on the Baltic Sea over 300 years ago. It gave his navy access to the sea and was meant as an elevated showcase to the world as Russia’s cultural capital. Most of his inspiration came from other European cities, including his grand boulevards and canals. What we experienced were his baroque and classical buildings.
All of the buildings we toured were magnificent. The opulence and artistry are hard to convey in a blog post, especially in a few photos. There were times we were overwhelmed by the art and architecture. Speechless. We can’t imagine the blood, sweat and tears it took to build these palaces and then, rebuild them after the war. The locals are extremely proud of these buildings, as they should be. As tourists to a foreign country, lining up in great herds to see priceless works of art and oh and ah over each room, it’s too hard to take it all in.
If we were turned loose, and allowed to wander at leisure in empty rooms, our experiences would have been different. We would have found favorite pieces of art, discussed details we found in the rooms, noted collections that spoke to us, but we were not allowed to stray from our particular herd. You cannot go into St. Petersburg, unless you are on approved tour or have applied for a visa. So, what we’ll share with you is a few photos of each location and let you linger if you want.
First up was Catherine’s Palace. We visited both the house and the extensive gardens. We saw the famous “Amber Room” and the 12 chandeliers in the Great Hall.
Next was the Winter Palace, home of the Russian Emperors from 1763 to 1917. Today, it’s one of the five buildings that make up the State Hermitage Museum. The Small Hermitage was built onto the Winter Palace to house Catherine the Great’s collection of artifacts. The Hermitage now has over 3 million items. Only a small portion are displayed for the masses. Here, we saw two da Vinci paintings and a number of Rembrandts.
Luckily, we got to by-pass the lines into the Hermitage.
Later, in the evening of the first day, we dressed up and went to the ballet. We were so exhausting it would have been easy to just stay on the ship. But this would be a chance of a lifetime, to see the Russian Ballet performance of the Swan Lake in the small private royal theatre located at the Hermitage. So, we pulled up our big boy pants and got back on the bus. The three-act ballet and orchestra performance were outstanding.
The next day, we visited the onion-domed Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood. It is a memorial built where Alexander II was assassinated. With every inch filled with mosaics, it was something to see in person.
Our last palace was the Peterhof, the yellow palace of Peter the Great. Established as a royal summer imperial residence, it opened in August 1723. The northern facade faces the sea and after touring the building, we followed the gardens from the palace to the sea. We stopped to admire the fountains and sculptures in the gardens, then boarded a hydrofoil back to the city.