Saturday, May 24, 2008

St. Petersburg Day 1

Crown Princess Deck Log
Helsinki to St. Petersburg - 178.9 Nautical Miles
Average Speed - 20.6 Knots
Noon position: Alongside in St. Petersburg
Sky: Clear Skies
Temperature: 55 F

This day had a most peculiar beginning. It seems there was the dead body of a man directly across from our anchorage. We could see it easily from the buffet and from our balcony. The servers said that the police had been there and had pulled the body from the water - but it lay there all day - we last checked it at 5 p.m. - but it was gone by the time we went to bed. How bizarre is that?

We were greeted on shore by this Russian band which was playing Chattanooga Choo-Choo! It made everybody smile. Some passengers were conducting and others were dancing!
When we went ashore, we had to go through Russian customs. The customs officers were women, and they were very very serious and businesslike. They stamped our passports, so we have proof that we were there! In Russian, the name is sounded out "Sankt Peterburg" - so I wonder why we add the "s" after Peter and they don't. I kept forgetting to ask about that.

Our tour guide today is Maria, and she will also answer to Marsha. She was young, intelligent, spoke good English, and she was lively and fun. The tour of the Hermitage was the absolute highlight of the day and maybe the highlight of the whole cruise. This museum has room after room of great masters - all of the famous artists that you can think of - Rembrandt, van Gogh, Gauguin, and on and on. Whole rooms full of their works are there - not just one or two masterpieces. It is totally amazing. The Hermitage has a great web site where you can take a virtual tour of the whole place. My favorites were the Peacock Clock, the lapis lazuli vase, the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt, and At the Foot of the Mountains by Gauguin.

Our tour guide, Maria:

These beautiful vases were a knock-out, Maria referred to them as "wases".

All of the artworks depicting Biblical stories were referred to as legends.

Maria with a roomful of precious masterpieces. Unbelievable.

Jesus' entry into Jerusalem

Maria with a roomful of Picasso originals.

Guards outside the Hermitage getting ready to deploy.

Here are some street scenes from St. Petersburg. The city has a most distinctive sky line! We were lucky enough to be there on the weekend that they were celebrating the 305th birthday of the city. It was decorated and cleaned up just for us! St. Petersburg is full of palaces, museums, mansions, canals, public gardens (parks), gilded spires and domes. It's a very beautiful place.

At the end of the day, we watched the Troika Dancers from the Troika Night Club in St. Petersburg. They were so colorful and energetic - we all enjoyed the performance. It was a great way to end our first day in Russia. At bedtime we noticed ships lined up as far as the eye could see to enter the port. There were at least 14 ships spaced out at regular intervals toward the horizon. The Troika Dancers:

Can Anyone identify this Russian Song? It's been driving Dick crazy!

More High-Stepping Troika Dancers!
The Grand Finale: