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Sunday, August 20, 2017

St. Petersburg, Russia, Day 1, August 17, 2017



First impression is that the city is beautiful. There are no high-rises and despite it's turbulent history,  St. Petersburg has managed to maintain and restore the beauty of its architecture. 
The main historical part of the city is quite compact.

Some important things you need to know about getting off the ship in St. Petersburg - If you plan on going off on your own you'll need to apply for a visa before travelling,  that could take some time and is not inexpensive, especially if you leave it to the last minute and have to have it expedited. Otherwise if you take any of the ships tours, they come with a visa so you don't have to worry about it.   Each time you leave the ship you'll need to show your passport (with the 2 stamps that you receive after your first time getting on and off the ship in St. Petersburg),  the tickets for your excursion and your sea pass to allow you back on the ship.  It's really pretty simple.



St. Petersburg is an important Russian port on the Baltic Sea and a major European cultural centre .  It is situated on the eastern coast of the Gulf of Finland and it's considered the most European of all the Russian cities. It's Russia's second largest after Moscow. It's built on a network of islands and features 65 rivers and canals that crisscross the city.  It really does remind one of Paris and at the same time because of the canals it closely resembles Venice or Amsterdam. 
Today we took the panoramic tour of St. Petersburg. Our first stop was church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. It's absolutely beautiful with its gold and ceramic onion domes- like a fairy tale.


You will see amber being sold everywhere and of course the very popular babushka nesting dolls. They vary in size and design. They start at a low price and can go up to thousands of dollars. They even have modern designs with Trump and Putin nesting in each other.
  


Another popular souvenir is the Russian hat. They come in all kinds of expensive furs as well as fake fur. 


Of course Fabergé is an important Jeweler of Russia and there are many displays where you can buy the Fabergé eggs or copies of them.


Next stop was Saint Isaac's cathedral, heavily damaged in World War II, and completely restored except some shell damage that was left in several of the columns as a reminder of the German invasion. 


Next stop - 2 giant pink rostral columns flanking the Strelka viewpoint, probably the best viewpoint in all of St. Petersburg. They were  inspired by similar towers built by Greeks and Romans  to celebrate naval victories. These columns are decorated with anchors and studded with the symbolic prows of ships defeated in battle. You can grab a coffee in this square too!







The AzAmazing evening is an included special excursion for all guests on board and was just that-AMAZING. We went to see The St. Petersburg Academic Philharmonia, the oldest Philharmonia in Russia-more than 200 years old,  at the DD Shostakovich.  It started with the red carpet when we entered and we were led upstairs to  enjoy a champagne reception before going in to the concert.



The added bonus of the evening was the drive back to the ship and seeing the palaces and monuments lit up at night… So romantic!


Stay tuned for Day 2 in St. Petersburg...

Penny

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