Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Cruising the Baltic with Mickey ~ Part 2

Day 4: St. Petersburg, Russia

One of those places you think you will NEVER, EVER, EVER get to see, and we finally made it! I don't really remember where it started, maybe because Alaska and Russia have such a close history; but I have wanted to go to Russia for as long as I can remember. I just never thought it would actually happen. Once we moved over here and started traveling a lot more it started to look like a possibility. Then once we figured out the easiest way to get there was a cruise, we put it on the list!
Our first photo in Russia!

Driving Around
 The first stop in our tour was Peterhof, the summer palace for Catherine the Great. Here is a (super) short description taken off of St. Petersburg.com

One of St. Petersburg's most famous and popular visitor attractions, the palace and park at Peterhof (also known as Petrodvorets) are often referred to as "the Russian Versaille", although many visitors conclude that the comparison does a disservice to the grandeur and scope of this majestic estate.

Versailles was, however, the inspiration for Peter the Great's desire to build an imperial palace in the suburbs of his new city and, after an aborted attempt at Strelna, Peterhof - which means "Peter's Court" in German - became the site for the Tsar's Monplaisir Palace, and then of the original Grand Palace. The estate was equally popular with Peter's granddaughter, Empress Elizabeth, who ordered the expansion of the Grand Palace and greatly extended the park and the famous system of fountains, including the truly spectacular Grand Cascade. 
Improvements to the park continued throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Catherine the Great, after leaving her own mark on the park, moved the court to Pushkin, but Peterhof once again became the official Imperial Residence in the reign of Nicholas I, who ordered the building of the modest Cottage Palace in 1826. 
Like almost all St. Petersburg's suburban estates, Peterhof was ravaged by German troops during the Second World War. It was, however, one of the first to be resurrected and, thanks to the work of military engineers and over 1,000 volunteers, most of the estate's major structures had been fully restored by 1947. The name was also de-Germanicized after the war, becoming Petrodvorets, the name under which the surrounding town is still known. The palace and park are once again known as Peterhof.

We were not allowed to take photos inside, only outside, and we barely covered the 250 acres of the lower gardens. We were there pretty early in the morning so there were no crowds, but once we were there a couple of hours it became fairly busy. There are tons of fountains all over the place, the largest being the Grand Cascade that leads to the bay. Before the three bridges were built across this canal, guests came in their boats right up to the palace.

At the end of this tour we took a boat to lunch and the Hermitage. It was probably the slowest boat ride EVER and it didn't help that we were all starving. 

Here we are waiting for the boat and walking down the pier:

For lunch we had a salad, salmon with some kind of seafood/carrot croquette, and some DELICIOUS beef stroganoff (with potatoes, not noodles), and some ice cream.. Apparently we were so hungry we didn't take any photos, but we were happy to finally eat! 

We walked from lunch to the Hermitage, the winter palace of the tzars and an art museum. It has been added to and redecorated multiple times depending on who was ruling and who was living there. You can see pictures of the outside and a brief history here. With the amount of time we had I don't think we even saw a quarter of this place, there is so much here, so we bought a book to bring home and read more about it!

The wood is different parts of the floor. All pieced together by hand. 

These photos were taken with the micro setting on my camera. They are tiny mosaics made of glass that are on a set of tables. The detail in this size is amazing. 

Time to get back on!

When we left the ship we went through Russian customs. They stamped our passports and placed this visa inside of them with our names and information. When we came back through they took these papers out so we snapped photos of them on the bus. We are pretty excited to have the stamps in our passports too!!!

 We were back on the ship by 6:30, in time for the first dinner seating but we decided to wait. Our waiters had no one come to dinner until we showed up for the second seating! So our food was fast and they were entertaining since we were their only guests. They got a little creative with the napkins....

Minnie Mouse

Captain Jack Sparrow

Sporting the earrings!

After many laughs, we finished up the evening taking more photos!

The man who makes all of my dreams come true!!!

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