St. Petersburg--July 24, 2005--City Tour, the Hermitage, Canal Cruise, Giselle Ballet at Mariinsky Theater
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The pace picked up considerably on this first full day as part of the cruise ship itinerary. First, we were off on a city tour (50-62) seeing various churches this Sunday morning including the Church on Spilled Blood (52-54) where in 1881, Czar Alexander II was assassinated. His successor erected this church here in his memory. The very colorful church is reminiscent of St. Basil's Cathedral, which we would see later in Moscow.
After the whirlwind city tour, we were back at the Hermitage (63-77) for another short visit. We were glad we had been able to spend more time here a couple of days earlier but were again dazzled by both the palaces and artwork of the museum. It is a real question which of the two is the more spectacular. Of note on this visit was a room featuring portraits of Russian military heroes (65-66). Our guide pointed out to us that the intricate floors (67) frequently mirrored similar patterns on the ceilings. From a distance, the malachite table (75) does not appear extraordinary until one finds on close examination, it is composed of tiny mosaic pieces of malachite which give the overall pattern to the table. An interesting artifact is an intricate peacock clock (69) which is wound up and played each Wednesday at 5 PM to the delight of children (and adults) in attendance. Works by Raphael (74) and Monet (77) were also viewed along with many others.
Leaving the museum, we saw a bit more of the city including the Bronze Horseman statue of Peter the Great (78) in St. Isaac's Square. There we saw a wedding party being photographed, a scene we would see repeatedly in Russia where a Russian tradition calls for wedding parties to be photographed near a prominent landmark.
Shortly thereafter, we arrived at a boat dock for our cruise of the rivers and canals of St. Petersburg (81-102). This is a very pleasant way to spend an hour or two in St. Petersburg and gives a different perspective of the city, sometimes called the Venice of the North. The boats cannot traverse the canals some days because the water is too high in relation to the bridges but this day, everything was fine for our cruise. Besides seeing the usual palaces and monuments from the boat, one sometimes sees something funny such as photo 87 of a restaurant named in Spanish, The Cockroach.
Our only problem on the cruise was that we were sitting near the front of the boat looking forwards while another row of passengers was sitting in front of us looking to the rear of the boat. Periodically, one of these passengers would suddenly rise to look at something and almost lost his head a couple of times as bridges approached. Another couple told us later that on their cruise they saw a dead body in one of the canals which probably put a bit of a chill on the experience.
We ended the afternoon's touring with a visit to the Aurora (105-108). The cruiser, Aurora, signaled the start of the 1917 revolution by firing a single shot from its bow gun before the storming of the Winter Palace. Lenin later broadcast a victory address from the ship's radio room. Because of its historical significance, it was intentionally sunk during World War II to protect it from the Nazis and later raised in 1944. It is today a popular museum and a special hit with children.
The day was not over yet since after a quick dinner, we were off to the Mariinsky Theater (seen from the water in photo 95) to see the ballet, Giselle. We had great seats in the twelfth row center but unfortunately have no photos of either the inside of the theater or the ballet. The Mariinsky, home to the Kirov Ballet, is a magical place and a one-time home to many famous ballet stars including Pavlova and Nureyev. A panoramic view of the Marrinsky's inside is at Mariinsky.
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