Saturday’s itinerary included Red Square, Lenin’s Tomb, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Tretyakov Art Gallery, and the Kuskovo Park and Estate.
The day was capped off with a dinner cruise on the Moscow River on a beautiful Radisson ship. The food, atmosphere, and sites were all relaxing and interesting.
Early on a Sunday morning it was off to St. Petersburg on the “Sapsan” or bullet train. Signage was good at the train station and we got to our business class seats without a problem. The train is about four years old and is very well maintained. The seats were comfortable and the ride VERY smooth. With free Wifi, and an omelet breakfast, the trip was great. A Russian who spoke English helped get us connected to the web and we had a lengthy conversation. As with several other Russians with whom we spoke, he was quite curious about what the rhetoric was like in the U.S. regarding the situation in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. The Moscow-St. Petersburg trip is about three hours and forty minutes, reaching speeds of 155 miles per hour (they plan to increase that to 230mph within two years). With gray skies and some rain, the scenery was not much to look at but the trip went by quickly and our St. Petersburg guide met us at the train station there.
She and our driver escorted us to The Ermitage, the Bed & Breakfast where we stayed in St. Petersburg. My guess is that the entire hotel would fit into the Presidential Suite at the Intercontinental. Nevertheless it was comfortable and very hospitable with English speaking personnel.
The first of many sites visited in St. Petersburg was Peterhof, known as the “showplace of Russia”, which is about 30 km outside the city. This is the palace or estate of fountains and it is practically indescribable in terms of the original engineering of the water flow, the number of fountains (over 200), and their design. Amazingly, all of these fountains are fed by gravity alone! The pictures will give you some idea of the splendor of this place. As with all the palaces we visited, the royal families went completely over the top when it came to extravagance. The most elaborate mansions of today do not hold a candle to these incredible pieces of architectural art. At Peterhof, the main palace, the “bath house”, the immense gardens, and the seaside dwelling of Empress Elizabeth left you shaking your head at how impressive they were.
One of the most important sites in St. Petersburg is the Peter and Paul Fortress & Cathedral. It lies on the Neva River shore and is home to the tombs of all of the Romanov Czars.
Next up for us was cruising the canals and then the Yusupov Palace which was the site of the murder of the famous Russian character, Rasputin. He was murdered by friends of the last Czar and there is an area of the palace that depicts the surrounding events. Although there are many standard boat tours through the canals of St. Petersburg, our tour company set up a special canal tour via powerboat, enabling us to visit twice the normal area covered by other boats.
Stay tuned for Part 3…
Karl Dring, General Manager, GlobalPoint Travel Solutions
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