We visited St. Petersburg previously on the same trip that took us to Tallin, Estonia. Since we visited the most popular attractions previously, we focused on some of less visited attractions this trip. If you visit Russia without a visa in your passport, you can only go ashore on an authorized excursion. Since the visa form was onerous and cost as much as taking several shore excursions, we decided not to get one and to take four shore excursions offered by Viking. You have to go through Russian immigration every time you leave and return to the ship. The challenge presented to us was to get the immigration officer to smile at us. I am proud to say that I achieved this three of the eight times!
Also, Susan and I want to state clearly for the record, that while we did talk to Russians here, we never discussed anything related to any election campaign in any country!
Our first tour was to the Hermitage, which we had visited previously; but this tour also included the gold room, which we had not seen. The Hermitage consists of five buildings, one of which is the former Winter Palace. The Hermitage has over three million objects to view.The throne room in the Winter Palace.
The next excursion was to the Fabergé Museum and its collection of about ten Fabergé eggs as well as other pieces by Fabergé and other artists.Fabergé went from this simple gold egg painted white with a gold yoke inside to……elaborate eggs such as this one which included a clock. Many of his eggs also included a “surprise” inside.The Museum had a collection of Russian icons painted on wood and then framed and partially covered in gold.
Viking includes one tour in each port free of additional charge. In St. Petersburg this was a bus trip with stops at some of the most famous sights.Saint Isaac’s Cathedral. The top coupola is apparently under repair.
The colorful and elaborate Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. The name comes from the fact that it was built on the spot where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated.St. Petersburg is filled with monumental, old buildings. This one is relatively small but I love the color.
Our final tour was to Yusupov Palace. The Yusupovs were the second wealthiest family in Russia after the royal family. But the story of the palace is the story of Rasputin and Tsar Nicholas II. Rasputin was a mystic and self proclaimed holy man. The Tsar had a child who was a hemophiliac. Rasputin befriended the Tsar and his wife and convinced them to stop the medical treatments for their son and allow him to treat the child with his teas and potions. The child began to improve immediately, thus giving Rasputin great influence over the Tsar and particularly over his wife. In reality, the doctors regimen for treating the child included aspirin, so naturally he improved when the aspirin stopped.
Rasputin was soon using his influence with the royal couple to effectively run the country. Prince Felix Yusupov and other nobles in the court decided that Rasputin must be eliminated. Felix invited Rasputin to Yusupov Palace and tried to kill him with wine and cookies laced with cyanide. None of these seemed to have any effect and there is some evidence the powder they obtained as cyanide was not really cyanide. Finally, Felix says he shot Rasputin twice in the chest and left him for dead for several hours. When he returned to confirm his death, Rasputin tried to choke him and ran out of the palace. In the courtyard of the palace, another nobleman shot him in the head. They wrapped him in a blanket and dropped his body from a bridge into the nearby canal. There are a number of versions of the story from there but it appears he ended up in the water under the ice and may still have been alive when he went underwater. Suffice it to say he didn’t die easily. Felix left Russia and was never tried for the killing.The basement of the palace had some exhibits related to the killing of Rasputin (on the right).The Yusupovs had their own theater in the palace. There were box seats on the second floor.A magnificent inlaid wood floor in one of the parlors.The blue parlor.The outside of the palace was nothing special.
We enjoyed our second visit to St. Petersburg. The only place that felt uncomfortably crowded was the Hermitage and we were able to get in there an hour before it officially opened so it was essentially all ours for one hour.