A Travellerspoint blog

Kizhi Island - Monday, 1 September 2014

Kizhi Island is noted for amazing wooden architecture including the famous Church of Transfiguration with its 22 timbered onion domes

overcast 13 °C

Had a big sleep in this morning and it was lovely. Leisurely breakfast with Wayne and Evelyn from WA. We were divided into managable groups for a tour of the bridge. It was very interesting and what a great view. The Captain's mate gave us all the statistics of the ship, size, speed etc. They do 4 hour shifts and have to stand up. There are no seats on the bridge. Also it takes 300m for the ship for pull up. I know that it takes 1 mile for HMAS Melbourne to stop but of course HMAS Melbourne is a lot bigger and heavier than the Scenic Tsar.

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I stayed up until 1am this morning trying to finish the second book in the trilogy, the Bridge to Holy Cross. Got too tired and finished it this morning. I have now started on the third book, The Summer Garden.

I went to a Martryoshka doll painting morning. It was good fun but a lot harder than you would think. When all the painting is finished, we are supposed to put them on the reception desk and people will vote for the winner.

During lunch we docked at Kizhi Island and went ashore soon after. It is supposed to be 13 degrees, but let me tell you it is nowhere near that. It is overcast, a bit breezy and FREEZING! The Church of the Transfiguration is just fantastic, just as I knew it would be. It has 22 domes, all made out of wood and built in 1714. No one knows who built it, but apparently the builder threw his axe in the lake when it was completed, so another one could not be built exactly the same. The church is under renovation at the moment to preserve it forever.

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We sat for a while and listened to the bell ringer playing the bells for us in the freezing cold, but it was worth it.

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Kizhi Island is the only place where Shungite is mined and it is supposed to have healing powers. I bought a small bracelet, so I hope it works.

These two little kids were on the wharf with their mother and the little boy had fallen over and hurt his hand, so we gave them a koala and a gold kangaroo. They seemed pretty happy about that. We haven't seen many children at all so far, but they were out in droves today. It is the first day back at school after their long summer holidays.

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Back on the ship, had a hot chocolate and now relaxing in the cabin until it's time to dress for dinner. Ukrainian Dinner tonight.

Went to the Tsar lounge for the Mandrogi Port talk and then proceeded to the Ukrainian Dinner. We sat with William and Clare and Jim and Jose. The food was really nice. I had bread and dripping!, then borsch soup, then chicken kiev and then cherries and soft meringue.

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After dinner, we went into the Tsar Lounge and played Liars' Club. Our team consisted of me and Phil, Jim and Jose, William and Clare and Brian and Anna. Our team name was Da. The idea was that a word was displayed on the screen, and then Svetlana, Arti and Diana all gave a separate explanation of what the word meant and we had to guess which two were lying and which one was telling the truth. The words were bizarre, such as "wallydrag", "clinchpoop" and "slibbersauce" just to name a few. There were five and our team got 3 out of 5, but one other team won with 5 out of 5. We had a fun time.

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Nice sunset this evening.

Posted by gaddingabout 17:53 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

Mandrogi - Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Visit the museum village of Mandrogi on the banks of the River Svir. Sampling Shashlik, a traditional meal similar to shish kebab.

semi-overcast 18 °C

Awoke this morning to a pea souper fog, in fact it was so thick that it prevented us from docking at our appointed time - 9.30 am. Consequently we didn't get ashore until about 11 am, so while we were waiting to dock, we had a round table discussion with the staff. They told us all about themselves, their personal lives etc and then we got to ask questions. It went quite well until people starting asking political questions about the Ukraine, the Cold War, Putin etc, and the staff answered with the "Party Line".

We finally went ashore on Mandrogi Island, armed with maps, so we were on our own, which was good for a change. We had to meet at a certain place at 12 noon, for our Russian Barbecue Lunch and entertainment. We wandered around taking photographs of the wooden buildings. They reminded me a lot of north American Indian residences. There is a house on the island that has been built for Vladimir Putin but apparently he has never been to it. Russians like to come to Mandrogi Island in winter to hunt and fish. It is between 25 and 35 degrees below freezing here in winter.

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A Mandrogi Pre Schooler, all rugged up for any weather!

Clare and William and Phil and I went for a horse and cart ride around the island which was nice

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and then we had a Russian Barbecue Lunch and were entertained by a trio, singing and playing the balaika. They were excellent and Phil bought a couple of CDs.

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Putin's holiday house (that he has never visited)

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Back on board, and now sailing to St Petersburg. Have just been through another lock.

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Jim and Jose

We had dinner with Gail and Owen and Clare and William and then were entertained for about an hour by a concert with a choir of some of our fellow travellers singing a couple of Russian songs, then they put on a silly play, and Phil got up and read "Green and Gold Malaria" by Rupert McColl.

Early rise tomorrow so off to bed.

Posted by gaddingabout 17:35 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

St Petersburg - Wednesday, 3 September 2014

City tour with lunch in a local restaurant. Visit the Hermitage Museum

semi-overcast 17 °C

We arrived in St Petersburg at 8am and were ashore by 8.30 am and on the bus for our morning tour of the city. We were absolutely blown away by this magnificent city. It is amazing! The buildings have to be seen to be believed. They are only two to three storeys high as no building was to be higher than the Tsar's palace and modern buildings have continued to honour that rule. We just went crazy, swivelling our heads from left to right, trying not to miss anything.

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5 million people live in St Petersburg and it is the home town of our guide Svetlana, who lives here with her husband and 6 year old daughter. It is on the Neva River and the streets are extremely clean. It consists of 42 islands and has 65 rivers and canals. It was founded in 1703 by Peter the Great, one of the Romanofs. It has only 60 sunny days a year and only 30 of them are full sun! From 1712 to 1918, St Petersburg was the capital of Russia, then it became Moscow.

Twenty four percent of the population live in communal apartments. One million residents died in 1941 during the German blockade of the city. That winter it dropped to 35 below.

Church on Spilled Blood is just stunning, in fact I think I like it better that St Basil's in Moscow. It is also known as the Resurrection Church of Our Saviour and was built on the spot when Tsar Alexander II was assassinated on1 March 1881.

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St Isaac's Cathedral is one of the world's largest cathedrals and was completed in 1858.

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After our amazing city tour, we stopped for lunch in a restaurant named "Restaurant".

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Then off the the Hermitage for the afternoon. How can words describe this place? It was the Winter Palace of the Russian Royal family. It would take 27 kilometres to walk all the way through it, it consists of 5 buildings, it has 3 million pieces on display and if you took one minute to look at every piece, it would take you 8 years to get through it all. You hardly notice the art because the floors, walls and ceilings are so ornately decorated that they take your breath away.

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The battery on my tablet conked out not long after our tour started, but at least Phil kept taking millions of photos. There was an opportunity to stay an extra hour at the Hermitage, but most of us decided to come back to the ship to have a rest before the Captain's Farewell Dinner tonight. I have never been so exhausted in my life!

We had dinner with Jose and Jim and Brian and Anna and after dinner, Helen and Neil joined us so that Brian and Helen could work out if they were at the East State School at the same time. We then adjourned to the Tsar Lounge and while Phil and Ross sang with the entertainer guy, Gail and I and the Canadian girls danced for quite a while. I finally dragged myself away and went to bed as it had been a very long and tiring day but totally enjoyable.

Posted by gaddingabout 17:07 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

St Petersburg - Thursday, 4 September 2014

Visit the summer residence of Russian royalty at Peterhof. Tour of the Grand Palace, followed by a walk through the magnificent gardens. Visit to the Yusupov Palace

sunny 19 °C

After dancing and late into bed, I certainly did not want to get up this morning and we had to be on the bus by 8.30 am. We drove to Peterhof to visit the Grand Palace, the summer palace of Catherine the Great. Well, words just couldn't describe it. It was just amazing. The interior was gold, gold, gold with magnificent silk on the walls and curtains to match. It was stunning but unfortunately photos weren't allowed. But, photos were allowed in the grounds. Fountains everywhere and the main one "performs" to music every hour. What a spectacle. We walked through the grounds and around every corner, there was another spectacular fountain or a manicured garden. It was lovely.

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We then walked down to the water and caught a hydrofoil back to the city. It took about half an hour and we passed by where the big ocean liners dock. There were about four in port and one of them would have been Carole and Doug's Royal Princess, but we weren't close enough to read the name.

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Back on the bus for a short ride to our lunch stop, the Metropol Restaurant. It was nicely decorated and our meal was nice though Phil didn't agree. There was a nice cheese soup, salmon and pannacotta with chocolate. Very nice.

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Back on the bus for the short ride to the Yusupov Palace which is in the main city area. This palace belonged to the richest family in Russia. They even lent money to the Tsar! One of the Yusupov sons, Felix, murdered Rasputin and we went down to the basement to see where it all happened. Very interesting. It is a great place to visit.

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We returned to the ship, all very tired and had about an hour to rest before dinner.

We had dinner with Peter and Mavis McWilliam and Jim and Jose Eames.

There are a few people sick on the ship, some with colds and quite a few with a bit of gastro. We are hoping that it's not catching.

Posted by gaddingabout 02:29 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

St Petersburg - Friday, 5 September 2014

Visit Catherine's Palace. Highlight lunch at the old world wooden Podvorie restaurant. Evening private Russian ballet concert at the Palace of Prince Vladimir.

sunny 19 °C

Another early morning and on the bus at 8.30 am for the half an hour drive to Pushkin to visit Catherine's palace. Catherine's palace is known world wide for its amber room. The German's surrounded the city of Leningrad (St Petersburg) from 1941 to 1944 and starved the people. However, they also bombed the city and a lot of this palace was destroyed. Many of the rooms are still being restored. The amber room was stolen by the Nazis and to this day, no one knows where it is. 30 years ago, the Russian government decided to rebuild it. It took 25 years to rebuild and 6 tons of amber and was reopened in 2003.

Pushkin was once called Tsar's village and was renamed Pushkin in 1937. It was the first settlement to have a railway from Pushkin to St Petersburg and electricity and hot water.

As we arrived and hopped off the bus, five members of the local band, all dressed up in their uniforms, started playing the Australian National Anthem and Waltzing Matilda. Lovely touch!

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Scenic paid extra for our tickets, so we could enter before the crowds arrived. The best laid plans of mice and men .......... we were held up at the turn stiles because when the tickets printed, they had the wrong date on them and the gate wouldn't open for us, so we had to wait while new tickets were issued.

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We walked up the main staircase and into the first room and WOW!!! There was gold everywhere. It was breathtaking. Room after room was decorated in the baroque style with gold leaf everywhere.

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Then the decor started to change and became a bit more normal, but lovely just the same.

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We weren't allowed to take photos in the amber room, but it was only a small room and the magnificent ballrooms with the gold leaf were much more stunning, I thought.

We left the palace and walked through the lovely grounds. No fountains here but lovely gardens nonetheless. There are a lot of groups from cruise ships so I kept my eye out for Carole and Doug, but didn't spot them.

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We then walked through the grounds of Alexander's palace and then onto the bus for our special luncheon.

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We had lunch at the Podvorye Restaurant, which is owned by the man who owns Mandrogi Island. It was traditional Russian food - pickled tomatoes, gerkin, garlic, slices of meat and dips; borsch soup; chicken and rice for main course and a bleni filled with berries and icecream for dessert. There were bottles of vodka, red and white wine on the tables and of course, our table had more than our fair share of the grog.

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We were entertained by a group of singers and a good time was had by all.

Back on the ship for a rest (and sober up) before the ballet tonight. Our ship's bill was on the bed on our return and we have been charged for someone's bar bill, but they will work it out and adjust our bill tomorrow, when it has to be paid. There was also a list of those of us going to Finland on Sunday - 18 pax.

Today has been our warmest day. It is sunny and nice but still a bit cool in the shade.

At 7.00 pm, back on the bus, all dressed up for our trip to the ballet, with the sun still shining brilliantly. On the way to the concert, Gail was sick, so Svetlana arranged for a taxi to take Gail and Owen back to the ship. Owen, plus a few others had a vomiting bug a couple of days ago. Looks like Gail has caught it. Poor thing. We arrived at the Palace of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich for cocktails and drinks while a stringed quartet played beautiful classical music.

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Then we entered a small concert and enjoyed a concert of 10 dances from ballets such as Swan Lake, Giselle and Don Quixote, to name just a few. The dancers had a full orchestra accompanying them. The concert was arranged especially for Scenic Tours. It was a lovely evening.

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When we came out at 9pm, it was still twilight.

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Posted by gaddingabout 00:50 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

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