A Travellerspoint blog

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

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