To Russia With Curiosity Part 1: St. Petersburg: Patience is a Virtue
St. Petersburg, Russia
The rain poured all day as the bus took us from Helsinki toward St. Petersburg. At the border, I was at the back of the line. I heard something that didn’t sound good. It was passed on to me that a couple was missing a piece of paper. I frowned and asked my fellow Canadian if I could see their Russia visa. My heart sank; I too was missing the type entry and exit papers that the consular forgot.
The couple and I were asked to step aside. With our travel agent, and the Russian guide who was escorting us toward our riverboat, were able to get us into Russia. The question remained; will I be able to get out? Neither will be by my side when I leave from Moscow.
One thing I hate is when something goes wrong at the border. And this is the first for me after many border crossings in the past 25 years. I had to erase that away from my mind to enjoy my trip. As the vacation would draw to a close, it may be dicey.
Once we arrived at Latvinov (our riverboat home for the next 16 days cruising the Volga River) it was a frenzied evening. What time to relax? We got to our rooms, and then had to quickly go upstairs to hear the cruise director talk about our home away from home, Russia, and all the rest yadda, yadda, yadda.
This first day was a whirlwind tour after stopping at the bank to get some rubles. It would be impossible to exchange in the villages.
Our first stop was Isaacs Square. The golden dome Isaacs Cathedral takes the spotlight. Vendors are across the street selling souvenirs but I ignored them on the drizzly day taking my photos then boarding the bus.
The Cruiser Aurora fired the first blank shot on the 25th October 1917 and started the October Revolution.
|This Church Took 24 Years to Build and 27 Years to Restore|
After a Bleme lunch (like porgies with ground beef wrapped in pancake-like dipped in sour cream) we headed outside St. Petersburg to St. Catherine’s Palace where patience were exercised. The sun shone, with a few clouds in the sky as we waited for the gate to open. Standing in this long line, the clouds started to roll in then eventually darkened. My umbrella was in the bus. A few of us ran toward the building, pressed out bodies against the wall with the ledge above just protecting us.
|Palace of Catherine the Great|
Here we go again. Line up. To see each art or painting for one minute would take 15 years to view the Hermitage Museum. We meandered from room to room. Again my attention span was not diverted to what the tour guide all said. I know,I know. I should be paying attention. I daydream a lot.
The afternoon, I was surprised that I was actually able to soak in some sun on the riverboat. Little known, this was the start to a fabulous two weeks of great weather.
A military graduation was taking place as we took our place in line again. The Peterof Palace was the scene. Just as the graduation finished, I heard the splashing of water. I was itching to take a peek at one of the most famous fountains in the world.
We were in front of the line. I kept looking at my watch. About half hour after the graduation ceremony had ended, I was fed up. The tour representative was puzzled when I said I was leaving the line.
|The Grand Cascade of Peterof|
The rumble of rumour was most people didn’t think the palace was worth the long wait. Perhaps if they went in quicker, the attitude may have been different.
After lunch, we savoured a boat ride along the canals of St. Petersburg. Guess what? No waiting in line.
If you have been to Venice and or Amsterdam, St. Petersburg is a reminiscence of these two cities. Known as “Venice of the North” our boat glided around the many canals. A boy jogged along the sidewalk keeping pace. The canal cruise gave us a different view of Peter and Paul Museum with its high steeple, Hermitage Museum and much more of this beautiful city.
Our last day to soak up St. Petersburg without any queuing. The riverboat had shuttles to and from town. Not far from Church on Spilled Blood we found an Internet café then proceeded to stroll around.
We stopped for a drink at a café. The toilets didn’t work. Got a little lost as we took the wrong turn toward Nevsky Prospekt. Once on this four-kilometer long street, my roommate was dying for McDonald’s. I frowned but what the heck; I knew there would be working toilets. She paid for my fries and drink. Gee, imagine that. I ate at McDonald’s in Russia. I never eat there at home (Ok, the occasional breakfast).
The riverboat sailed away for our final look of St. Petersburg. Tonight was the Captain’s welcome party. Yes, yes this part technically is a few days late but who had time when we had non-stop action.
Run down apartments came a view in my movie camera and people waved along the banks. We waved back to both the people and saying good-bye to St. Petersburg.
Our riverboat cruised to the first village stop. Check Out Part 2 of “To Russia with curiosity” by clicking on the author’s name below.