Saturday, August 10, 2013

Strolling down the Nevsky Prospect

 Got to bed about 10:30 pm last night; there was still daylight shining through our four skylights…yes, we are on the sixth floor (actually seven flights up) and at the top of our hotel.  Our windows are the skylights above our bed.  At 11 pm…the rain came but it is dry outside this morning.  But, definitely more rain on the way today.  We walk up one flight of stairs, then enter the elevator that takes us up four flights of stairs and then we walk up two more flights of very steep and narrow stairs.  Keeps the heart pumping!

Something I forgot to mention yesterday, and if you looked at the fifty plus photos on the Picasa Web Album you saw, they are putting “love locks” on a chain fence here in St. Petersburg…not many yet but interestingly…those that are there are mostly in the shape of a heart and LARGE!  We are anxious to check our lock in Paris that we attached last April.  Word on the street is that they cut them off when there are too many!

Jim is out walking…we are not leaving until 10:30 am this morning and one of our stops today is back at the Hermitage Museum.  Today we are concentrating on the Art in the buildings.  This is one of the reasons that we elected not to go on a standard tour but to travel on our own and hire a personal guide for our visit to St. Petersburg.  A real treat and wonderful but expensive for those that normally travel on their own and wander around in European cities without the knowledge of the stories from a local guide.  (That’s a description of us!)  Tatiana is a real treasure and I can highly recommend her if you are planning to visit this wonderful city.  Each day she astounds us with her vast knowledge on every site without the benefit of notes or books…all in her head and supplemented with a few large postcards she carries each day to help us understand what we are viewing…an overview usually taken from the air.  An added plus is that we walk past all the lines of tourists waiting to buy their tickets and enter.  She pre-purchases all of our tickets and the staff know her in all of the sites.  And she knows exactly where to stand and what the best spots for photo shots are.  Plus we travel in a private car with a driver who wait for us at each site!  And best of all, she plans your visit according to what you want to see during your time in St. Petersburg.

I’ve really enjoyed my new smart phone; we are using Skype (I have an International Plan right now at $13.99 per month…more expensive than for the year but I will only keep it through our trip in January).   I open the wi-fi connection here in the hotel and make calls to landlines or cell phones anywhere in the world.  The connection is so clear it’s as though we are next door.  Each morning and evening we make several calls to family members…east coast in the evening and west coast in the morning.  We are eleven hours ahead of California time.  It has truly been a blessing to ease our minds because of several close relatives who are in the hospital.  Each year we seem to have better technology to keep us connected to home when we travel.

Jim returned by 10 am and was very excited about what he’d seen; they have closed down a street and the square in front of the Hermitage Museums for a race car and a Lamborghini who were racing up and down the street making drifting turns at each end on wet pavement.  We also discovered later that there is a very large meeting for Harley Davidson Motorcycles that paraded up and down the streets.

Tatiana arrived at 10:30 am and we decided to start with a walk down Millionaire Road.  First we visited the Marble Palace that is nearby and the statue of Alexander III on the largest horse we’d seen as a statue…necessary because Alexander III was a very large man.  We then proceeded towards the Palace Square, where the cars were racing, 

and got caught in a sudden downpour that lasted about five minutes.  That was the end of our rain for 
the day. 

 From the square we did a walking tour of about two miles down Nevsky Prospect, a main street in St. Petersburg.  One of the first stops was at the most expensive hotel in the city:  Hotel Taleon, there we took a quick tour inside and she made sure that we knew where the dining room was so that we might consider returning on Monday for a “businessman’s lunch” that is reasonable.  But, she did warn us that people “dress” to have lunch here.  There were views of the canal below and the Stroganoff Palace across the street.
Leaving the hotel we crossed the street and entered the Stroganoff Palace for a tour of the home of a very wealthy family.   One of the photos in the slideshow is of a photo on display showing the condition of the room prior to the restoration during Perestroika.  The word Perestroika is used to describe the time of deep modernization in the USSR from 1986-1991 initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader. 

Back on the street we walked from site to site as she explained the history to us.  A sign on a building built in 1939 told people during WW II that if bombs were dropping to go to the other side of the street as it was safer.  Bombs were more likely to drop on one side than the other.  That was during the siege and the German bombs were being launched from Peterhof.

Soon we were at the Our Lady of Kazan Cathedral.  There we saw the relic that the church is named for and also a painting of Nicolas II’s family that were killed during the early twentieth century.  They are on the road for canonization and are revered as future saints in the Russian Orthodox Church.  There were also relics from the war with Napoleon in the church.  We were resting in the park in front of the church and suddenly all of those motorcycles came parading down the street!  Lots of fun but very noisy. 

We visited a very old and expensive store before heading for a nearby tea shop for some lunch.  On the way we passed a Carl’s Jr. Sandwich shop.  At the tea shop we discovered the choices were small salads or desserts.  We were hungry so we asked Tatiana how she felt about going to Carl’s Jr?  She’d never been to one so was very unsure; but was up to the challenge and we enjoyed an American lunch in St. Petersburg.  It was about $25 for our lunch of three sandwiches, drinks and fries for Jim and a dessert for Tatiana and myself…the new ice cream sandwich between chocolate chip cookies.
It was now about 2:00 pm and we caught the trolley back down Nevsky Prospect all the way to the Hermitage Museum.  There we spent the next three hours walking from room to room as she explained the wonderful art that they have in the museum.  A selection by all of the Impressionistic artists, Monet, Degas, plus all the others that we so loved to visit.  Most of these we’d never seen 

before.  The Old Masters from Rembrandt to Reuben and more.  Then on to the modern work by Picasso and others.  The vast majority of these were purchased by the royal family over the years.  Tatiana seemed to know the story on every painting…she had particular ones to talk about but when questioned about others she always had answers for us.
Leaving the Hermitage we walked back along the river side of Millionaire’s Road all the way to the Summer Garden of Peter The Great’s Palace.   

A delightful place to end a wonderful day of touring.  Home to the hotel; turning down an offer by Tatiana to stay and show us the city by night…that would not be possible until nearly midnight!  Much too late for these old folks!
See you tomorrow.

For those that enjoy the slideshow, click on the photo below:

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