July 27, 2018

Day 2 in Russia. We started early the next day and was off the ship by 7:15 am. Eva and I were early so the emigration control line was not bad and we got through quickly.

We made one stop at the park that oversees St Issacs Cathedral and then off for a canal boat ride. This was a fun ride boat ride through the city’s many rivers and canals, unfortunately the boat was so noisy that we could not hear the guide very well. There was a Russian guy that would run to each of the many bridges we went under and wave to us. He must have ran 2-3 miles and he was waiting at the end to collect tips. He did earn a bit of money from our group.

Neva River

Neva River Video

After the boat ride we went to the Hermitage Museum. This is the second largest museum in the world. It is located inside the Czar’s Winter Palace. All throughout the tour we were taught about the history of Russia, but mostly about the Czars and how they lost power during the Russian Revolution in 1918. We spent a lot of time at the museum and but still did not see all of it. There is a lot of exhibits from all around the world and from all ages. There are several Michel Angelo pieces and an entire room of Rembrandt paintings. They said there are 3 million exhibits in the 5 buildings. The palace itself was a museum as it was not damaged much in the wars and has been restored. The main palace has 1050 rooms in it. Most of the big rooms have a lot of gold leaf on the walls, ceiling and furniture.

Hermitage Museum

Hermitage Museum Video

The next stop was the travel agency office (TJ Travels) to pay for our tours and buy some souvenirs. We ended up paying $630 each for 5 days of touring in 4 different countries. This included all the entrance fees and two lunches in Russia. We also paid about $200 in tips to the guides and drivers.

After our time at the office we went to eat lunch. It was another good lunch with soup, beef stroganoff with mashed potatoes and a desert.

The next stop was to Yusupov Palace. This was the location of where Rasputin was killed at the start of the Russian Revolution. Rasputin as a Russian mystic and self-proclaimed holy man who befriended the family of Tsar Nicholas II, the last monarch of Russia, and gained considerable influence in late imperial Russia.

It is easy to understand why there was a revolution, when you see how the Czars and royalty lived and compared that with how bad the common man lived at the same time. The royalty were living in gold lined rooms while the common man was starving and fighting the wars for the Czars.

Eventually the citizens became fed up and that’s what started the revolution. The first revolution in 1917 removed the Czar’s from power and killed them and their family. The second revolution is what put Lenin in power and started the Soviet Union and communism. The people suffered under Czars or under communism until 1991. The guide was telling us that the young people love the freedom, but the older generation feel the loss of the security and support from the state.

Our last stops were at St Issac’s Cathedral. It was another very ornate church. It had very colorful paintings and mosaics. All the churches were being restored and were very beautiful. Most of them also had gift shops in the cathedrals. Most churches were more museum than church, but some of them still held services. The cathedral on Rabbit Island had a church service in progress while we were there and they asked us to be reverent while in the building

Our final stop was at a St. Petersburg Metro subway station. We rode an escalator down 250 feet underground. The subways are deep enough underground to get below the Neva river. We did not ride the subway but just visited the station. The cost was 70 US cents to ride anywhere in St Petersburg. The station was crowded at the end of the day.

At that point everyone was tired and wanted to get back to the ship, as it was the end of 2 long days of walking. Once we were back on the ship we ate dinner in one of the restaurants, watched a magic show in the theater.

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