Tuesday, October 13, 2015

From Russia With Love

Stan and I have just returned from a really wonderful 2-week river cruise in Russia, from St. Petersburg to Moscow.  I don't think my words and photos can possibly convey how awesome this experience was - we very highly recommend Viking River Cruises for a first-class trip!

Our ship - Viking Ingvar

We go aboard, after a very long trip - Seattle to Paris, Paris to St. Petersburg

The ship was lovely.  There were 199 passengers, and about 100 crew, and the accommodations and food were first class.

Home away from home

Champagne on the sun deck to begin our cruise

We stayed in St. Petersburg for three days, and the tours started right away with the Hermitage the first morning and ballet, Swan Lake, in the evening.  I have never been a really avid museum-goer -  I tend to get tired and overwhelmed - but our guides showed us selected samples rather than trying to see everything, and their commentary about the background, politics and story behind what we were seeing made the art come alive.  It kept our interest and we forgot about being tired!

Buses lined up every day to take us on tours
Our guide, Natalia, at the Hermitage 
The Hermitage is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world, founded by Catherine the Great in 1764.  It occupies six historic buildings along the Palace Embankment in St. Petersburg.  Part of it was the winter palace of Russian royalty, and it now is home to a collection of fabulous art.

This is real gold leaf
The Jordan staircase

Throne room
A fabulous ceiling

That evening we were taken to see Swan Lake at the Alexandrinsky Theater.  Amazing!  The theater itself is a work of art and we were surprised to be shown to our seats in the third row center.  There were no photos allowed during the performance, but here is the theater.


Some street scenes around St. Petersburg - I love the architecture, and how the older buildings are painted lovely colors with lots of white molding.  Both St. Petersburg and Moscow are more beautiful than I expected, although there were many large apartment buildings like the ones below that looked unattractive and not well maintained.  We learned that during the Soviet period of communism, families were given apartments.  Later, when the USSR broke up, those families got to keep their apartments while anyone who didn't yet have one just missed out, creating an instant gap in wealth.  Today, someone who owns an apartment in Moscow can rent it out for enough to have a nice retirement in a smaller city or town.

 This was just the first of many, many cathedrals we saw, all different and all absolutely magnificent!

And that, along with three delicious meals and a safety drill, was our first day.  It seems a big task to adequately show you this wonderful trip.  I will post a few days' activities at a time over the next week or so, and I hope you enjoy the trip vicariously!

Fortunately we didn't need these other than for the drill

Dinner the first night, beef stroganoff and vanilla caramel cream.  Stan was interested that they put the sour cream on top of the meat instead of mixing it in as in a traditional recipe. We had to have dessert each evening - they were so beautiful it would have been an unforgivable waste to pass it up!

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