I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!

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Entries in Russia (7)

Tuesday
Sep202016

An added bonus

 

When we boarded the ship, we sought advice from Lizzie, of the Destinations team to see if there was anything we could squeeze into our already packed programme.  Well, when all excursions are included, it makes sense to take advantage, n’est-ce pas?  Our “bonus” tour was scheduled for more or less the same time as we arrived back from Peterhof, so rather than return to the ship and go through the whole passport process once again, we made arrangements to meet our guide on the pier.

 

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We were going to the Faberge Museum.

Our guide was somewhat older than the previous women who had taken charge and this lady had a voice which set my teeth on edge.  She was efficient in that she wanted to impart every piece of information to us “dear guests” and nothing, but nothing, was going to stop her.  OK, so as we know, we have to toe the line and fall into place, but this afternoon was going to be hard.

 

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We put on our shoe covers as instructed, and waited.  After waiting some more, we sat back and realised that there was still more waiting to be done.  Eventually, having started out as the last group of the first departure, we became the last group of the last departure.  What was holding us up?  We didn’t know, but “please, dear guests, sit down and be waiting until we can go”.

 

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Actually, I don’t suppose we did wait that long, but it seemed as though we’d never get to see the things we were most hoping to see.  We were eager to get going, but as we were shown up the stairs of this former palace, now a privately owned museum, we stood and listened to the history of what seemed like every square inch of the entrance hall.  Grand?  Oh yes.  But we hadn’t come to see another palace, had we?

 

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That old style Rrru-sss-ian voice continued and we dear guests were feeling anything like.  Come on!  Of course, we were tired too, we’d been up since 5.30am and been taking things at quite a pace for several days.

 

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Eventually, we made it into the first room: Russian silverware.  This was spectacular and the room itself was pretty amazing.  Did we want a commentary on every single thing in each case?  Not really.  But we were going to get one anyway.  Of course Carl Faberge was head of a jewellery company and although we are familiar with his name, we know only one small aspect of his work.  Here was the wider picture and so much more.

 

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There were so many interesting things in that first room, we were quite happy.

 

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And of course, you’ve already noticed, we could take photographs!

 

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Maybe the treasures were in this next room?  Certainly, the ceiling was elegant and finely painted – well, you know, we’re becoming quite the experts on such things Winking smile

 

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More Russian silver in here, including some of the most beautiful pieces I’ve seen.

 

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The colours in this paperback book sized box took my breath away.

 

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And how exquisite is this small box beside it?  Maybe meant for cigarettes?

 

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In this room too, were some large sets of silverware, all beautifully polished and lit to show every detail.  I wonder how they manage to keep it all so brilliant?  Perhaps some special atmosphere in those cases, do you think?

 

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What I really liked was the space and freedom to look closely at everything.  For sure, we’d muttered about the pace of the tour, the time our guide was taking to go into every detail of every object, but of course, this gave us the advantage of being able to take our own time to take photographs, to admire and to notice some aspects which we might otherwise have overlooked.

 

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I know that I can zoom in on high resolution images later, but it’s even better if I can do so at the time.

 

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As we turned the corner into the next room, the mood lightened: here were those things we’d come to see.  The Easter Eggs; formerly the collection of Malcolm Forbes.  In the first case were the first examples, the simplest ones of all.

 

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But subsequent cases showed the more elaborate ones we’d seen on TV, in books and magazines – but never at such close quarters.  We were told that as each egg was completed, in time for Easter, the work would begin on the next one, which would take a whole year to be made.

 

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It had been my intention to make notes of the details of each egg, but it was virtually impossible.  Instead, I picked up the catalogue and worked my way around.  I especially loved the little bay tree egg, complete with the tiny key which activated the little bird mechanism.

 

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No wonder these beauties took so long to create!  The detail was unbelievable, especially in the small objects designed to be contained in the eggs, such as this little carriage, no more than a couple of inches long.

 

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I especially liked those eggs with a personal, family touch to the design, such as this next one.

 

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The lily of the valley egg was so pretty and those little portraits added a touch of sentimentality and made it so personal.

 

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Here’s the catalogue entry for it.

 

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and the detail of the three little family photographs which pop up from inside the egg.

 

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There was the rosebud egg, which opens to produce an opening flower.  Not only were these a fine example of jewellers’ art, there were some considerable engineering skills involved too.

 

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There was the Order of St George egg, a gift from Tsar Nicholas to his Mother, for Easter 1916.

 

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This pink enamelled clock was possibly the most practical of all.

 

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This anniversary egg was possibly the most sentimental, with family photographs and scenes from courtly occasions.

 

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Finally, in the corner, in case we had any trouble recognising the distinctions between the cheap souvenir charms on sale here and there and the real thing, here were the finest examples of the kind.  Delicately crafted, no larger than an inch or so, every one of these would look stunning worn on a neckchain or attached to a bracelet.  We could dream.

 

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And surprisingly, that was it for the eggs.  I realised that I have no idea how many eggs there are in exisitence, so couldn’t really have imagined how many I’d see in here.  But no matter, for what we had seen were so exquisite, I was happy to move on.

 

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Especially since in the next room were equally lovely things – just not egg shaped!

 

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I mean, how pretty is this tiny (4 inches or so tall) enamelled pansy?

 

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and how cute are these small bears, sitting on the edge of a stone ashtray?

 

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But that was it for the truly spectacular.  The next room had the merely gorgeous, like these sets of buttons, created to match the silk of a lovely dress, perhaps.

 

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For as well as the one off creations for the Royal household, the House of Faberge also created finely manufactured lines, each with a distinctive texture in the enamel.

 

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Fashionable buckles and clasps, clocks and boxes for everything from stamps to smelling salts, all arranged in colour themes.

 

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These items had been commissioned by the Baron Rothschild, to be given as gifts.  They are enamelled in his racing colours!

 

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This room was the last of the “real” Faberge collection, then, because the remainder of the museum was devoted to the finest examples of work from other Russian master craftsmen of the time.  Equally pretty, equally lovely but without the cachet of that Faberge name.

 

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Here we could see examples of Russian cloisonne work, different in style from that we’d seen in the far east.

 

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And although there were pretty eggs here too, quite clearly they were not in the same class as those we’d seen earlier.

 

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Though who wouldn’t be thrilled to own such a lovely thing?

 

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Finally, we found ourselves in the Gothic Room, where a large collection of icons were displayed.

 

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These too demonstrated the considerable skills of the jeweller’s art and craftsmanship.

 

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Then one of those serendipitous moments occurred.  My eyes fell on this particular icon – nothing special, you might think, considering the rich silver decoration of some of the others around.  I consulted my catalogue to find more information and discovered that it was a copy of none other than the icon of Our Lady of Kazan, the precious icon in the corner of the cathedral of the same name we’d visited a couple of days ago.

 

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There in the same vitrine was one of Alexander Nevsky, too.

 

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It seemed a fitting way to end our visit, so we made our way downstairs, removed our shoe covers and waited for our group to reassemble.  You can guess how we spent our time.

 

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Our route back to the ship took us past Our Lady of Kazan too, though the afternoon sunshine made it difficult to see!

 

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One last time through the passport control.  Another opportunity to gaze at the Cathedral of the Assumption and feel thankful for the wonderful time we’ve had here.

 

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At 5.30 or thereabouts, we watched the activity on the pier and in particular the two serious looking gentlemen standing by.  After a few minutes, the gangplank was pulled in, they waved goodbye and we were off, bound for Tallinn, Estonia.

 

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I couldn’t resist one last photograph.

 

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We went straight inside and did a quick change.  The crew show was starting in the theatre and it’s always a must-see.  The only problem is, when the crew show is on the programme, it means our cruise is coming to an end. 

Not yet, though.  We still have Tallinn!

Tuesday
Sep202016

and then the sun came out again

 

Having driven through all those dreary Soviet style suburbs, we arrived at our destination right on time.  Just as the sun came out.

 

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Somewhere, at the end of that long gravel pathway was the place which had left such a strong impression on us all those years ago: Petrodvorets, as was, or Peterhof as it’s known now.

 

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Would it be as we remembered?  Had we conflated several places together in those intervening thirty or so years?

 

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We’d remembered it for the fountains, though none were working right now.

 

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And reaching the entrance way too early to go in, our guide Mel suggested we wander around a take a few photos whilst she kept our (second) place in the queue.  So we did.

 

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We found an exhibit of photographs taken when the place was in pieces, just after the war.  We’ve found the Russians to be more open about such things now than they were.  I think they can feel proud of the splendid restoration work they have done on such places.

 

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We practised our transliteration of the Russian spellings.  We can do E and T ok and we know that P is an R from our old favourite “PECTOPAH” (restaurant).  But it’s a slow job!

 

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So we admired the onion domes of the small chapel until it was time to meet Mel again.

 

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Oh my, were we pleased she’d saved our places?!

 

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We went inside, covered our shoes with shoe-shaped J cloth shower cap things, used the facilities (as suggested), hung our coats in the cloakroom and checked our bags in if needed.  Mel was waiting for us, ready to go in.

And you guessed, didn’t you?  No photos inside.

So, can you imagine (from my notes): a gold and white staircase into the gold ballroom, decorated in the style during Peter the Great’s daughter, Tsarina Elizabeth’s reign with gold mirrors, a polished wood floor and the most amazing painted ceiling ever (modern reproduction of course) and restored since we were here last.  Next into a room full of paintings of naval battles in the Mediterranean, one of which was painted when Catherine the Great paid for a ship to be loaded with explosives and blown up, so the artist could paint from reality.  Hmm.  Then into the Blue Secretary Room where visitors could be registered and on into the throne room where the green and white walls had family cameos high up there.

I drew a small sketch of the arrangements of the portraits high above the throne, including those of Catherine the Great, Peter himself and Elizabeth their 2nd daughter …and of course, I’m immediately wondering what happened to their first daughter?  It’s what travelling does for us – it provokes all kinds of questions that widen our knowledge and in these days of the internet, it’s easy to find out the answers.  I’ll do that (and maybe you will, too)

There followed a succession of rooms, each described in my book with exclamation marks.  The word “GOLD!” occurs frequently, as do mentions of a variety of silk wall coverings.  I made special mention of the Wedgewood plates on the dining table, each set upon a matching plate warmer into which hot water would be poured.  Well, yes, I imagine in winter, food would go cold very quickly indeed.  In fact, we could sometimes do with those on board the ship – or maybe I just talk too much and let my food go cold before I eat it!

So, the partridge boudoir (with silk decorated with partridges on the walls), the flowery room decorated with roses and an elegant grey silk (misread as “elephant grey silk”!)  In one room, there was a sweet portrait of Alexandra, daughter of Nicholas 1, who died in childbirth aged just 19, an event which caused the whole family to stay away from the world for the next five or six months, so distressed were they.

You’ll gather, we were overwhelmed with the wealth of treasures inside, but were also amused by the strict Russian matriarch who was sitting keeping a firm eye on the goings on until her phone rang, with a “Sex in the City” ringtone!!  Hah.  We’ve got her measureWinking smile

 

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You need another photo, ok?  Well, having seen these rooms in quick succession and having scribbled copious notes so I’d recall them all, we made it outside for 10.45am.  Phew!  why the hurry?  Well, at 11am, the big event of the day was going to happen.

The fountains were going to be switched on.

Now, you may recall that one of the principal things we remembered about Petrodvorets was the fountains.  They are gravity fed and the water flows down the canal to the Gulf of Finland there in the distance and when Peter the Great was in residence, he’d arrive by boat from this direction (to the rear of where we’d arrived this morning).

 

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We made our way to a good vantage point, asserting ourselves (politely, of course) to secure a place by the fence, where a number of Chinese people were taking photographs, pushing and shoving to do so.

 

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By 11am, there was quite a crowd, standing, waiting…

 

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…for the man to turn the lever. 

 

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As we all watched and waited, he wandered around a bit, but on the point of 11am, he turned the lever and,

 

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Woohoo!  Suddenly water was spouting from all over the place, gradually building up and soaring higher into the sky.  There was music too – a solemn march from Gliere’s ballet “the Red Poppy” played as the fountains reached their maximum power.

 

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I must say, it was all very thrilling and exactly as we’d remembered it.  OK, we recalled some dancers putting on a performance on those platforms at the foot of the cascades, but I’ll need to look out our old photo albums to be sure of that.

 

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We were happy to be here again, pleased to be reminded of the spectacle and of course, couldn’t stop taking photos!

 

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Neither could others.  Oh my.

 

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With everything flowing as it should, we gathered together again and taking Mel’s lead, went for a walk in the park.

 

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We passed by more pictures of how everything had been cleared up and restored after the war.

 

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It really had been quite a task.

 

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In the park, we came across more fountains, all powered by the same gravity feed.  Peter the Great had been quite an engineer and had taken huge delight in creating such an extravagant show.

 

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Just as I was beginning to imagine I’d dreamed up the “tricky fountains” which were made to look like trees to fool unsuspecting guests, I spotted some in the park, behind the lady sweeping leaves.  Imagine, arriving as a guest of the royal family in all your finery and being invited to walk into the park, only to get soaked by the practical joker of a host.  I don’t think I’d have been too pleased, though I very much doubt that I’d have let on!

 

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There was another cascade here too, with a kind of checkerboard pattern on the surface.  It creates a kind of wall of water at the foot of it.

 

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Behind that wall of water is a grotto, where one might get up to all kinds of mischief too.  We’d heard there was a secret entrance to the palace through such a grotto – maybe this was the one?

 

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Walking through the gardens, we came across more fountains, this one in the middle of the family garden, where each child would be given a plot to cultivate.  The winner would be given the choice of an emerald bracelet perhaps, if it was one of the Princesses, or a gemstone-studded sword for one of the Princes.  Life was pretty good for them at that point.

 

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The park was busy, for sure, but the size meant it was easy to get away from those large, pushy groups, thank goodness and our early start meant we had seen what there was to see before they arrived.

 

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With a last glance of the main cascade in front of the palace, now in full flow and looking spectacular, we made our way to the car park to wait for our driver who had been summoned.  Meanwhile, a trio of brass players entertained us with a few familiar tunes and someone was trying to sell us copies of the same guidebook as we’d seen for $10 in the shop for a $ apiece.

 

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We took the motorway back to St Petersburg.  A good job I wasn’t driving!

 

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I thought we’d got quite good at transliteration, too!

 

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Thankfully, someone knew which way he was going and we were soon home, just about in time for our afternoon tour.

No rest for the wicked!

Tuesday
Sep202016

Never far away

 

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It rained overnight and the streets were still wet as we set off early this morning.  We had a 7.40 departure and were up and about shortly after 5 am.  Being on holiday is a serious business!

 

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So far, we’ve stuck broadly to the centre, touristy areas of St Petersburg but this morning, we were to drive out through the suburbs, past scenes which were more representative of the old country we remembered from 1986.  It’s all still there, in spite of the capitalist gloss which is on the surface we’ve seen in the last couple of days.

So we drove past this triumphal arch, commemorating the Russian victory over Napoleon, the kind of place which would have been on our earlier itinerary, for sure.  Four square, solid and bang slap in the centre of the suburban roundabout, there are countless of these memorials all over the place but interestingly, we haven’t been taken to any on this occasion.

 

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We drove past a suburban railway station, surprisingly quiet considering the time of day.  It looked rather bleak and down at heel.

 

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But as our guide Mel was talking about it, my eye was caught by one of those old Soviet-style statues.  I’d snapped it before she explained who and what and wasn’t really listening to the details of the station as a result.  I did hear that this statue is of Kirov, though; yes, he of the Ballet Company and of the factory which bears his name across the street from here.  He came to a sorry end, sadly, as a result of his popularity with the workers.  Stalin felt threatened by this popularity and engineered his demise – Mel told us that research has proved Stalin’s hand in the plot to, ahem, “remove” him.

(I very much doubt that we’d have been given such details in 1985, though)

 

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Just along the road was a Stalin-style factory, too, with the hammer and sickle motif clearly remaining up there on the lift shaft.  “Soviet Constructivism” at its best.

 

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And Mel described these apartment buildings as “Stalin style” too.  She said they were very desirable properties now, because of the solid construction and generous proportions to the rooms inside.  Modern tower blocks are flimsy and insubstantial in comparison.

 

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Kirov had left his name on the nearby metro station, too.  Another remnant of the Stalin era, this Greek style building was part of the grand concept of bringing art and fine architecture to the workers by means of extraordinary architecture on the metro system.

 

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The next station along was modelled on Jefferson’s memorial!

 

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So out we drove, past more familiar suburban landscapes of shopping centres and hypermarkets, built in and around markers such as this one, marking the limit of Nazi siege of St Petersburg.

 

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Still the suburbs went on, with tower block after tower block of modern apartments, linked to the metro system and the city centre by a rickety looking old tram system running alongside the road.

 

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Every so often, we’d spot a glimpse of the (very) old, pre-Revolution Russia in between the trees.  We were actually heading for a pre-Revolution landmark and were getting quite excited, as it was somewhere we remembered very vividly from our first visit here, and somewhere we’d loved.

I’ll tell you about it in the next post.

Tuesday
Sep202016

Oh Russia–Part two

It’s all a matter of getting into the groove, doing everything on their terms and just going with the flow.  Can’t beat ‘em?  Then join ‘em.

So, we showed our passports (again), smiled sweetly, didn’t question, said “spasibo” and did our best to get a smile (50% success).  But the minute we saw what we were hoping to see, all of those small niggles became nothing.  For there really is nowhere quite like Russia when it comes to cathedrals.  And that is what was on our agenda today.

 

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We woke to bright sunshine and enjoyed breakfast with a glorious view.  Apparently St Petersburg gets abut 35 sunny days per year, so how lucky were we?

 

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Our first goal for the day was St Isaacs Cathedral, the one we’ve been driving past to and fro and the dome of which we can see from our ship.  It’s just down the road and across the river, in fact.  We’d seen it from the outside on each of our visits but had never been inside.

 

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Whilst we waited for our guide, we stood admiring the ochre-painted palace to the side of the cathedral, only noting the “Four Season Hotel” sign some minutes later.  Hmm.  Could be a neat place to stay!

 

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We were asked to stand under the canopy whilst Nadya, our guide, bought our tickets.  For St Isaacs is no longer a working cathedral but a museum.

 

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And it’s not only we who get irritated by the petty bureaucracy.  Nadya asked the guy on the gate which turnstile she should bring her group through and was totally ignored.  She led us through #3 and was promptly told that #1 was for groups. She sighed, muttered under her breath and just got on with it.  There was no point in having an argument and she’d clearly had years of experience dealing with such attitudes.  Wouldn’t do for me!

 

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But of course, as soon as we were inside, all such irritations were forgotten.  Though it’s no longer a working cathedral, the interior is just as it was and to all intents and purposes, it’s still a church.

 

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Of course, we were not the only ones there – in fact, it was packed with tourists just like ourselves.  Still, most of what we wanted to see was way above our heads and so it didn’t really matter.

 

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The richly decorated surfaces were mostly covered by mosaic icons and there was a wealth of gold throughout the cathedral.

 

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The colours were breathtaking, especially those of the iconostasis and stained glass window beyond.  Those malachite and lapis lazuli pillars alone were enough to set the heart racing.

 

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My eye was caught by the old Russian gentleman in the icon just to the right of centre.  His face and demeanour seemed just right and very much in keeping with the whole arrangement.

 

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Wherever we stood, a benign saint was watching over us, or in the case of the holiest spots, icons of Christ himself, richly painted in gold and adorned with precious stones.

Wow.

 

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High above us all was the dome and there, right in the centre, was a feature I couldn’t quite work out.

 

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until I zoomed in and saw it was a dove.  There had been a pendulum there, placed by the Soviets when the cathedral was taken over by the state, demonstrating the movement of the Earth.  Later, the original concept of a dove was reinstated – though not necessarily with the original dove itself.

 

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I was paying attention to Nadya by means of my earpiece, but I was also wandering around making the most of my visit.  At one point, I slipped my shawl over my head and joined a few old women in a small chapel to one side of the altar, quietly observing their devotions and standing, enjoying the atmosphere and peace.  There is such power in the atmosphere of these places.

 

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In my ear, I could hear Nadya talking about St Isaac himself, patron saint of the cathedral and I hurried back to see who she was referring to.  Well, look at that – the old man who had caught my eye earlier, holding a picture of the cathedral in his hand. 

 

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We were almost ready to move on, but I caught sight of a few old photos, one of which showed a cabbage patch there in front of the building during Soviet times.  My goodness, how things change.

With a last glance around, we gathered ourselves and returned to the bus, to make our way to the second cathedral, this time a working church.

 

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The Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan on Nevsky Prospekt was already known to us as well.  It was another landmark we had visited on a previous visit without actually stepping aside, so we looked forward to seeing what we’d missed.

 

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Now, this is a working church and no photographs are taken inside out of respect for those worshipping.  Gentlemen were requested to remove their caps and ladies invited to cover their heads if they wanted.  Inside was rather brighter and less atmospheric than I’d imagined, for really, there were more tourists than worshippers, but nevertheless, a couple of things caught our eye.

 

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Firstly, there was the queue of people waiting to kiss and speak to the 16th century icon of Our Lady of Kazan.  Such devotion is unfamiliar to us, but the patience of those in the queue as each person took their turn to spend however long it took to make their request, offer thanks or seek advice was remarkable.

As we stood and gazed around, we noted a familiar group of saints – the Romanovs.  Nadya explained that modern Russian saints were created to include real people such as these.

But there was one corner which had a spooky significance.  We had reminded ourselves of the Kutusov family following our cruise on the river yesterday and I had enjoyed seeing the pictures from the BBC website of Brian Cox in the role, his picture firmly in my mind as a result.  Nadya explained that there was only one single grave in the Kazan Cathedral and you’ve probably guessed whose it was?  Yes, Mikhail Kutusov – and his picture by the side of the memorial stone looked for all the world like Brian Cox (the actor, not the astronomer!)

I love it when things like that happen!

 

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We had five minutes before moving on, so I skipped quickly outside onto Nevsky Prospekt to see what’s what – the street is the equivalent of Oxford Street and we’d not had chance to see how things had changed since our last visit.

 

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Sure enough, on a sunny Monday afternoon, it was bustling with people and traffic.

 

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The lovely art nouveau former Singer sewing machine shop on the corner looked lovely and I wished I’d had time to run over there and take a look inside.

 

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But we had one last church to visit: the Church of our Saviour on Spilled Blood, which we had seen from outside yesterday and had remembered clearly (for obvious reasons) from our previous visits too.

Spectacular exterior, don’t you think?  Wait till we got inside…

 

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The interior was literally breathtaking, with wall to wall to ceiling mosaics in the richest palette of colours available.

 

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Needless to say, in the sunshine it was all looking pretty amazing and I think we all held our breath for a minute.

 

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Above our heads was a portrait of Christ, high up in the dome, flanked by rich pattern and the portraits of saints, each one carefully depicted in the finest mosaic technique worked by Russian craftsmen.

 

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Nadya drew our attention to the small wooden pavilion at one corner of the church.  Here, in 1881, Alexander II had been assassinated by a group by the name of “The Peoples’ Will”.   He’d been by the canal and the church was built to cover the spot where his blood had spilled on the cobblestones, now marked by a cross of red carnations.

 

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I went back for a closer look a little later.

 

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So this isn’t an ancient church at all, but built during Victorian times.  We loved it all the same.

 

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One iconostasis was particularly interesting as many of the icons had been stolen during the revolution, for their precious stones, mostly.  Just one remained/had been restored, in the centre.

 

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Alexander Nevsky, saviour of Russia from the Teutonic Knights and after whom the Prospekt is named was there, in pride of place.

 

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Of course, we could have spent hours looking around here, simply gazing and marvelling at the place.  I kept spotting something of interest: a saint with a particular pattern on his cope, or a particularly lovely face.  But it came time for us to go.

 

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Through the exit under the starry ceiling, we were out into the bright sunshine.

 

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Out by the canal again.

 

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With the sun behind us, this was prime photo territory. Prime pickpocket territory too, so we took note of Nadya’s advice and kept our hands on our bags and our pockets.

 

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On such a glorious afternoon, it was hard to stop taking pictures!

 

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Just one more…

 

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Even the souvenir stalls were a poor distraction!

 

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But of course, it really was time to return to the ship.

 

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Back past the bronze horseman again.

 

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And yes, through all the passport palaver again.

It was worth every bit of it, of course!

Sunday
Sep182016

A city to be seen from the water

 

Such is St Petersburg, we were told.  So that’s what we did.  We crossed the bridge to our waiting canalboat.

 

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I’m saying nothing about those.

 

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As soon as we got on board, we remembered the  low bridges!  Mind your head.

 

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Like everyone else, we sat outside, up top, for the best photographs (not that this is a fine example!)   “On your left, you can see the Hermitage.  Notice the large windows upstairs”.

 

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From there it was straight out onto the River Neva.  A stiff breeze was blowing and one by one, almost all of our fellow stalwarts had gone inside.  Just an handful wrapped up warm and stayed out.

 

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The front of the Hermitage was behind us as we continued up river.

 

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Inna, still with us, pointed out the significant landmarks, including the Peter and Paul Fortress, where the Tsars are buried.  We’ve not been there ourselves and would have liked to have visited, but the schedule didn’t allow for it.  Never mind, we had a good view.  There, next to the pavilion by the wall, is a small hut, from where the daily shot is fired at noon.

 

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Under the bridge designed and built by Eiffel – not that you’d have guessed!

 

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There, on our left was the battleship Aurora, which I remembered, was famous for the shot which started the revolution.  Now, that’s not bad going for a non-historian like me – I felt quite proud of myself!  It’s on such random facts that a great Trivia team is built, of course Winking smile

 

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We passed the former home of the Kutuzov family, characters we remembered from War and Peace on the BBC recently.

 

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and generally savoured the beautiful architecture of the city.

 

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Inna was pointing out features here and there but we were happy to sit back and enjoy the scene.  She did name the brutal building just behind here, reminiscent of a similarly brutal building in Westminster with a spookily similar purpose.  Better not say the three letters which spell it out, then.

 

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I think this is the Naval Hospital, open to all and not exclusively for Naval Officers.

 

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A better view of the Aurora then, in front of the Naval Academy.

 

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Oh, and there is the actual cannon which fired the shot, with the Russian “Fortress” flag flying.

 

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We’d turned around now and in the gloomy light of a cold – not just chilly – afternoon, we were heading back and not totally sorry about that!

 

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Back into the canal system,  Inna pointed out the smallest monument in Leningrad – the little bird on the plinth there.

 

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We were soon back at the pier near the church, which we’ll visit tomorrow.

 

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Back on the bus then, to return to the ship and past a familiar sign.  Even though we know this says “restaurant” in Russian, is pronounced “restaurant” as we would say it, we still think of it as a pectopah.  Silly.

 

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Our way back to the ship took us past the Bronze Horseman, Peter the Great, another real landmark of the city.

 

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As you can see, home is very central here.

 

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But our day was not over!  We had tickets for a folklore show tonight.

 

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It was in the Naval Officers Hall.  Very grand, too!

 

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Whilst not the best or possibly the most authentic show we’ve seen, it was colourful and fun.

 

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The singers were over-amplified, we thought, though they were very good and those Russian bass voices…well!

 

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You’ll guess which tune this action depicted?

 

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There was a fun balalaika act with a member of the audience, too.

 

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Mostly, however, it was a lot of very fast twirling, jumping, cossack dancing and lively music.  We enjoyed it!

 

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But oh my, were we tired when we got back home last night.

 

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I’ll just leave it to your imagination how long the queue for passport control was Surprised smile