Tatars, Cossacks & The Golden Ring
Volga River Cruising
Grand Circle Travel Company
April 28 - May 19, 2007
This travel adventure started with a Saturday morning drive to
Syracuse to catch a 10:39 am flight to Washington, Dulles
Airport. My departure for Moscow was scheduled for 4:20 pm
on Lufthansa Airline. I really like Lufthansa Airlines because
they are prompt and provide good service including in
flight meals. The trip to Moscow's Sheremetiero 2
Airport included a stop and change of planes at Frankfurt.
Upon arrival in Moscow, I was bussed to a fairly new
Holiday Inn. My suit case made all the flights so all was
well! I stayed over night with the other 183 travelers on my
Don and Volga River cruise. The next day was very interesting in
that Grand Circle Travel elected to fly our group to Rostov-on-Don
via local Russian commercial flights. The result was that we
were divided up in to 5 groups that all flew at different times
during the day. My flight was scheduled for hotel airport departure at
10:00 am to Domodedoro 1 airport on the outskirts of Moscow.
Our bus trip to the airport was lucky as there were no traffic jams on the way.
We lined up at the S7 airline desk to be assigned seats and check our suitcases.
The process of checking and security was very much like these in the USA.
We were uncertain what type of aircraft we would be traveling on.
They took us by bus to the plane. It was a TU 154M Russian built aircraft.
I must admit that my sense of airline safety while flying in
this airplane did elevate a bit. The plane was old and the interior
including the seats were well worn.
The hour and twenty minute flight went fast and I was happy
when we landed in Rostov-on-Don.
The entrance to the Rostov-on-Don airport. We were
bussed to the M/S Rossia (Russia) docked on the Don River.
It was a fast 40 minute drive.
The M/S Rossia
We were greeted by a crew members in native costume,
one of them offered us the traditional offering of white bread and salt.
She is standing on the left side of the above photo. Musicians from
the ship also played traditional Russian music to greet us.
The balance of the day was taken up with unpacking and exploring
the Rossia. The Rossia had just been returned to service with Grand Circle
after complete refurbishment at a port in Romania. The crew was new as
were the ships officers. The first evening meal was a disaster as the kitchen
ran out of food. Some our our group were not served until 10:00 pm, three hours
after the meal started. Breakfast the next day was another screw up as the
kitchen staff could not keep up with the guests wanting food. The breakfast
buffet was barren of food at times this first morning on shipboard.
Our first excursion of the cruise was on Tuesday, May 1st to
Novocherkassk just outside to Rostov. Our morning tour
schedule had to be changed due to the fact that this day was a
national holiday in Russia. Many city streets were closed for
the day to allow various celebrations to occur, that meant we
could not have our usual city tour. Above is a photo of the
Cathedral of Ascension, which was our first stop.
It is the third largest cathedral in Russia, we were treated
to a choir concert in the cathedral later in the morning.
A view of the inside of the cathedral.
Our next stop was at the Novocherkassk Museum, shown above,
which was nearby. It had a very impressive collection of
This photo shows the "blue" group waiting for the rear entrance to
be opened so they can have a mid-morning potty break.
The toilet facility was very primitive in its construction.
We refer to this a one of Grand
Circles "Discovery & Leaning Experiences".
As I was waiting to enter the museum, a brass band marched by
from a nearby city street. It turned out to be a group of
Communists party members who were staging a rally in front
of a nearby building. They has banners and posters
as part of their parade.
The parade was lead by a gentleman carrying the painting of
Lenin picture above. This little girl with balloons was the
youngest parade participant. She stood guard of the Lenin
painting during the rally that consisted of several speeches by
Across the street from the Museum was a small plaza
with several neat fountains. Located in the back of the
plaza area was the All-American McDonalds restaurant.
Some things in life you can't escape!
Novocherkassk is a city of 170,000 residents and is a
former capital of the Don Cossacks. It is located on the right
bank on the Tuzlov and Aksai River. The city was founded
in 1805 as the new capital of the Don Host Region.
During World War II Novocherkassk was occupied by
German armies for seven months.
At four-thirty, I attended an optional Cossack Folklore Show.
Above is a photo of the singers and dancers who
put on this super show of dancing and singing to Cossacks music.
The dancing and singing was very spirited.
This ended our first day in Rostov-on-Don River.
It was back to the ship to have dinner which continued to
be a problem as it took almost three hours to serve the guests.
There seems to be big kitchen problems with rumors flying
about the ship concerning the chef and his staff. It turns
out that two chefs jumped ship at the end of the first day. Many
guests are unhappy with the quality of food service at all meals. We are
constantly being reminded that this is a first cruise of the
2007 season and that the company is calling it a shake down cruise
experience. Unfortunately, the paying customers are expecting
a regular cruise with few problems!
Wednesday, May 2, was last day at Rostov-on-Don. After a
continuing problem plagued breakfast, I participated in
a optional tour to Starocherkassk. This city is 19 miles from
Rostov on the bank of the Don River. Above is pictured the Army
Resurrection Cathedral. It is the dominating feature of this
area area that was the former capital of the Don Cossacks. We visited
the cathedral and a nearby museum of Cossack artifacts. At the end of
the tour we received a small sip of Vodka and had a chance to be
inducted into the Society of Cossacks. After this mid-morning taste
of local vodka is was back to the M/S Rossia. I must admit we
were a happier group driving back to the boat.
I am standing by a veteran's memorial near the Army
At 1:30 pm we sailed away from Rostov-on-Don
for our next port of call. The Don River and Volga - Don
Canal would lead us to the point where the canal and
Volga River meet. We sailed the rest of Wednesday and
all day Thursday. Many crew member's had
family at the Don river bank at Rostov to see them
off as most of the crew was from this local area.
For most this would be a sad goodbye as the M/S Rossia
goes into service sailing from Moscow to St. Petersburg and
back for the summer months.
A large group of naval cadets were assembled in the river
side park as we sailed away.
Don River traffic. It is a fairly busy river.
Thursday dawned with clear blue sky's and the promise of
good sailing for the day. We have passed through a
couple of locks on the Don River. This photo was taken as
we exited one of the locks. This sunrise was every beautiful.
Some of lock houses had elaborate decorations. Displayed
here are two cassock warriors on spirited steeds. The day
continued to be bright and sunny. Great weather for cruising!
Friday morning, we entered a series of locks that would
allow our ship to enter the Volga River. The M/S Rossia had risen
a total of 203.7 feet in traversing 5 locks of the Volga-Don Canal.
On the Volga part of the Volga-Don Canal we dropped 567.6 feet
while clearing 9 locks.
Ornate channel markers lined the bank as we entered
the Volga River.
A last glimpse of the number 1 lock, the entrance
to the Volga-Don Canal.
A view of the new and old Russia. The red building is one of
several new apartment buildings along the river and the
old communist style apartment buildings can be seen in the
background. The Russia of today is a contrast of the new
construction and the old type communist structures.
Change can be noted almost everywhere you look with many
new building under construction.
As we sailed to the right out of the canal, we passed a
very large statue of Lenin looking over the river.
After sailing several kilometers southward, we passed
this metal recycling facility. Suddenly we did a U turn
and began sailing northward. It turned out that the navigator
of the M/S Rossia was lost! So we headed the wrong way. Luckily
for us he discovered this error before we sailed into the Caspian Sea.
This event seems to be in keeping with the general
ineptness of some the cruise staff.
These ornate steps greeted us as we docked at Volgograd. We
immediately boarded busses to take us on a city tour
with a stops along the way.
Above is a avenue of flags in downtown Volgograd.
They are set up in preparation for the national Victory Day holiday
celebrated on May 9th.
Another Lenin statue in downtown Volgograd. Volgograd
was called Stalingrad during the communist years.
A huge sculpture entitled "Mother Russia" is located
on the top of Mamaev Hill. This statue is at the top of
the complex dedicated to Heroes of the Battle of Stalingrad.
The sculpture is one of the largest and most famous monuments
in the world. Its height is 52 meters and weights 8 thousand tons.
This chapel sits on the site of a mass grave of over
34,000 soldiers who died in the battle of Stalingrad.
Our bus dropped us off at the base of the Motherland statue
and be began to walk down Mamaev Hill. We passed
memorial chapel and this monument
entitled" Mother's Grief" it represents all of the
mother's of soldiers who fought and died in the battle.
Next to the "Mother's Grief" statue was the entrance to the
building where the Eternal Flame in the Soldier's Glory is located.
This building was very impressive in it displays of
remembrances of the soldiers who fought in the Battle of
Stalingrad. Soldiers guard the flame and you can see the
floral tributes placed on edge of the shrine.
One of several large statues lining the reflecting pool of
the complex of Heroes of the Battle of Stalingrad.
One of the last statues at the complex of heroes. We have walked
for a considerable distance from the base of the
Motherland statue. Above is the sculpture "Fighting to the Last".
Another avenue of flags that led us to our busses
and the next stop on our tour.
The entrance to the Museum of Defense which has been was
renamed Volgograd State Museum with the
large Panorama of the Battle of Stalingrad inside.
One of the diorama scenes. Extremely lifelike!
These ruins of Grudinin's Mill which was built in 1903.
During the Battle of Stalingrad, the mill was a
fortification point of the defense of the 42nd Infantry region of the
13th Guards Division. It has been preserved as a relic of the battle,
dedicated to the mass heroism of the city's defenders.
It was now time to return to the M/S Rossia, the ship had been taken
off shore to allow another ship to leave the docking
pier on the river where we were tied up. After a short wait, it
was back on board and time to dine. The ship began
its trip to our next port of call.
I feel that I should give you an up date to the
general status of our cruise. The dining room and cabin staffs are super!
Food prep and menu continue to be very shaky. Some meals are
not very good and the meat is tough as shoe leather. It is often a long wait
for dinner service continue as in previous evening meals.
It only took one and half hours for our meal last evening.
It is more apparent that ever that this is a shake down cruise.
We keep hoping things will get better.
Saturday morning, found our river cruiser heading for Saratov. This large river
port and road junction city is situated on the right bank of the Volga River.
The above photo is of a river ship that we passed at sunrise.
Note the beautiful sun reflection off its side.
Our city tour of Saratov began at 4:30 pm shortly after we docked.
Our first stop was at the city museum which houses a display
about astronaut Yuri Gagarin. Above is the Trinity Conservatory
across the street from the museum.
We had an extensive drive throughout the city with
a local guide pointing out various significant
points of interest. Our next stop was at the Park of a Victory.
This is a fortified train on display
near the park entrance. It was a World War II relic.
A monument with an eternal flame to remember
the soldiers who died in battles
was located in the park.
This large memorial celebrates the sacrifice that members of
the military made in fighting for freedom during World War II.
While walking back to the bus to drive downtown, I noticed
a dove sitting on this poor fellows head.
Of course it did not bother him!
On our way back to the boat we had a 35 minute stop in downtown
Saratov for shopping. There were many shoppers around
as it was Saturday afternoon. Above is a photo of the M/S Rossia
waiting patiently for her passengers to return.
We sailed at 7:00 pm for our next port of call.
A food service comment. It took almost one and
half hours to eat lunch. The menu choice
for me was a hamburger which was
delivered to our table after a wait of over an hour.
I told the maitre if McDonalds' took this long to serve
hamburgers as the ships kitchen did Mickey's D
would be out of business.
Sunday morning, May 6th dawned with blue skies and white
clouds. We are continuing to sail northward toward
our next port of call, Samara. There were brisk winds blowing
in the morning and it slowed our progress so that we
were arriving about an hour and half late from the earlier
scheduled time. Above is pictured some of the typical
river tariff we encounter along the river passage.
This small chapel was located near the dock in the
harbor we landed at.
On our city tour we stopped at Glory Square. Above is an
impressive monument dedicated to Russian Cosmonauts.
Also located nearby in Glory Square was a monument to
fallen Russian soldiers. There was an eternal flame as
you can see in the left side of this photo next to the
young people sitting there.
This chapel was located on
the far left of the Glory Square.
This building is the Academy of Culture & Arts. In the
mid-nineties it was revealed that Stalin had a bunker dug
in the basement. Several members of our tour
group took the 200 steps to reach the bunker.
They also had to climb back out. Stalin never visited
or used the bunker.
We were greeted to a beautiful sunset as we returned
to our cruise ship. Our stop at Samara was only a
couple of hours long but we saw a great deal of
the city. At the end of the bus tour, we had a brief
stop at a grocery store. Many of my traveling companions
wanted to buy vodka but alas they did not sell
vodka, so we settled for Russian chocolate bars.
Samara is a very large industrial city with one of
Russia's key auto manufacturing plants located here.
The next morning (May 7, 2007) found our river cruiser sailing into
Ulyanovsk at 8:00 am. We have a 8:30 am port
of call at this one of the oldest cities in the
Volga region. As usual we started out on a city bus tour.
Originally named Simbirsk until 1924 when it was renamed
Ulyanovsk in V.I. Ulyanov's honor. The city is the
birthplace and boyhood home of Lenin
(born Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov).
This statue is on the grounds of the Lenin Memorial Complex.
This was our first stop of the morning tour.
The Lenin Complex also houses a
University classroom building.
Our group entering the Lenin Museum building.
One of several busts of Lenin on display in the museum.
There were three full floors of displays about
Lenin, his life and family.
Lenin's death mask. As most people know Lenin's body is
enshrined in a building at the Kremlin in Moscow.
One last classic pose of Lenin.
Lenin's home in the city, it is now a museum
with many of the original furnishings of the time
when the Lenin family lived in the house.
We had a walking tour of this house and the
one next door that also belonged to Lenin.
The second house in the Lenin home museum.
Our tour of Lenin's houses completed our morning city visit.
Lucky for us we had time to stop at a grocery store that sold
vodka, so everyone was happy as we rode back
to the M/S Rossia. Several of our fellow passengers have
come down with the 24 hour bug and are
cabin restricted. It is too bad since some persons have
missed our various ports of call. It seems that
more and more cruise ships experience this malady.
Beautiful clouds guides us along the Volga River as we sailed
to our next port of call. We arrived a Kazan just
before breakfast on the 8th of May. Our city tour began at 8:30 am.
Our first stop was at mosque. Empress Elizabeth decreed
all Tatar mosques be destroyed. Catherine the Great allowed new
building of Mosques. This is one of those mosques.
Our second stop of the morning was at the Kazan Kremlin.
Above was one of the entrances to the Kremlin complex.
The Kazan Kremlin is a unique historical and architectural ensemble,
standing at the crossroads of western and eastern cultures.
Kul-Sharif Mosque was in the Kremlin area.
Annunciation Cathedral. There many beautiful
paintings and icons on display in the
The entrance to the Presidential Palace. This is where
the President of the Republic of Tatarstan
conducts his official duties.
The leaning clock tower. It is close to the entrance of the
Presidential Palace. Its tilt is not as pronounced as the tower at Pisa.
This ended our walking tour of the Kazan Kremlin.
We went back to our bus for a short ride to our next stop.
Our next stop was at
Chabad Lubavitch Synagogue. in downtown Kazan.
We had one last stop before returning to the ship for lunch.
It was time to walk around Kazan's pedestrian streets
of the main part of the city. It was raining
lightly and everyone on the cruise were
more interested in returning to the ship. This was our
third such walk and they are continuing to be of
little interest to most of the passengers.
At three-thirty, we left the ship for an optional visit to
the National Museum of Tatarstan. This was a very
interesting museum with a large collection of artifacts.
After our visit to the museum we attended a special
performance of the Tartar Folklore show. Above are
pictured some of the singers and dancers who were
in the show. It was a great show with lots of
singing and dancing.
Upon returning to the ship it was dinner time.
I am pleased to report that the kitchen seems to have
the hang of preparing and serving dinner in under two hours.
Breakfast buffet seems to have become a situation under control.
No waiting for the various items to be replenished when empty.
Wednesday, May 9th was an interesting day for this trip.
The 9th of May is Victory Day in Russia. It commerates
the victory over Nazi Germany by Russian armies.
Like the United States there are parades on this day.
Everyone has the day off. So our ship board
Daily Program called for us to be docked at Kazan
until 11:00 am when we set sail for Nizhi Novgorod. There
were some interesting activities on ship board.
These included a talk by a Kazan University professor,
A lecture on modern Russia, Matryoshka Painting
and a Russian Tea Party.
Fire works were planned for 10:00 pm but rain put these
on hold for a better day. Our day of sailing on the
Volga River was rather uneventful except for passing
through a lock in the late afternoon.
Entering the Cheboksari Lock. This lock also
had a hydrostation as part of the lock.
We were able to watch the Moscow Victory Day
parade on the TV's in our cabins.
On Wednesday evening, I did not feel well and as luck
would have it, I got the famous Grand Circle stomach bug that was
going throughout the ship. I was up most of the night
using the bathroom. I stayed on board the ship when we
docked at Nizhni Novgorod. The group visiting this
port was considerably smaller than on previous
days as many people were sick.
We were sailing in a section of the Volga River that is very shallow.
This caused our river cruiser to reduce sailing speed
to almost a crawl so we would not hit bottom.
Above is a ship waiting for the hydroelectric
plant up stream to release extra water so deep draft
ships could proceed up stream. They do this
release of water on a regular schedule each day to help
ship navigate this narrows section.
As we sailed along we passed a ship yard.
We are following another river cruiser into the Lower Gorodets Lock.
We shared the lock with this river cruiser. It was a tight fit.
Our ship board companions were waiting for our ship at a
dock above the lock. We had taken over an extra hour to
reach the dock. They had been very patient.
Once on board, we had lunch and passed through the
Upper Gorodets lock. From this point on it
was smooth sailing northward.
Friday, May 11, dawned with bright sunshine
and warmer temperatures. We are off at 9:00 am for
our usual city tour of Kostroma. This is one of the smaller cities
we will visit on this trip. Kostroma has a population of 278,000.
We are moving closer to Moscow and the end of our trip.
Our first stop of the morning was at Kostroma's Open Air Museum.
This is one of the buildings that have been moved to the museum site.
This church is undergoing renovation. There were several different
building representative of Russia's architectural past.
Our second stop of the morning was at a Russian Kindergarten
school. The above dancers performed the butterfly dance for our
group. It was a very interesting program with
many student based hands on experiences along
with many illustrations of visual
stimulation for the students.
Our third stop was at The Epiphany-Anastasiin Convent.
From the Convent we headed to the city center
where we visited a park overlooking the Volga River.
This being a topical Russian city there was the
usual statue of Lenin. This statue was
especially large and imposing.
The Savior's Church in downtown Kostroma.
By now it was lunch time and we headed back to the M/S Russia.
The afternoon was unscheduled, so it gave me time to relax and
then find an internet station at the local post office.
So far there have been very few internet
opportunities to send messages home.
At supper, I felt sick and was not interested in eating dinner.
I had another bout of the Grand Circle famous stomach bug.
I decided it was time to visit the Russian doctor on board. He
was very interesting to deal with since he spoke no English and
understood even less of what was being said. After a few
minutes trying to find out was what was wrong with me he went to
the registration desk of the ship to secure the services of a desk clerk
to serve as a translator. After a fractured dialogue,
I was given 2 pills to take at 8:00 pm, 2 more at 10:00 pm and
2 more for a 12 midnight dose. Lastly, he
gave me 6 black pills to take at 1:00 am. He did
not examine me or take my temperature but since most
of the passengers and crew were sick with the stomach bug
that procedure was not necessary. It was a restless night for me.
Our next port of call was Yaroslavl, on Saturday morning.
I decided not to take the customary city tour as I did not feel well.
I had been to Yaroslavl in 2004, so I thought I could
pass on this excursion. I spend most of the day resting in my cabin.
My three meals for the day consisted of clear chicken soup,
dry toast and black tea like earlier meals.
We passed some very big churches as we sailed along.
Late in the afternoon we sailed by the Church of
the Kazan Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos.
Late season snow banks could be seen
along the Volga River banks.
My quiet day on board the M/S Russia ended with a
beautiful Russian sunset. Sunday, May 13, Mother's Day found
us docking at Uglich before breakfast. I am sorry to say that my
dreaded case of the Grand Circle stomach bug has returned!
It was off to see the sawbones doctor who could not
communicate with we. More pills to be taken at 8, 12, 4 and 8.
I sure as hell hope they work. I am trying to make arrangements
to fly home early rather than go on to St. Petersburg. The
discomfort of this illness makes travel absolutely no fun!
I have only discovered on couple out of 184 passengers who
have not been sick with the bug but husband has a cold he
picked up on the voyage.
After resting for a couple of hours, I decided to venture
into Uglich to visit some of the sights. Above is
the Church of Prince Dimitry the Martyr also
known as the Church-on-the Blood.
Cruise ships visiting the docks at Uglich.
Like almost all Russian cities Uglich has a statue of Lenin.
This pose is somewhat different that others I have
photographed on this trip.
We sailed away from Uglich via the nearby river lock.
We were lifted up 36 feet into the Uglich Reservoir.
This is our last Volga River Port of Call. It is on to
Moscow by way of the Moscow Canal, a major
construction project undertaken during the Stalin years.
As I have sailed along the Volga River, I noticed
hundreds of these small buildings drawn upon the shore line.
They are ice fishing houses that are placed on the river
after it freezes over in the early winter. We were told that the
river can have a meter if ice frozen on its surface in the winter.
There were many fishermen out in boats on the
river as we sailed along.
As we sailed along, we passed the old bell tower of St. Nicholas'
Cathedral-on-the-Zbadna that was in a
village that was flooded during the building of the
Uglich Lock part of the Moscow Canal.
In the background is a radio telescope antenna that is
decidedly twenty-first century in technology.
Another beautiful Russian sunset while traversing the Moscow Canal.
This is our last night of river cruising for we will
dock tomorrow afternoon at Moscow.
Looking back at the Moscow Canal as we sail along!
Out of service river cruisers docked along
the canal some distance from Moscow.
How times change! We I sailed on Moscow Canal in 2004 there
were no pleasure boats to be seen. Today
we passed several marina's as we neared Moscow.
As we sailed up to our dock this Russian Nuclear Sub
as was docked across the river from our cruiser.
The river dock where we will spend the night
before ending our cruise.
St Basil's at Red Square. We docked at a little before three in
the afternoon. Then we were immediately loaded on to busses
for a city tour and a stop at Red Square. Bad Timing! It was
the beginning of rush hour in Moscow. Cars everywhere,
massive grid lock. Add to that the fact that Red Square
was closed because a foreign dignitary was visiting
Russian President Vladimir Putin. We were upset to
find out that our Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice
was the dignitary. So we did so sightseeing at other spots
in Moscow but nothing like the grand visit that
was planned for our group.
A comment about the grid lock in traffic in Moscow. Our bus
driver told some of our group that Russia now lets citizens
buy cars on time like we do. As a result nearly everyone now
owns a car of some variety and age. They also have required
Now they say grid lock happens!
The rear of the famous GUM department store.
We walked through the store on the way to the Metro stop.
Lenin's statue in the Metro.
After a short shopping stop in downtown Moscow, we
boarded our busses to return to the river cruiser for our
last dinner on board. It took almost two hours to travel
back to the boat dock. First, the bus could not get to where we
were waiting because of the massive grid lock.
Once boarded the bus, we were in the traffic which
moved at a snails pace. We finally got to the boat at 8:00 pm.
Lucky for us they waited dinner until we were served.
Above is a spring garden at the boat terminal.
Spring flower beds were in bloom all over Moscow.
My departure from the river cruiser was at 6:45 am so we
could go to the airport to fly to St. Petersburg for my post
trip extension. I was feeling better so its off to St. Petersburg.
It was a beautiful sunny morning as we left Moscow.
When I arrived in St. Petersburg after another Russian Airline
experience it was rainy and over cast. Above is a photo of
St. Isaac's Cathedral in the rain. We made several
other stops but the rain did not make for good photo opts.
After lunch, we continued our city tour of St. Petersburg.
This gentleman has just climbed out of the
Neva River at the wall that surrounds the Peter and Paul Fortress.
The water looked very cold to me. The sky's were brightening as
we drove along. I must note that the traffic grid lock in
St. Petersburg is as bad as Moscow. It took almost two
hours to travel from the airport to downtown St. Petersburg.
Trying to get around the city on a bus was a real challenge.
Our day finally ended when we arrived at our hotel, The Dostoevsky.
Wednesday, May 16 arrived with sunshine and cool temperatures.
We were off to Peterhof, Peter the Great summer home.
Peterhof was planned to arrival the palaces of France. Our start was delayed
by over 30 minutes as our bus got caught in the morning traffic jam.
Since this was our only stop of the day, I have posted a
few shots of the park in front of the palace.
Standing in front of the Great Cascade of Fountains.
A view of the pool of the Great Cascade
and the Alley of Fountains. The Bay of Finland
is in the background.
Almost all of the fountains were displayed in dramatic settings.
A Greek Forum fountain.
One of the small figure fountains.
As we drove away from Peterhof, we stopped for a
photo opt at the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral.
Our Thursday morning tour of St. Petersburg, started with a visit to
The Cathedral of St. Nicholas. We are lucky as we have
another sunny and cool morning to tour.
The Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul on Spit of Vasilyevsky Island.
This cathedral is within the Peter and Paul Fortress on the island.
Standing in front of the Holy Doors of the Iconostasis
of the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral.
The tomb of Peter the Great inside the Cathedral.
Most of the Romanov's are entombed in the cathedral.
Soviet army artillery museum.
The cruiser Aurora. This ship fired the shot that
started the October 17th revolution in Russia.
The Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ
After a break for lunch it was off to the Hermitage Museum
located in the Winter Palace. We had a whirl wind
two hour tour with our local guide. The museum collection
is very extensive in its size.
The General Staff building with its Chariot of Glory
overlooking the Palace Square.
The Alexander Column in the center of the Palace Square.
After our museum stop it was back to the hotel to
catch our breath after an interesting day of
touring in St. Petersburg.
Friday morning was another beautiful sunny start.
We are off to tour Tsarskoye Selo, Catherine's'
Palace. It was a short bus ride to the Palace and
there were no traffic jams to deal with.
On the way to the Palace front gate we were greeted
to a spirited version of the Star Spangled Banner
by this band. Anything to get Yankee dollars
from the tourists!
We also walked by this monument to Alexander
Pushkin in the Lyceum Garden. He was a very important
writer in Russian history.
The front entrance to Catherine Palace.
The Great Hall of the Palace. The Palace was destroyed by the
Nazi's during World War II. It has been painstakingly
restored over the last few years. There are many more
rooms to be restored. The photos of the pre-war palace are used
in the restoration. We walked through all of the restored rooms
and others waiting to be restored. The amber room was restored
using 6 ton of Russian amber. No photos were allowed in this room.
Catherine's Bath House behind the Palace. She liked to
swim in the pond in front of the Bath House.
A view of the rear of the palace. The palace gardens were
directly in front to this side of the palace.
After our morning at Catherine's Palace we
returned to out hotel for lunch.
After lunch, we had our last optional tour. It was a visit to
Yusupov Palace pictured above. This palace was located in the
middle of downtown St. Petersburg. So we had a short ride
to the palace. One problem was that it was very warm
out and bus had no air conditioning. There was
a lot of uncomfortable people when we arrived at the palace.
A depiction of the events leading up to the assassination
of Rasputin. These figures represent the location where
the would be assassin's waited.
Depiction of Rasputin drinking with the conspirators in the
basement of the palace. The was eventually shot
multiple times and died later. The palace was very ornate
and had many rooms including a small theater. After this tour
we returned to the hotel to begin packing for
out flights home. I had to be up at 3:30 am
for a 4:00 am bus ride to the airport.
Then it was off to the good old USA.
On the whole this was a very good trip. Great scenery
and river cruising! The M/S Rossia was a comfortable river cruiser to sail on.
The ineptness of the kitchen staff and very
poor food selection and preparation were major negatives. The food
preparation problems were reflected in the virus
that swept the passengers on board. The ship's crew outside of the
kitchen staff were terrific. I have been to Russia three times and the
changes in that country is dramatic. Construction sites were everywhere.
Cars just swarm wherever you go. The Russian people are making their cities very vibrant.