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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

historical artifacts.



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

party members.



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

Resurrection Cathedral.


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. 
They had a very nice museum under development in the temple.


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.



Ipatiev Monastery



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

auto insurance.

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

(Our Savior-on-the-Spilt-Blood).



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.