Russia 2019 – Day 8 – MS Rostropovich

I was in bed by about 11 pm last night. I think I fell asleep with the gently rocking boat as we were still at anchor. I next awoke to much heavier rocking and recognized that we were under way. It was about 12:30 am and for the next three hours I was unable to get back to sleep as the rocking was heavier and heavier as we crossed Lake Ladoga… Finally about 3:30 as we approached the eastern shore the boat settled down and I was able to fall asleep. I slept until almost 8 am.

After breakfast I attended a second history lesson which covered the Romanov dynasty and then a second Russian language course. We then arrived at what was intended as our destination for yesterday, Mandrogi Village. This is a purpose built tourist site that serves as a location for various artisans to ply their trades and provides a destination for the tour boats. Unfortunately due to the delay we only had about an hour to spend here. One could easily spend an entire afternoon exploring the village.

Mandrogi Village

It was then back on the boat for lunch after which I started watching a documentary on the Tsars but ended up taking a nap. Later on we met our tour guide for a discussion about Russian geography and culture.

We then had a briefing from the captain explaining the weather that caused the delay and the resulting change in our itinerary. We were to visit the Kizhi island on Lake Onega and the village and monastery located there. However the transit across the lake and back takes about eighteen hours and as we are about twenty-two hours behind schedule we must skip this stop in order to maintain our schedule through the locks and arrival into Moscow.

After the briefing it was on to dinner and then back to the cabin for some rest. We’re transiting Lake Onega as I write this and the boat is rocking a good bit – though I don’t think as much as last night…

Russia 2019 – Day 7 – MS Rostropovich

We set sail on the Neva River from St. Petersburg last night on time around 7pm. Our course was to take us up the river and across Lake Ladoga, the largest lake in Europe, and then up the Svir River to the village of Mandrogi.

However when we woke we found our boat at anchor in a bay in the southwest corner of the lake. We had been there since 11pm the night before as there was a storm over the lake with steady winds of nearly 36mph producing swells of up to 8’ on the main body of the lake. The MS Rostropovich is primarily a river boat and only rated to operate with swells up to ~6’. Therefore we were forced to await improving weather.

This was determined after the 9:30 am lecture that we had attended on early Russian history. At that point the day’s remaining itinerary was out the window and the crew quickly reorganized onboard activities. After an hour break I attended a Russian language class after which it was time for our lunch which had been intended to eat ashore but we enjoyed onboard instead. The remainder of the afternoon was relatively free, as I did not attend the offered cooking and dancing lessons. I watched the first part of a documentary on the Romanov family and caught up on some YouTube videos – fortunately we’re still close enough to shore for internet service. Then it was off to dinner and then back to the room for the night.

We’re hoping to be able to sail in the morning and arrive at our second destination tomorrow night. We shall see…

Russia – Day 6 – St. Petersburg

First morning waking up on the boat, unfortunately didn’t sleep great but nonetheless up at 7 again and down to breakfast about 7:30. Nice buffet and some good coffee and ready to roll. Unfortunately today looked like the weather was not going to cooperate…

We boarded the bus at 9 for our last day in St Petersburg. It was nearly an hour drive back to the city. We stopped for one photo op at Smolny convent and then on to the Hermitage. We spent about 2 hours on a tour and were then out the door at 12:30. Like the Smithsonian one could spend days looking at all of the artwork. It’s an amazing place but simply too much to absorb in so short a time with thousands of other people. Then it was off to lunch at a local restaurant. The rain had started by this time so the afternoon looked pretty bleak.

After lunch we toured Peter and Paul Fortress which also contains a Cathedral which houses the burials of all the Romanov family Czars and Emporers. Due to the cold rain and wind we didn’t spend any time outside though I’m sure a walk around the grounds would have been quite interesting as our guide Ivan is very knowledgeable. Instead it was back on the bus for the hour ride back to the boat. We leave St Petersburg tonight for our journey to Moscow on the MS Rostropovich. До свидания, Санкт-Петербург!

Russia 2019 – Day 5 – St. Petersburg

Today was an early departure as we checked out of the hotel as we’ll be transferring to the river boat tonight. We left the hotel at 7:45 headed southwest to the town and Palace & park of Peterhof. The drive was about an hour and twenty minutes so we arrived at the palace at ~9:00. The park opens to the general public at 10:30 but tour groups can arrange for earlier entry. This was really nice as by the time we left at ~noon the crowds were quite busy. We toured the palace and then walked the grounds which contain numerous fountains (>150), gardens, etc. This palace was also occupied by the Germans during the siege of Leningrad and destroyed as they left. It has been rebuilt in the years since.

Peterhof
Peterhof Palace

We then drove back to the city and were dropped off at the Faberge museum where we first had lunch (chicken sandwich) at the museum cafe. Took a spin through the museum which was interesting but not really my cup o’ tea. From there we walked to the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood and took some more pictures.

Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood

Then it was onto the bus for about a half hour drive to our ship MS Rostropovich. We settled into our cabins and then had a quick introduction to the ship prior to dinner. Had a turkey and potatoes dinner and chocolate lava cake and ice cream for desert.

Yum!

Russia 2019 – Day 4 – St. Petersburg

After breakfast this morning our day began with a tour of the interior of St. Isaac’s Cathedral and a walk up the 276 steps to the top.

The interior space of the cathedral is simply breathtaking. Nearly all of the artwork consists of mosaics rather than murals or other painted artwork. This is due to the climate and the realization that other forms would not survive for long. The Cathedral was converted to a museum by the communists in 1931. During the siege of Leninigrad during WWII the basement was used as storage for other artwork from around the city. Thankfully there was little damage done to the structure. It was camouflaged by having the dome painted, but the Germans also used it as a landmark for aerial bombing and mortar fire.

From the roof, the 360 degree view of the city was spectacular – despite the cloudy weather.

As we departed the colonnade the rains of St Petersburg went from a drizzle to a downpour. The one block walk back to the hotel left us drenched. With only a few minutes to dry off we were on the bus to our first official tour of the day. We drove about an hour south to the town of Pushkin to visit Catherine’s summer palace.

The palace is on the southern edge of St Petersburg and at the time of WWII was really in the countryside. It was occupied by the Germans during the siege of Leningrad. When they were finally driven out they laid mines in the palace which were defused but virtually all of the palace had already been looted and burned. An ongoing restoration has been underway since shortly after war ended.

Upon returning to the hotel we had dinner around the corner from the hotel and then it was off to an evening show. We saw a Cossack dance and music show that was quite entertaining. Then back to the hotel to prepare for Saturday’s early departure from the hotel as we’ll be boarding the river boat tomorrow evening.

Russia 2019 – Day 3 – St. Petersburg

Today consisted of a bus tour around the city during the morning with several stops for photo opportunities. The last stop was at a former port situated across the Neva River from the Peterhof Fortress where at noon every day they fire a cannon round to mark the time.

Then it was back to the hotel. We walked around the block to a Georgian restaurant recommended by our guide Ivan.

At 3pm we departed for our afternoon tours. The first stop was at Yusopov Palace. This was owned by a relative of the last Czar and was the location of the murder of Rasputin. After that we took a boat ride around the city and then back to hotel about 6pm.

We then walked a few blocks to Stroganoff Steak House. I passed on their specialty since the stroganoff featured a mushroom base. I opted for a steamed perch out of nearby Lake Ladoga which was a good choice! We were back to the hotel about 10pm and lights out shortly after.