Friday, 5 September 2014
05.09.2014 - 05.09.2014
The ship arrived at her berth in St Petersburg right in schedule. We were the fifth ship to occupy a berth at the extensive passenger terminal facility. A great percentage of the ship's passengers were up and making an early breakfast.
We had a Ship's Shore Excursion booked and proceeded to the Theatre as directed. The process of linking passengers to the correct one of many tours departing at about the same time is a well practised routine. Each 'tour' has an assigned coloured sticker and within each colour there are stickers with a number that is a coach worth. This morning we were Pink 2. Regardless of when we arrive at the check-in we are then assigned a section of the Theatre where we wait until called forward. Our group was joined by Pink 3 and Pink 4 indicating that there were three coaches doing the same itinerary. We were kept informed of progress and advised of delays at the passport checking stations. Once clear, we were escorted in assigned groups down to Deck 4 and the gangway. Following others in the group we proceeded to the Russian Border Control desks where our passports were examined and stamped. We then proceeded to the long line of coaches where we found one that matched our colour and number, ie. Pink 2.
We toured through various neighbourhoods while our guide regaled us with details regarding the history and architectural style of the various buildings. Our driver negotiated some impressive twists and turns amidst the early morning commuter traffic. Unexpectedly most of the cars were well maintained and quite modern, not what I'd expected.
At various points along the route there were glimpses of the golden domes and ornate features that one associates with St Petersburg in particular and Russia in general. At various points our driver managed to find somewhere to park so that we could leave the coach to take photos. Not as easy as it may sound given that the other four ships in port had their tour buses doing the same thing. Add to that mix a number of smaller buses taking 'independent' travellers to the same places.
One of the most impressive stops was at the "Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood" (their spelling). Our stop was for only ten minutes so there was just enough time to try and capture the facade and domes, I can only speculate at what ornate treasures were inside. Back on the bus and off to another area of architectural or historical significance. At one stage traffic appeared to have come to a complete halt. Eventually we discovered why, there had been an altercation between a car and a tram. No great surprise given the chaotic state of traffic, I was much relieved at the skill of our driver.
One of the promised features of this tour was the opportunity to buy authentic Russian Souvenirs. The place we stopped at had the most amazing range of articles that could be imagined. Furs, amber jewelry, Fabergé eggs and Marmushca dolls. Back to the ship in time for lunch and a nap to make up for a short night.
Woke up in time to get dressed and grab a quick meal in the Horizon Court before meeting our Shore Excursion group ashore. We are attending a Folkloric Show. Along with three other bus-loads from our ship there were crowds of people from the other ships there as well. The show started at 20:30 and for the next two hours we were richly entertained by a troupe that comprised a Military orchestra, a male choir of 20 voices, numerous solo male tenors, a dozen male dancers (gymnasts, acrobats) and 12 gorgeous tall women who appeared to have been cast from the one mould.
Singing, dancing and performing acrobatic feats that defy description. We were universally mesmerised and the performances were received with thunderous applause.
We left the theatre and were shepherded back to our bus by our ever-watchful guide. Our drive back to the ship was accompanied by the many gorgeous vistas of the many beautiful buildings and lights reflected in the water of the river. Back at the pier we were again scrutinised by the Passport Control officers before making our way back aboard our floating hotel.
We've had a fantastic day and were lucky to enjoy one of only 30 sunny days experienced in St Petersburg. Our guide describes the climate as "Nine months of expectation and three months of disappointment".
It was too late to complete this blog last night so these final words were added on Saturday morning. Another day in St Petersburg before sailing to Helsinki.
There's an image of a portion of the "Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood" at http://365project.org/tonydebont/365/2014-09-05
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony