Day 6 - St. Petersburg, Russia

July 6th continued...

When we were done eating we rode back into the city, almost everyone used this time to nap. Kate did not tell us much about the buildings we were passing since we had seen most on the way in. We passed by the Narva Triumphal Gate and a few other interesting buildings before reaching our destination, St. Isaac’s Cathedral. We could see the Bronze Horseman monument from there before we went inside the cathedral.

Once inside, Kate showed us how they built the cathedral through models demonstrating how they raised the large marble pillars on the exterior. This accomplishment was so impressive at the time that people came to watch and study the technique. She talked about the gold paint and how it was adhered to the domed roof using a method with mercury, that was said to be safe at the time, but everyone who worked on the project got ill. The building had paintings and mosaics, but the idea had been to create all the decorations in mosaics since it was hard to keep the building at the right temperature for the canvases. Several of the mosaics were set on display and unlike other churches and cathedrals I have seen with mosaics, these were very detailed.

inside St. Isaacs

The copula had a dove in the very center, to represent the Holy Spirit. From the floor it looked like it had a one foot wing span, but in truth it was nine feet wide. During the Nazis invasion only one column was cracked and the dome was protected by the fact that the Russians painted over the gold with grey paint. During the soviet government the cathedral was turned into a museum of atheism and the dove was removed and replaced with a Foucault pendulum.

From St. Isaacs we went on a boat tour along the Neva River and the city’s waterways.

Originally Peter did not want to have any bridges in the city since he wanted it to be like Venice, but today there are bridges crisscrossing all over the waterways.
It was nice to be able to see the exteriors of the buildings almost unobstructed. We had elected to sit inside, which was where the tour guide was sitting. The boat trip was long and the woman who narrated in Russian, was very loud and would not stop talking. Kate tried to tell us what we were seeing, but it was hard to hear her. From the boat we saw the Hermitage and Winter Palace. In the river across from the Hermitage was a fountain similar to the one in front of the Bellagio in Las Vegas. It was a gift to the people rom the city. It shot water up in the air from below the river’s surface every so often. On the other side of the boat we could see Peter and Paul Fortress, Kunstkamera the first museum in Russia, the Rostral Columns, originally lighthouses on Vasilevskiy Island and the Peter-and-Paul’s Cathedral with its gold spire. Further down the Neva River we pulled up near the Aurora Battleship before heading down the smaller linking waterways. One of the interesting things that we saw along the waterways was a small bird statue along side of the First Engineer Bridge. This small monument was a favorite wishing spot and unfortunately the bird was often stolen.

From the boat tour we were supposed to return to the ship, but Chris wanted to buy Vodka in Russia. Kate called ahead and found a place that had it for sale. Named “Red October,” this gift shop was still as touristy as the shop the day before, but at least it had a wider range of things to buy. We ran through the shop buying the few things that we wanted and Chris went to pick Vodka. When I found him again to ask about a bottle for my dad, he had been given four large shots to sample and was beginning to feel the effects.

On the way out of the parking lot, traffic was crazy. It was as busy as D.C., but again no one seemed to follow any rules. Yuri had to push his way through the traffic. A few times it was a little scary and the cars were so close to us that we could have reached out and touched the other vehicles. We were almost back to the ship, when Kirsten decided that she was over touring for the day, the only thing that calmed her down was the band playing as we boarded the ship.

On board it was a quick change for dinner. It was a fairly uneventful dinner, I tried the seafood medley, pretty good and the dark chocolate mousse for dessert. After we ate Chris went to the room and I searched out batteries, since his camera flash was not working. Then we meet up with Tina and Brad for a game of Uno, avoiding the casino for another evening. I won the game and we split up again for the night. The clocks needed to be turned forward this night, so we had some more time before our 7 a.m. meeting, howevere I still visited the buffet to grab food for breakfast before we went to sleep.