This morning started with a briefing with a diplomat. It was very informative. He told us about the current safety concerns as well as updated us on the growing tensions between Ukraine, Russia, Europe and the USA. After the briefing we returned to our room to get ready for a day out on the town in St. Petersburg. We really relaxed this morning and didn't get off the ship until around 11am.
We had been told their were a few buses that would then take you to a metro that would take you into the city center. Well we didn't feel brave today so we walked. We knew it was going to be a longer walk, but instead of wrestling with reading the signs in Cyrillic we thought we would just map it out and go turn by turn. It took us about an hour to walk in (3 miles) but the walk was nice and the weather was good.
Our first stop was the Hermitage Museum. We did not go in because the lines were very long but we took some nice pictures in the Palace Square to the Admiralty. There is a beautiful Neoclassical General Staff Building and the Baroque Hermitage. There is also the Alexander Column which honors Alexander I. he build the square in the early 18th century. On Jan. 22, 1905 the czar's imperial guard opened fire on peaceful protesters here. It was a huge massacre.
We then walked down Nevsky Prospekt. It is a 2 mile street that is a main attraction because of the museums, churches, architecture and shopping. We went down a canal just of the Nevsky Prospekt and saw the most amazing site, The Church on Spilled Blood. This amazing church has gilded golden onion domes are the classic architecture you think of when you think of a city in Russia. The church is built on the place where a suicide bomber assassinated Czar Alexander II in 1881. The church was finished in 1907. The walls are COVERED with exquisite mosaics, can't even describe it. It is absolutely breathtaking. We were so glad that we paid the steep admission to go in. In the back of the church there is a canopy that shows the spot where Czar Alexander II was killed.
Next we took a nice walk through a park, sat and rested our feet and then took another long walk to Peter and Paul Fortress and then sat again for a bit to have a huge bottle of water and rest the feet again. A man across from us struck up a conversation. He was a Russian man that now lives in San Francisco. We talked about so many things…politics (tried to skirt this issue), women's lib., gay rights. He really wanted to talk! We sat there for about 45 minutes and then headed home. We got a little lost on the way there but eventually found our way.
We ended up walking all the way back…another 3 miles. The feet were DONE by the time we got back to the ship. We had dinner on the ship by the pool where you can buy food after hours and then we headed downstairs to pack for the Moscow trip. We leave tomorrow at 5am and take a train. Off to bed now! Russia, we thought you would be scary, overwhelming and difficult but you are none of those things!