A Travellerspoint blog

St. Petersburg Part II

Today, we visited the Hermitage Museum. Located inside 5 buildings, including the Winter Palace, Catherine the Great commissioned them to house some of the world’s finest art. In fact, this museum holds the largest collection of art in the world. It was overwhelming to say the least. While the amount of people was overwhelming, it was all the information that the tour guide threw at us that did me in. Before this tour, I thought that I was well versed enough in Russian history to get me by, but I was way off. Everything in the museum was spectacular. Yes, the artwork that Catherine purchased was absolutely stunning, but so were the rooms and ceilings and floors and doors and windows and light fixtures.

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We grabbed a quick lunch around the corner. Then, we stopped at Yeliseevsky, the finest food store in St. Petersburg. Yum…

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Next, we went to the Yusupov Palace. This family was actually wealthier than the Romonifs (the Royal Family) so you can imagine what they palace looked like. It had its own theater that could seat over 200 people. This was also the location of Rasputin’s “murder”. We toured the basement where the event actually occurred. It was surreal because I can still remember the store Sethre told us so vividly back in high school.

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Posted by kristinameyers 10:31 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

Falling in Love with St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg, Russia

Let me first start by saying I was excited for Russia because of my sophomore year history class. But nothing prepared me for what I saw. We met our tour guide, this sassy short woman who is one of the most intelligible person I have ever met.

Our first stop was just a scenic view of a winter palace on the water and a quick drive around the city. It was such a stark contrast seeing the communist buildings and apartments next door to palaces and churches literally made out of gold and precious jewels.

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Then, we went to the Church on the Spilled Blood. The entire thing, inside and out, was covered with hang made mosaic. It is the only church in the world to be designed as such. I honestly almost got emotional when I stood inside the Church. There are no words to describe its beauty. And while this was where Emperor Alexander II was blown up in 1881, it was still mesmerizing.

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Then, we were allowed a nap. Thank god. After not sleeping for even 15 minutes last night, I needed to try to get at least 5 minutes of sleep if I were going to appreciate the rest of the tour. We drove an hour into the countryside. It was lush and green and yet still somewhat impoverished. We stopped and ate at a traditional Russian restraint that was inside of a log cabin. I shared the potato pancakes with sour cream and got the beef stroganoff. It was delicious. I’m determined to find a Russian restraint in LA when I get back so I can eat that all the time.

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Then, we went to Catherine’s Palace, started by Catherine I (Peter the Great’s second wife aka the laundress). I, personally, think it was more stunning than Versailles. While the gardens of Versailles were undoubtedly better, the exterior and interior style of baroque design of Catherine’s Palace was remarkable. The blue was so bright and vibrant. The insides were covered with gold and marble and 3-D flooring. The amber room was remarkable. While it was stuffy and I thought I was going to pass out from the lack of air, I wouldn’t have minded passing out there. Unfortunately, the only original part of the castle that was left was the exterior. The Nazis destroyed the entire interior. They took the furniture and burned it for fire. They stole the precious jewels and the gold and the amber. They even stripped and took the floors and ceilings. So while the inside is not the original, it is an exact replica.

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Posted by kristinameyers 10:22 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

Helsinki

Helsinki, Finland

We again slept in, but not as bad as yesterday. We actually were able to eat some breakfast this morning.

Today was really fun. We took a high-speed boat around and outside of the city of Helsinki. It was an extremely different yet fully rewarding way to see the city. Considering there isn’t much in Helsinki, being able to both see it and have an exhilarating boat ride at the same time was perfect.

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Once we left the city, we drove through the outskirts. It was stunning. It was green, both the water and the scenery. We stopped at a house on the water and grabbed some food. And while everything was breathtaking, my break was actually being taken from me in response to my sudden seasickness. It sucked.

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Back on the boat and we grabbed dinner and then went to the club. Nothing too spectacular happened. We needed to be in bed early because we had an early tour the next morning. So I made a point to be in bed by 1, but it turns out I couldn’t sleep the entire night. So there was that…

Posted by kristinameyers 02:33 Archived in Finland Comments (0)

Tallinn

Tallinn, Estonia

Because we were out really late the night before, we slept in before our land excursion to Tallinn. The only problem was, the excursion started at 12:15, and we woke up at 12.

Once officially off the boat we took a walking tour through the Old Town. It was honestly, straight out of a fairy tale. Short medieval buildings made up with city, which was surrounded by the original city walls. It was truly breathtaking. The one thing that made this country truly spectacular was that , basically throughout its entire existence, it was constantly being conquered and taken over. Be it by the Russians or the Germans, the people of Estonia were never truly free until 1994, when the Soviets officially left.

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After the walking tour, which was prolonged because one of the men wandered off and we had to wait for him, we made our way to the chocolate factory to learn how to make truffles. It was so fun. So for the next 2 hours we made and ate chocolate.

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Back on the ship we rested, got dressed, and went to dinner at Preggo. Afterwards, we went to the onboard broadway show which was a mix of many different famous plays. It was awful. And then, of course, we went to the club, where we ran into our new Colombian friends.

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Posted by kristinameyers 02:29 Archived in Estonia Comments (0)

Exploring Stockholm

Stockholm, Sweden

Alarm was set for 8:00 so that we had enough time to wake up, get dressed and eat before we embarked on our Old City Walk and Ice Bar tour. Despite our room feeling colder than the ice bar itself, it was a pretty uneventful morning.

We hopped on the bus and took a quick driving tour of Stockholm. Let me tell you, it was nothing like I had expected. Stockholm is made up of hundreds of different islands and the architecture is extremely diverse. There was a lot of French influence as well as German influence. It had a mix of medieval era and modern times – including skyscrapers because well, if New York City has them, so must Stockholm. But, it is a beautiful city. There is water in almost every direction. On one side of the city, there is a massive lake, and the other side stands the sea. Interestingly enough, 1/3 of the city is water, 1/3 of the city is greenery, and only 1/3 of the city is infrastructure (buildings, roads, etc.).

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The most exciting fact that I learned on the tour was that the Nobel Prize originated here and is given out on December the 10th here (except for the Nobel Peace Price which is given out in Oslo). Maybe I’ve just been ignorant to this fact my entire life, but I had never realized it.

Once off the bus, we took a quick hour tour through the Old Town. It was a stereotypical medieval town with the cobblestone roads and beautiful, but small, buildings. But, the Old Town is the highest point in all of Stockholm.

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Then, the Ice Bar. This Ice Bar was actually the first Ice Bar (sorry Las Vegas). We arrived, got dressed in our long parka like ensemble and gloves. It was 19 degrees inside and even the glasses were ice. Imagine drinking out of something that is literally frozen! Here, I felt like I fit right in. My pale skin went along with the whole snow and no sun theme and I figured if I moved to Northern Sweden, no one would expect a thing –until I opened my mouth that is.

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Exhausted, we headed back to the ship to relax before the emergency drill.

After the drill and a quick workout, we got ready and headed down to dinner in the dinning hall, where you can order as much food as you want. Aka, heaven.

Then, off to the ships club we went. There was a girl, well a 30 year old woman actually, with her family who kept staring at us and we all decided she was a bitch. But, as the night progressed, she actually approached me and we started talking and we became friends. She introduced us to her younger brother (cough cough Natalia) and her husband and her older brother. We ended up spending time with this family from Colombia and surprisingly, we had a blast.

Posted by kristinameyers 02:22 Comments (0)

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