Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Baltic Cruise: St. Petersburg, Part 7 (Neva River Cruise)

Wow, so I just typed a bunch of stuff on Part 8 and then realized that Part 7 hadn't been published yet!  Oops.  Guess it's going to be a two-fer today.

After the ride on the St. Petersburg metro, we met up with some other tour groups and did a cruise on the Neva River.  It was too cold to really want to spend a lot of time out on the deck taking pictures, though, so mostly Lee and I stayed inside the boat.  Lee did brave the cold for a little bit to take some pictures.

There's part of the Hermitage.  Seriously huge.

I think that red tower-y thing is a lighthouse?

There's the Peter and Paul Fortress; we visited it later on in our tour.


Another boat...man, my commentary is fascinating.

Another building along the canal and sadly I have no idea what it is.

Lee tried very hard to get a riverside shot of the Church of the Spilled Blood, but there was always something in front of it.

Ok, keep scrolling down for Part 8!

Baltic Cruise: St. Petersburg, Part 8 (Yusupov Palace)

I actually wrote the text in this post *before* Part 7, not realizing that it hadn't been published yet.  Oops.  But here it is anyway.

We get our household goods tomorrow, yay!  I can't decide what I'm most excited to get.  The bed?  The couch?  All my crafty supplies?  It's a toss-up.  Here's hoping our stuff is all in good shape when we see it tomorrow.

But for tonight, let's go back to St. Petersburg.  Today's post is all about Yusupov Palace, which was the home of the Yusupov family, who were kind of like the Russian equivalent of the Rockefellers.  I think the Russians are a bit more free with the term "palace"; this place was a very large and grand house, but certainly not on a level with Versailles or the Catherine Palace.  But it was still probably larger than all the houses I've lived in put together : )

These two were the last Yusupovs to live in the palace before the Russian Revolution made being an aristocrat a seriously dangerous business.  However, more famous than any of the Yusupovs is one of their guests:  Grigori Rasputin.  Yeah, that guy!  Yusupov Palace is where Rasputin's murderers conspired to do the deed.

Three of the co-conspirators waited upstairs while Rasputin was being entertained in the basement and presumably poisoned.

The conspirators got nervous that Rasputin wasn't expiring fast enough, so Felix Yusupov panicked and brought down a revolver and shot him.  He was also clubbed, maybe stabbed, and then thrown into the frozen river, and since then a legend has sprung up about how the conspirators tried to kill him six ways from Sunday but that in the end he drowned.  However it happened, Rasputin was murdered, and this is where it happened.

The rest of the palace is much less murderous.

Quite the chandelier and staircase.

And there's another light fixture for you, this one I think in Irina Yusupov's bedroom.  Irina was Tsar Nicholas II's only niece.

And there's her whole bedroom, which is at least as big as all of the bedrooms in my house put together.

Let no surface go unadorned!  The ceiling.

Fancy furniture...

I want a harp!  Actually I think it would be cool to learn how to play the harp.  Then I could be just like Amy Farrah Fowler.

Unfortunately I've forgotten what part of the house this is exactly.

'Nother ceiling.

And there is the very posh theater inside the house.  And nowhere in this post are there pictures of Lee or me to prove we were actually there.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Baltic Cruise: St. Petersburg, Part 6 (Metro Ride & Miscellany)

I figure if I don't get a move on, I won't get through the Baltic cruise pictures before the end of the year, so I've got another post ready for today.  I think this one's gonna be a little light though...it's some miscellaneous photos from the start of the day on our second day in St. Petersburg, and in all the moving chaos I'm not sure where my trusty lil travel notebook is, so...well, the pictures are going to have to speak for themselves, that's all.  And I think they might be out of order.

It's a church...with onion domes!

The first thing we did that morning was head to the subway, our guide was insistent that we ride the subway though I'm not really sure why.  I think he did mention that St. Petersburg has the most deeply underground subway system in the world though (it goes under the Neva River, so maybe the Neva is deeper than the Thames and the Seine?  Because Paris and London have subway systems going under a river too).  It did seem to take a LOT of stairs and escalators going down to get to the platform.  So we rode the subway one stop, then got back on our van.  Anyway, the two subway stations that we saw were a.) very clean and b.) decorated with some pretty fancy mosaics, like that one.

Lee and my dad play this game online called World of Tanks and if you click on that picture to see it larger, you can see that we found the world headquarters for the game.

There's another church...that I don't remember the name of...but I like the blue domes!

Ok, maybe the photos are out of order because I did all the ones from the big camera first and these are from the smaller camera, but here's another subway mosaic.  Lots of the ones I saw depicted characters from Greco-Roman mythology.

Like Poseidon (Neptune) here.  I have another Scarlet Quince cross stitch pattern that depicts Neptune and his horses coming in on a wave in the sea; maybe one of these days I'll get to that one : )

Yeah so I totally don't remember what this is.  Sorry.

I think it's another church.  We had a bit of time before our next item on the itinerary so the tour guide squeezed in a quick visit to a couple of things where we could take pictures outside.  It was COLD and a bit drizzly though.

This is a statue of a famous Russian writer, but I can't remember who.  Seems like it wasn't Dostoevsky or one of those ones that Westerners would recognize, but a dude who's famous in Russia.

And that's it for today!  Next one will be better, promise.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Baltic Cruise: St. Petersburg, Part 5 (Catherine Palace)

Hi Mom!!!  I've been neglecting the blog lately...but I've been going through stuff that's been in storage for 7 years, deciding what's really still worth keeping.  And also procrastinating, because after a while going through all that stuff just gets kind of boring.

But enough of that, let's go back to St. Petersburg.  More accurately, let's go to Tsarskoye Selo, 15 miles away from St. Petersburg, for a visit to the Catherine Palace, the summer home of the tsars.

The Russians love their gold, man.

The first Catherine palace was built by Catherine I, but it's been torn down and redone numerous times and is now most associated with Catherine the Great (she was #2) which is funny since she didn't particularly like it that much.  But it looks pretty spectacular now, and that's just the front gate.

Proof that I was there!  I like the blue color on the walls.  Did I tell you already why a lot of the buildings in SP have brightly colored facades?  The climate is too harsh for things like the marble that's so popular in Italy, so they did this instead.  I like it; gives SP a different vibe than other European cities (and yes, SP is and was always meant to be a European city).

Ominous skies.  We did get sprinkled on.

All that trim that's painted mustard used to be gilded; Catherine was a bit horrified at the expense of it (and she thought it was tacky) so she had it taken off.

Hey look, it's got my initial on it!  Think that means it's mine?  Teehee.

So just inside the door is a beautiful staircase (pic later I think) and this area used to have a lot of Oriental decor, so this is part of the original decor that was kept after it was renovated.  One of the times it was renovated, because there were several.

Let no surface go undecorated, not even the ceilings!

This is Lee's beautiful artsy shot for the day, and you can see the staircase in the background.

Check out the ballroom.  Covered in gold, natch.

That, my friends, is the most awesomest looking ceramic heater in the history of ever.  I kind of want one.  I have no idea where I would put it, but I kinda totally love it.

So you can see a bit more of the decor...they actually had those big ceramic heaters in quite a few of the rooms.  And I think that this was one of those places that has the really thick walls because inside the walls are servants' passages so they can get from place to place without being seen.  They probably doubled as clandestine make-out spots.

Another pretty photo from Lee : )

So somehow paintings of dead animals in the dining room are supposed to make you hungrier?  I think not.  (Look at the rabbit in the painting to the right.)

So the interior of the Catherine Palace had to be completely redone after World War II because the Germans looted and vandalized it on their retreat from the siege of Leningrad (which is what St. Petersburg was called at the time...for a while it was Petrograd, too).  Lucky for the Russians, they had a good collection of photographs of the interiors from before the war so they were able to recreate a lot of the original splendor.  That included the famous Amber Room, which we were not allowed to photograph; part of the restoration of the Amber Room was financed by donations from Germany to say sorry for that whole looting thing.

Love the woodwork on the floor in here!

Heyyy there's the staircase again.

We didn't see much of the gardens at Tsarskoye Selo; it was kind of drizzly.

Catherine Palace selfie!  And that's all she wrote for today.  We got our unaccompanied baggage today, which included some stamping supplies, so I'm going to go hug and love on them and organize them and maybe if I'm lucky I'll even make something.  Ta-ta!