Before we knew it, we were at our first port of St. Petersburg, Russia! The night before we docked, I found out about a wonderful opportunity. Local university students were hoping to practice their English with American students as they showed us their city. Of course I wanted a piece of this!
|Off the ship in Russia!|
After a bit of a wait to get off the ship (I think things will get ironed out as we progress) we headed to a bookstore on Nevsky Prospekt. Nevsky could be thought of as the main street of SPB with shops, cafes and people wishing to sell you canal tours. There are many canals throughout the city and it’s been said it’s the best way to see the city. Anyway, a group of Semester at Sea students and myself wanted to get a bite to eat (and seize free wifi opportunities!!!) before we met the girls. Somehow, we happened upon an Asian cuisine restaurant. Whoops, so much for authentic Russian cuisine. However, we were too hungry to leave and the appeal of free wifi was far too high. Although we were given English menus, our waiter did not speak English so that presented a bit of a challenge. I am not asking everyone we encounter to speak English, since we are the ones entering their country, just marveling at the obstacles we face along the way. I got a teeny tiny bowl of fried rice that was amazing and scarfed down in minutes. Interesting note about the bathrooms there – the bathroom was kind of like a closet and the toilets faced each other so I suppose there was room for you and a friend in there. I opted to go solo.
Time to meet the university girls! Well, I was blown away at their impressive English abilities! They were really cool because we got to ask them about their Russian lives just as much as they wanted to ask us about our lives in America. It’s interesting because they said they take American culture classes at school. I brought photo albums of my life in America to show. They thought it was really cool and said they wanted to visit the top of the Statue of Liberty. When I gave them an NJ or NY postcard, it was quite the tough decision as to which one to choose! They helped us out throughout the day though, as they thwarted ticket vendors who were trying to sell us tourists whatever.
|Pictured with some of our local guides :) If my memory serves me correctly, the building in the background was a governmental building.|
Some of the sights we saw in Russia were the Winter Palace, Church of the Spilled Blood, Peterhof Gardens and the Summer Palace, and Swan Lake, the Russian ballet, not to mention the thousands upon thousands of fabrege eggs and matryoshka (stacking) dolls!
Russian Orthodox Churches are famous for their onion dome structure and they were pretty impressive. There was a church very close to the ship that we went inside and it was incredibly ornate! I could not concentrate if I went to church there haha The domes used to be real gold but it has since been scraped off and replaced with gold painting.
|Church of the Spilled Blood - dedicated to the czars who passed. Beautiful!|
The Peterhof Gardens are a short “hydrofoil” boat ride from land and definitely worth seeing. It was the summer home of a czar and would be more than ok if it was my year-round home! Tons of fountains and gold statues adorn the perfectly manicured lawns. We did not have much time to spend at the gardens but they were great to see for the time we had.
|The beautiful Peterhof Gardens!|
|Here are some friends from the ship. We are from Michigan, Hawaii, DC and Virginia.|
Lastly, was the Russian shopping. I knew I could not leave without my own stacking doll. I have one at home but I knew I could not leave without purchasing my own. Well, this proved to be much harder than I thought! There were thousands of styles, all so beautiful. They had traditional styles, they had artistic ones with geometric designs, Christmas ones, public figures, gah! I decided on a smaller one because the smallest one in that collection is about half the size of a fingernail and it was too cute to pass up. Another thing, Russian currency is the ruble. 1 Ruble is about $30 USD. So to spend over 1000 Rubles a day was not uncommon, just hard to fathom/crazy to imagine how much money you are carrying on you for one day (though it’s just about $30 USD)!
|A small slice of all of the dolls!|
It was pretty cool when some of the Russians saw my last name and I tried to explain how my grandpa was from here. I wonder if Karpovich is a popular name there, something like Smith or Jones in America.
|My debut at the ballet. HA just kidding.... :)|
Next stop, Germany! See you in a couple days. Peace!