Friday, June 20, 2014

Baltics ... St. Petersberg  Day 1 ... 01 June 2014

          This is the place that I have always been dreaming of to visit.  So many negative stories were told about the place, the angry looking people, the soldiers everywhere and so on. But you really have to be there and experience it before saying anything!  And you need a Visa to enter Russia. Without it, you have to stay on board.

Tour Ticket aka Blanket Visa

          My friends and I had the most wonderful two days excursions around St Petersberg. We were not only greeted by our two SPB tour guides but the owner Victoria Rothers too. It seems it is their tradition that Vika would greet all her guests personally. So sweet of her.  That is a personal touch and it carries weight to her kind of business!

Meeting for the first time with Vikaon my left. 

          Vika and I have been online writing and replying emails to one another until the date we set sail. I still remember the date of my first email to her, 11th February 2014! Just imagine how excited we were when we finally meet!

Kate  and WAB.

Teacher Elena..... a great guide.

          Our kind of business or friendship is based on trust! For all the 5 ports of calls, starting from Berlin, I did not even pay to her a single cent until we met in St Petersburg! I told her that if I were to use my credit card, the amount will not be enough. If I were to send her money, the exchange rate kept on changing. We finally agreed on paying cash! 

Pay day!

          The first day went well. Furthermore we were given Elena and Kate as our guides. Both are nice, sweet and did their job full heatedly. Their English....fantastic! As we were on the bus ride around the city, we were given a radio controlled earpiece each. All 46 of us were divided into 2 groups. It was much easier to walk in smaller groups. 

Our first stop was at the Hermitage. It was once the Winter Palace, a former residence of the Russia  n emperors and now it is a museum of art and culture . Not only that, it is one of the oldest and the largest museum in the world with 3 million items displayed! It was first found in 1764 by Catherine The Great and was opened to public in 1852! Some of the paintings which caught my eyes was by Rembrant's. 13 of his paintings were part of the items displayed. The one that I like most was a fine art sculture of Th Crouching Boy by Michelangelo.... one an only! It looked unfinished but that's what art is all about! We spent  about 3 hours walking around the museum but it was not enough. There were a lot more to see. We were out of time. So we left.

The Hermitage


          The cold weather took its toll....... cold and hunger!!! We were so hungry. As promised, SPB brought us to a very nice restaurant. They served us fish with mashed potato. Everybody was so happy and even more happier when that restaurant had a free wi fi. Everybody started sending news and photos back home to our love ones.

          As agreed, we hopped on the bus and was in time for afternoon prayers. It was a very old mosque. It was opened in 1913 and back  then it was the largest mosque in Europe which can accomodate 5,000 worshippers at one go. But it was closed for worshippers from 1940 to 1956 when the soviet authorities banned services in the mosque and turned it into a medical equipment storehouse. It was returned back to the Muslim when the first President of Indonesia made a 10 days visit to St Petersberg  and Soekarno requested to reopen the mosque. Thanks to Bapa Soekarno! Alhamdulillah , until today it still stands tall and is under major restoration. May everything goes well  as planned. 

St Petersberg Mosque.


          The Yusopov Palace or also known as the Moika Palace was the nect destination. It was a place that marked the murder site of Gregori Resputin in 1916. He did not die of poison nor the gunshots but he died of hypothermia when he was wrapped in a blanket and tossed into Moika River! This palace belong to a noble family who were well know of good collectors of fine art paintings and also because of their good deeds in helping those who needs. They were filty rich that they owned 57 palaces all around Russia and 4 in St Petersberg. The last prince Felix Yusopov was said to be far more wealthier than the Tsar! 

          In 1925, shortly after Resputin's death, the soviet cofiscated all of the nobles properties and Yuspov Palace was given to the Ministry of Education which then turned Yusupov Palace into a public museum known as The Palace of Culture for educators and also a museum to Resputin's Murder. It has its very own theatre room which can fit in 200 people! 

          I just cannot imagine how wealthy this family was. It seem nothing and  absolutely nothing that truly belongs to us. Once not in power, even wealth will be robbed and dignity gone.  The best thing to do is to enjoy life , see the world and spend the fruit of your labour for the last 50 or 60 years for youself and your spouse. Let the children do their part to upgrade their life! We have been there!

Yusupov Museum.

          We ended our first day excursion of St Petersberg by attending the Russian Folklore. It was fun, energetic and the colorful costumes really stands out.  Only 23 of us went out that night while the other were sent straight to the port. It was not a regret at all for spending almost USD100 each after all because the show was superb! Worth every penny!

          The bus took us back to the port later that evening. We had dinner, washed up and out again to enjoy the rest of the activities on board. A good sleep was what we needed for the second day excursion of St Petersberg! See you tomorrow!

Russian Folklore.
Part of the 46.