Day Six: A Colorful Colorful City [July 9th, 2018]

We arrived to St. Petersburg, Russia this morning. We’re actually spending a night here, docked in Russia.

The cruise into Russia was actually relatively peaceful. I don’t think Estonia was very far from Russia, so we didn’t have a need to speed through the waters, so there was no loud noises vibrating through our stateroom driving me insane, so I actually slept in my own “bedroom” and mom got her bed to herself.

We woke up really early though. Like I’m talking six thirty am, and I’m so confused with all the time zone changes that I was exhausted when I woke up. On the bright side, it wasn’t too late in Texas, it was maybe 11 pm or so, so I was able to call Justin, who wasn’t asleep yet, and talk to him for a few minutes, as we got ready for our tour.

We actually had to go through border control and immigration even to go into Russia, regardless if we had a tour or not. I didn’t really have  a problem, the immigration person just asked me what my occupation was, and I told them a teacher, and I was stamped right through.  My mother had problems going through immigration though, she had to go through like three different immigration officers before she was finally stamped through. I don’t know why, it could just be because she has so many stamps/visas from so many different countries in her passport, so there may not be a lot of room, but eventually she got through.

Then it was off to our tour, which was a bus tour of St. Petersburg. The bus tour itself wasn’t a very interesting excursion. Our tour guide was sort of dry, and didn’t really share the information she had about the city in an interesting way. I found myself zoning out a lot. Maybe I was just spoiled by Lauri in Estonia.

St. Petersburg was officially made a city by Peter the Great on May 27th, 1703. It was Russia’s imperial capital from 1719 to 1918. It’s the westernmost city of Russia, and the River Neva runs through the city and empties into the Baltic Sea. It has a population of 4,879,566 people. In Spring and Summer, temperatures average about 72 degrees Fahrenheit, and in winter, temperatures average about 15 degrees.

Unfortunately, it was very gray and dreary today, when we were visiting it, but the bright and colorful buildings sort of made up for the bleakness of the weather.

I don’t really have much to say about St. Petersburg. Historically, I found it very interesting. There are different apartment buildings that are really close to the port, and if you look at the apartment buildings, it’s sort of like looking at a timeline of Russian history because all the different styles of architecture for the apartments really represent the times… from the 1950s to the 1980s and 1990s.

Since we took a bus tour, we really didn’t delve deep into any particular museum or area of St. Petersburg, we just got a general overview of it. It was a very dreary day, the sun didn’t come out, at all, but it really made the bright colors of the different buildings stand out.

The first stop we made was at the Rostral Columns, Chesmenskaya and Moreiskaya, which were built in the 1770s as beacons for the trading post. Every-time I see statues with sculptures of people [or gods, I suppose, or famous people], I always think about Percy Jackson, and Annabel and the part in the last book, where all the statues in New York City come to life to help them fight that final battle. Especially when the figures on the statue, resemble Greek gods like Poseidon, regardless if that is intentional or not.

We stopped at St. Issaac’s Square, near St. Issaac’s cathedral to see a statue of Nicholas I, a former czar of Russia, and it’s right by St. Isaac’s cathedral. The gold dome of St. Isaac’s Cathedral is one of the largest in the world. It is covered with 220 lbs of gold and was commissioned by Alexander I in 1818, and it took more than three decades to create. We didn’t get to look into the cathedral, since like I said, it was a bus tour, but I did get to glance at it from afar.

We did see the  Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood [which you will totally recognize when you look at pictures of it]. It was built on the site of the March 1st, 1881 assassination of Tsar Alexander II. [and if you were ever wondering because I know I was… Tsar and Czar at the exact same thing, but different time periods, and which one you use really depends where you come from] The church was so colorful. But like I said, I looked at it from afar, I didn’t get to explore any of the churches, and I personally don’t have a desire to do so.

There were vendors everywhere trying to sell their wares. The vendors were really pushy. They were coming into people’s faces, putting hats on their heads, and really pressuring people to buy things. No one really bothered me, but I also don’t think I looked like I was interested in buying things either, but I saw them really pushing their wares on some other passengers, who were on our tour with us.  As for feeling safe… I wouldn’t say I felt unsafe, but I was also cautious. I didn’t carry a bag. The only things I carried with me were my cell phone and my camera, without its case, just to take pictures. I left my passport with my mother, who didn’t leave the bus because she has bad knees. I didn’t bring any kind of bag, no backpack or even just a bag. I didn’t bring a wallet. I didn’t even wear pants with pockets. I also stayed away from areas with large crowds… So like for instance, instead of rushing forward like everyone else did to take closer pictures of the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood, I opted to stay back and get the whole building from afar. I think the key was just being aware of your surroundings and not being an idiot and obvious tourist.

I honestly cannot tell you what I did and what I didn’t see. I didn’t really see any of the palaces because we were on a bus tour, and that would’ve been a separate excursion within itself, and like I said, our tour guide wasn’t the best tour guide.

We did see a lot of canals. I’m amazed how many cities on the Baltic have canals. Peter the Great conceived the River Neva, which is the huge river that runs through St. Petersburg as the main thoroughfare of the city, and wanted it to the the biggest means of transport for people and merchandise throughout the city. St. Peterburg’s nickname is actually “Venice of the North” [though I’ve never been to Venice, so I have no means of comparison] because it has so many bridges and canals.

The world cup was actually going on in Russia while we were there, and all over the city were little soccer landmarks, and banners that welcomed people to the World Cup, though apparently Russia had lost to Estonia the night before.

Another interesting thing about St. Petersburg is that the buildings need to be painted about every 3-4 years to keep them as bright as they are. And when the buildings are in the process of being repainted, there’s this plastic [maybe not plastic, unsure of the material, I just assume it’s some sort of tarp] sheet thrown over the building that’s completely screened to look just like the building will when it’s finished being painted.

St. Petersburg is a really colorful place. The buildings are all so unique looking, and so colorful, and there are statues and monuments everywhere. I suppose my only wish for the tour would’ve been that there were more areas to stop and take photos as opposed to taking them out the bus window, but there’s also only so much time you have for a tour, and if you stopped every five minutes to photograph something, you’ll never ever get back to the ship. But there was a lot to see, and so much unique architecture and palaces and things that you just don’t see in the United States. So here’s a whole bunch of pictures of the architecture from St. Petersburg.

 

 

We also picked up some souvenirs. I got my usual magnet and postcards. Mom got chocolate and some other things that I don’t remember. Though granted, those postcards will not be mailed until I get back to the United States, which reminds me, I need to buy some more international stamps when I get back to the US.

I find Europe so much more picturesque than the United States, in general, and it amazes me that so many people want to visit the United States and see things, but I guess I’m used to all the things in the United States, so it doesn’t really seem like anything special to me, and the same could be said for Europeans the things in their countries that they see every day.

Anyhow, it was really to touring St. Petersburg. I’ve always wanted to go to Russia since my grandmother on my mom’s side orginally lived in Russia before she immigrated to Mexico around 1929. So it was like seeing a part of my heritage, which is really cool.

We passed through immigration going back to the ship. Again, I was through in two minutes, but it took my mother about ten to fifteen minutes to go through it again.

Once we got back on the ship, we went up to the buffet for some food. I had some vegetables, a little bit of chicken cordon bleu, and a bruschetta sandwich, which was amazingly delicious, and I need to look up recipes for bruschetta when I get home, so I can make my own bruschetta sandwiches in the future. I had a tiny piece of some sugar-free raspberry cake, which was pretty good, albeit a bit dry.

Once we were back in the room, I literally passed out for about three hours. I was itchy, which was a good thing because it means certain parts of my body are on the verge of healing because the itching means that my cells are attaching together to heal, and it’s the mechanical stress from that activity that tells the spinal cord to “scratch”, which basically causes you to itch. Anyhow, I took a couple of benadryl because it sort of helps with the itching enough to make it bearable, but the bendryl basically knocked me out. I was even almost falling asleep on the ride back to the dock during the tour. The good news is that:  I’m healing!

I really feel fine. I’m slightly itchy, still have some pain, which is worse at night [probably because I’m busy during the day, and don’t have time to be in pain before settling down at night and realizing I hurt]. No fever. My heart-rate is fine. My energy is fine [unless I apparently take two benadryl].

After I woke up, I played more Bravely Default. I’m about to be at the final bad guy, but I’m thinking of postponing fighting them until I get back to Texas, and can beat the game while Justin watches. So I think I’m going to switch to Fire Emblem Awakening, which I can probably play a million times and never get sick of. I probably won’t start Bravely Second til I’m home either just so I can play with a walkthrough in front of me since I heard it’s a bit trickier to play than the first game, and in order to get certain job asterisks, you need to do certain tasks, and you can’t even get all the jobs until you play New Game plus.

Mom and I went down to dinner, it was open-seating since there are late-night excursions since we are docked overnight in Russia. We sat at a table by ourselves. I had apparently lost my lens cap at dinner the other night, which I was unaware of, but apparently my waiter found, and he knew it was mine since I have a habit of taking pictures of all the food I ate [tis the era of #foodagram and #foodporn], so I thanked them profusely for finding it for me.

I had a shrimp cocktail for an appetizer [which I totally forgot to take a picture of, I think, oh well] and some scallops and orzo for dinner [I remembered to take a picture after I had devoured all the orzo…]. Since I drive Marius insane with my desert requests, he pre-requested an allergy-free dessert for me to eat. It was a chocolate creme brulee. It was good, but I think it tasted more like chocolate pudding then a brulee, but it was good, and I enjoyed it. And I’m sure Marius was happy that he didn’t have to run down to the pastry chef and ask them if I could eat something or not. That poor man, I think I drive him insane with my sweet tooth.

Then I got my usual cranberry juice at the bar [I get really bad dry mouth at night, and like to sleep with something juicy next to me at night], and we went up to the room.

Tomorrow, our second day in Russia, we really have nothing planned. It’ll be like a sea day without really being on the sea. I plan to sleep really really late, which I haven’t really been able to do since I got on the ship with trying to adjust to time-zones and tours and such. Then it’ll probably be a day full of reading and video-games.

Tomorrow night, we’re off to Helsinki. I am very excited for Helsinki.  Tomorrow also makes the halfway point of the cruise, which makes me said, but I’ve really been enjoying myself, despite medical emergencies and medical issues that were completely unexpected. I’ve really been able to relax, which was been nice, and it’s been so cool exploring all these countries that I don’t really know much about [ie: Estonia] and to explore countries I’ve always wanted to visit [ie: Helsinki].

So far it’s been a really awesome trip, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming days 😉

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