Sunday, July 30, 2017

Europe (July) Trip Notes # 10

 Europe (July) Trip Notes # 10

Russia (St. Petersburg), cont.    

The Regent cruise line was able to arrange (for about 100 passengers) a once in a lifetime, fabulous experience. The famous Catherine Palace, (which is usually bumper-to-bumper visitors during the day), was opened up in the evening  for us. 

The festivities  began with a close up view of the royal carriages. 

The carriage below is actually a mobile bathroom. It would be discretely parked away from festivities so that the royals could "do their thing" in private.

Ready for a sleigh ride?

After viewing the carriages, we took a quick look at ornaments for the horses...
and clothes used by the royals 

 A uniformed band greeted us at the palace entrance

Palace guards escorted us while touring...

We had a private guide that detailed much of what would have been missed had we toured with the masses. 

Dutch oven heats room below - Amber room to the right.

As we walked from one room to another, there were palace guards in period uniforms stationed in different areas. 

In one of the rooms, we came across a person playing classical flute music. Then, several rooms later, there was a harpsichord concert. Further  meandering throughout the palace took us to the grand ballroom where there was a string quartet. 

Champagne was served.

If that was not enough, all of a sudden there was a brass fanfare as the Tzar and Tzarina entered the ballroom...

followed by a couple demonstrating period dances

As we departed the palace to the outside courtyard (escorted by the military band and period dancing), we were off for a special palace dinner and folklore music.

We returned so late in the evening that the ship had prepared a "midnight snack' (full buffet). We passed and went to sleep. Another early morning tour was awaiting us.

The next day was action packed 

Visiting the synagogue  
Lucky Us - It Was Closed During Our last Visit 

Israeli Concert inside

Avoid The Rush - Buy Tickets Now! 

Cantor Discusses "Jews In Russia" Followed By Short Concert

Synagogue Finds way To Make Money: Nesting Dolls

After a quick lunch at the boat, we were off again for a canal cruise 

Is this St. Petersburg's version of the 405 freeway? Lots of traffic!  

Both Aides Of The Canal: Palaces, Estates And Government Buildings

 Is this a mess or what?  

As we leave St. Petersburg behind us, there is always an opportunity for last minute shopping (or simply looking)...
We decided to pass on this "Trump-Putin" coffee mug.

We did not pass up on our last "Russian evening" with Caviar and vodka 

The Baltic area is very busy. 

The below is a screen shot of marine traffic 
 Each Icon Is A Type Of Boat

 Airplane Traffic

Off to Sweden!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Europe 2017 (July) Trip Notes # 9

                                 Europe 2017 (July) Trip Notes # 9

Helsinki was a disappointment because the local  guide was not good.  We ended up with a (somewhat) negative perspective of the city - dirty, a lot of homeless and hippy-type. However, with the little time that we had, there were opportunities to see some old and the new. 

 Local Market At Harbor

Center of town had distinct architecture    

Old And      New...

Large church at center of town 

Park and pedestrian area - A wee bit crowded! 

Jean Sibelius composed the famous national anthem, "Finlandia." The bird has the best seat in the house! 

Concert schedule. Anyone for a "Fugue?"

Front of central train station 

Contemporary designs...

Music center art piece hanging from building's ceiling. 

Another form of art!

Russia (St. Petersburg) - Part 1:

We woke up around 4:00 AM, walked out onto our veranda and discovered that we were being escorted by the Russian navy - a submarine and several surface ships. 

Kilo Class (?) 

                                 Frigate: Neustrashimy Class (?)

There was quite a difference with our return to St. Petersburg. A few years ago, we were on our own, stayed in an apartment, struggled with the Russian language and had some difficulty buying food at the local market. Who knew that there were (easily) 50 different types of yogurt or something similar? Yet, we had quality time and had positive encounters with the locals. 

We got quite excited when we happened to drive on the main boulevard and quite near the place where we stayed during  our first visit.

Nevsky Prospect: Our Apartment Was A Few Blocks From Here

This time, by bus,  we rushed passed one place or another. There were several "10 minute photo-ops" at several significant buildings, statues and some churches. 

  St. Petersburg Is Called "The Venice Of The North." (Many Canals)

"Shopping until you drop" is not difficult: 

 Matryoshka Or Nesting Dolls: It May Take Over 10 Years To Become A                                            Professional Designer and/or Decorator

Beautiful Boxes

No concern about animal rights here. Plenty of fur coats, hats, etc. are available. 

More manhole covers: 

We came across a lighthouse that is now "decoration" or a "monument."

For a "communist state," there are a lot of Russian Orthodox churches: 

Money pours into the church rather than into the pockets of the poor...

Final Resting Place For Royals 

Unexpected (and) Special Gregorian Concert 

Getting Ready For World Cup 

To be continued...