"" Writer's Wanderings: Russia -- St. Petersburg

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Russia -- St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg, Russia, is probably the main reason most people take the Baltic Cruise. This is the second time we've done so and it was our main objective as well. We first visited the city in July of 2002 and found it intriguing. This visit we found it revitalized, renovated, and restored.
Rather than squeeze into a bus of 40 or so passengers, we opted to set up a tour with a private tour operation. Several were recommended on the Cruise Critic message boards and we chose to go with SPB tours . We found six others to join us and met with them on board the Century the first day at sea.

When we arrived in St. Petersburg, we all met together before venturing off the ship. There is a special exception to visas when you are escorted by a licensed tour company but we wanted to stay together as a group should we run into any problems. The only new glitch was that in response to the H1N1 virus, the authorities were taking the temperature of each passenger. It went smoothly with a little "ray" gun and we were off to face immigration.

I believe there is a rule, in Russia particularly, that immigration officers should not smile. Our papers were looked at and thankfully we were passed through to find our guide and driver waiting outside the terminal--a lovely lady named Luva and a James Bond look alike driver named Andre. And a wonderful Mercedes mini-bus that was very comfortable.

On our way to our first stop, I marveled as we passed several gardens bursting with colorful blooms and flower boxes laden with blossoms. Gone were the drab streets I remembered from the past. Sidewalks were repaired, buildings painted, streets smoothed. The city had definitely changed. And so had the people. They walked briskly dressed in business garb or stylish jeans and shirts, tall and confident.

There was a celebration going on honoring the Russian navy. The city along the river was alive with celebrants. Not the Russia I remembered. I thanked God for the change. This was a group alive with enthusiasm and thriving in a new era. I looked forward to seeing more.

More on St. Petersburg:
Catherine's Palace
Church on the Spilled Blood
Peterhof and the Metro
Pies and another palace
St. Isaac's and St. Peter and Paul

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