Here we are, our first day in Russia. Today we took the tour Lenin and the Russian Revolution. I wish I could share more with you right now but as I mentioned before, my International data plan does not work here in Russia…I mean it does but at extra $20 per megabyte and this satalite connection is too slow for picutre uploads. Did I mention I accidentialy butt-dialed the US? Ugh! Let’s just hope that 200 Rubles I took out of a museum ATM doesn’t result in the cleaning out of my bank account. Hopefully I can catch up this weekend when we are back at sea and near Estonia.
UPDATED: It’s now August, I’m really bummed out that I didn’t at least write my reflections of Russia while it happened. Guess that’s what happens when you are a cruise ship and there is a ton of activities to catch ones interest.
Our first day in St. Petersburg was quite an eye-opener. The Grand Palaces with the 70’s socialist architecture was such a contrast. Baby pink and blue palaces…and steel gray concrete. Our first day took us to the Smolny Institute the State Museum of Political History. The Smolny was founded by Catherine the Great as a school for girls and then in 1917 used by Lenin as Bolshevik headquarters. Currently it’s used as government offices. However, they still keep Lenin’s office and apartment open for tours. It was really interesting. What really had me cocking a brow was how accessible everything was. No ropes. People could sit at his desk for photos, touch things. I had to wonder, is this stuff “really” Lenin’s? They even had a pair of his boots. When we walked across the building to his apartment (more like a suite of rooms) I watched as the guide opened the door with what appeared to be “skeleton keys.’ I pointed it out to Ben and the guide and she said to me, “they are original” and handed the set to Ben. Clearly I could not miss that photo opportunity. In the “apartment” there were photos of the former pupils of the Smolny Institute and the living space of Lenin and his wife. Ben sat down on a couch recovered in white canvas. I thought that the could not possibly be original until I put my hand on the back of the chair and felt the fabric beneath the canvas cover crack and crunch. After I picture…I told Ben to get up.
The State Museum of Political History was also a meeting building for the revolutionaries. It was the former home of a ballerina who was forced to flee or risk execution. Several fascinating artifacts and a great view of the famous balcony Lenin stood to give his speeches.
Afterwards we continued our drive around St. Petersburg. They keep us on a tight leash. Next time around I’ll arrange my own visa so I have the freedom to walk and explore on my own. I could not get over the contrast between the palaces and the communist era housing units. Every palace we passed the guide would tell us “built by Catherine the Great for her favorite nephew,” “Build by Nicholas as wedding present for his daughter” I heard the Romanovs had 325 Palaces! Really? They didn’t think that was excessive? No wonder there was a revolution…..
UDATE 2: I found this in my iPhone. Reflections of my first day in Russia.
Day one is Russia went by in a flash. As I lie here in bed thinking about it, I don’t know if it met or exceeded my expectations. Honestly, I want sure what I imagined it to be before I got here. As a cruise passenger, I was not free to roam about the city. If I had planned better and got my own visa or booked a private car tour (after day one, I see the benefit shelling out for a private car tour).
Here we were, far out at a single pier. I wanted to pass through customs a bit early so we could wander about the terminal before our bus tour. Niet. The customs guy that looked like a thinner version of Dolf Lungren kept pointing to my ticket where it said 1:00pm. So the kids and I took a seat on foreigner side of the customs iron curtain to wait it out.
45 minutes later we were on our way and that’s when it all went buy in a flash….not just because there was so much to absorb in a short period of time, but our bus driver must have been a retired KGB because he drove that bus fast and defensively. Did I mention it was raining too? We were a bus full of tourists bouncing back and forth in the bus,clicking our camera shutters fast and furiously as the tour guide said “look left, look right, look left, look right, look behind you.