Saturday, February 6, 2016

Travel: From Russia With Love

To set the mood for today's post, I made a latte in the tea cup I got in Russia. 

I've been fascinated with Russia ever since I learned about the Cold War. Have I romanticized it too much? Maybe....but it was no less exciting when I went!

I went on a Baltic Sea cruise in July of 2014, and one of the stops was St. Petersburg for two days. Honestly that was the whole reason I went on the cruise in the first place! If any of you are looking to go, hopefully you will find my experiences useful in your own travels. :)

One of the most surprising things for visitors that you need a sponsor to go into the country. If you go on a cruise or on an organized trip, the tour guide will usually have all of that taken care of for you. Being that this would most likely, and unfortunately, be our only time visiting, I opted to go a different route. I booked a private tour for two of us through Dancing Bear Tours. That made the experience so much more enjoyable! The owner, Julia, kept in constant contact with me before our arrival. They have set tours you can choose from, or you can build your own itinerary. We decided to build off of one they already had put together. It was unforgettable! Our tour guide and driver stayed with us the entire time and were very knowledgeable about EVERYTHING. It was one of the BEST tours I've had in any city. 

We went with the active 2-day shore excursion and customized it a little bit. Here are some of the highlights.

Below is the ballroom in Catherine's Palace fashioned after Versailles. (That's our tour guide, Olga.) 

You can rent it for $300k a night!

Next up is Petergof, the summer palace. I think this was my favorite out of everything we saw. It wasn't in the hustle and bustle of the city, and the gardens and hundreds of fountains were breathtaking!

Costumes everywhere!
 We opted for an evening program. No trip to Russia is complete without seeing a ballet! Alexandrinsky Theatre was showing Swan Lake...what a wonderful experience! Plus Olga told us that to be like the Russians, we had to partake in caviar and champagne during intermission. The champagne was good...the caviar was something I'm thankful to have tried once.

The Swan
Probably one of the most iconic images of Russia is the Church of Our Savior on Spilt Blood. The colorful onion bulbs, the extreme attention to detail, the history... it's unlike any place I've ever seen.

Best place to get a picture
The last "must see" attraction I'll post is the Hermitage. It's now a museum, but used to be the winter palace. How nice that must be to have one for every season. Maybe I'll make that a goal in life.

How beautiful
We stopped off at a couple places to eat during our excursion. I tried Borscht and some kind of meat pie which were both delicious. We also took a detour to a Russian porcelain shop and picked up a few of the famous cobalt and white pieces. Our driver took us to a huge souvenir shop where we were greeted with vodka and stocked up on just about everything we could find!

This too-short visit was a once in a lifetime trip that I will always cherish! If you ever get the opportunity, take it! Don't miss out on such a lovely city.

Until next time....
Всего наилучшего!

     Fit Dame

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