28 May 2013

Travel: Cruise Northern Europe part 8

Thursday, 16 May
We rise and shine (not) at 6am for our day trip to Petrodvorets and the Hermitage. Weather is once again stunning and traffic is once again awful. We spend hours trying to get to Petrodvorets palace where we are faced with some tough as nails babouchkas but eventually we get in. The palace is beautiful. It was the summer palace of Catherina the great and all the chambers are rather small compared to other palaces but that just increases the appeal. The Turkish sofa is quite something. (she entertained her many lovers here...not all at once)
The gardens are mind blowing. Fountains, gold statues, chequered patterns...
We have a great guide who talks about life in Russia, the various presidents, and how so much treasure was saved from the war by sending everything to Siberia until the war was over. They used the many gowns of the empress to shield everything from harm. 
After that, we have our lunch (starting with a glass of vodka) and then set off to visit the hermitage. We have to run our stuff through a scanner and are then faced with hundreds and hundreds of visitors. 
It's mad but it's impressive. The old winter palace houses some great collections of impressionists, but also Picasso, Rembrandt, Titian, etc etc. plus the peacock clock that goes off once a week and is quite a spectacle. I was most amazed by this visit. Just stunning. 
After that, we get some time for shopping and I buy some souvenirs and an amber ring. 
We head back to the ship that was meant to set sail at 7pm but because of heavy traffic, one group only arrived at 8.15pm! So, we are now 1,5 hours behind schedule. 
For dinner I had the salad, pasta with tomato sauce and mushroom, grilled salmon with spinach and a Sacher torte. 
We are now relaxing in our cabin..sun is setting slowly (it's 10.15pm).time goes back one hour tonight and we have nothing planned tomorrow except a facial massage for me. So that'll be an afternoon of wellness. And they predict 20 degrees again. :-)

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