Before going back to the boat, the tour bus stopped at a tourist market to let people pick up trinkets. We found our usual magnet and got the kids some little Russian souvenirs.
Our walking tour began in the Field of Mars, a large park situated in the middle of St. Petersburg. On 6 November 1957 in the center of the Field was lit an Eternal Flame honoring "victims of the revolution".
Cobblestone streets: hard on strollers but easy on the eyes.
We took turns rubbing part of the statue for good weather. It was supposed to start raining, but luckily it held out until the end of our excursion. The rubbing totally worked.
Nevsky Prospekt is St. Petersburg's most famous thoroughfare and along its length are some of the city's most opulent palaces, top museums, most important churches, and finest urban architecture, including the Art Noveau so-called Singer House. It was once the Russian headquarters of the American sewing machine company, Singer, hence the bald eagle with its wings spread wide on top.
A modern carriage?! No way!
After admiring the views along Nevsky Prospect and loving our few minutes of freedom, we hastily re-joined our group before we got snatched up by the Russian police :)
Finally, it was what we were waiting for: the Church on Spilled Blood.
Begun just after Alexander's assassination but not finished until 1907, the church is built in a neo-Russian, Historicist stye. Its designers created a building that was a romantic, fairy-tale image of their own national history and traditions - similar to Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria and the Matthias Church in Budapest.
Entering the church and looking up you are greeted by Christ gazing down at you from the top of the dome, bathed in light from the windows and ringed by the gold balcony railing.
The iconostasis - the partition dividing the altar from the main part of the church - is made of marble with inlaid doors. Incredible.
More shots of the interior because I couldn't get enough.
These are not paintings - they're MOSAICS. Each and every little stone was meticulously placed to create these large images. Astounding.
In the back of the church, a canopy marks the spot where the Czar was mortally wounded.
Not to end on a sour note, but after walking out of the church, it started raining and I got sick. Super sick. Like, STREP THROAT sick. Who gets strep throat on a cruise?! Me, that's who. And it sucked big time. I didn't want to go to the doctor and get antibiotics because I'm sure they would have quarantined me and that is the opposite point of a cruise. So I popped some pills every few hours, drank lots of water, and sucked it up for basically the rest of the trip because that's how long it lasted. The first few days were the worst, but eventually it was tolerable. Anyway, it happens. I didn't let it dampen my spirits TOO much. On we went!
The second day in Russia we ventured out of St. Petersburg to Peterhof so that's the next recap post coming soon!