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Friday, July 11, 2003


        At 2:00 PM, Polina and Rialemma (below right with Marcia) picked us up and took us to the Russian Museum (Russkij Musej) (below leftt) which is just around the block from the Church on Spilled Blood.

   

            The museum was founded in 1898 in the Mikailovsky Palace, but now includes the Engineer’s Castle and both the Marble and Strogonov Palaces.  The museum system here is much fairer regarding using a video camera.  If you elect to, you simply pay a little more for your entrance fee and you are permitted to take all the videos and photographs you want.  I paid the extra and did just that.  Other visitors wondered why I was being allowed to video everything.  This museum was magnificent and can only be described by the photos I have taken of all the great Russian art which is housed here.

[Here is a stock photo I found of the building at night.]

 

            There (below left) is the babushka waiting to catch me taking photos.

       

            We saw the whole thing and at 3:30 we were done and it was time to drive to Peterhof (Petrodvorec,) an hour away (19 miles) in the eastern outskirts of the city located on the Gulf of Finland.  On the way there we drove past Trinity Cathedral (Troitsky sobor) with its 5 bright blue domes.  It was built from 1828-35 in honor of the victory in the Russo-Turkish War.  I took this photo from the front of it.

            This is where Peter the Great married Empress Catherine I (a previous Lithuanian washerwoman.)  We had the chance to see artists painting pictures of the beautiful and historic building.  Its interior was gutted by the Soviets in 1938.  It was here that the famous author Dostoyevsky married Anna Snitkina in 1867, four months after hiring her as his secretary.

NOTE: Above left is an old stock photo from the side of the church.  On August 25, 2006 a fire broke out in the church during repairs (below left.)  It was reported that the large dome and one of the smaller ones completely collapsed.  Below right shows it later during reconstruction.  Above right is a photo after completion taken in 2010.  Note the difference in the skin of the domes.

      

            Note the beauty of the interior of the central dome.

            We arrived in the beautiful little town of Peterhof at 4:30 PM and began our tour of the Peterhof Palace which was built by Peter the Great after his victory over the Swedes in 1709.

            Peter was inspired by his visit to Versailles in Paris in 1717.  It was designed by Jean Baptiste Le Blond and took from 1714-21 to finish.  The gardens between the Palace and the sea were designed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli for Empress Elizabeth in the mid-18th Century.

            We entered and climbed the stairs of the ornate entry with its gilded carvings and caryatids and then toured through all the rooms of the palace which were of course quite spectacular after their recent renovation for the city’s 2003 tercentennial.  The Throne Room was the largest.  The ceiling art was quite nice and one of the rooms was covered with portraits so that from a distance the walls looked painted black.

            Above are the paintings on the ceilings.  Below Rialemma shows Marcia these two beautiful rooms.

            At 6:00 we left the building and toured the palace grounds which were absolutely spectacular.  The Grand Cascade is a sequence of 37 gilded bronze sculptures, 64 fountains and 142 water jets which pour from the palace terraces to the Marine Canal and to the Gulf of Finland.

            This is really something.

 

 

 

            The central piece is the statue of Sampson breaking the jaws of a lion symbolizing Peter’s victory over Sweden.

            We walked down the main canal to the port on the Gulf and as you can see below left, it wasn’t a short walk.

 

            By 6:20 I snuck off from the 3 women and had a cappuccino at the palace café.  They soon found me, and at 6:30 Polina drove us back to St. Petersburg so that we could get dressed for dinner.

            Polina had a special dinner planned for us.  She picked us up and took us to the Palkin Restaurant (Палкинъ Ресторан) [47 Nevsky Prospekt, +7-812-703-5371] at 9:00.  She left us there and we went up to the 2nd floor and it was obvious that this place was for entertaining wealthy patrons.  It is one of the oldest dining places in the city and one of the few that has retained its original name and location (claiming 220 years of tradition.)  The interior today is at least as sumptuous as in the decadent days of Catherine the Great.  A century after Catherine's reign, Tchaikovsky, Chekhov, and Dostoyevsky enjoyed eating here.  Be prepared: it is not cheap.

            The service was impeccable and the food was great.  We started with champagne and then I switched to Russian beer and then we shared a bottle of Italian Bataliono Gavi di Gavi white wine.  Marcia had tomato soup followed by a dish of artichokes and cream.  Then for her entree she had sturgeon with olives.  Wow!

             I started with king scallops and then had a side of duck leg comfit with veal-stuffed cabbage and cauliflower.  You can see the view of Nevsky Prospekt we had from our table.

            We then shared the seven course "Desert Palkin" with a glass of port followed by an espresso for me and a caffe latte for Marcia.  The singer was pretty and sang great.

            The bathrooms were quite exquisite.  I took a picture in the mirror.

 

            I couldn’t imagine such a first class place in communist Russia.  They have a casino next door and they allowed me to purchase some Russian casino chips (50 and 10 rubles) to add to my chip collection.  This was indeed a splendid experience in dining.  So far, Polina has been worth her weight in gold.

            She picked us up right on time (thanks to our Russian phones from Megafon) and then she took us for a ride at 11:30 so we could see the midnight “opening of the bridges” that occurs every night.  ALL the bridges throughout the city open up at one time (around midnight) and stay up for about three hours to allow ships to navigate the canals and rivers.

  

            You don’t want to be caught on the wrong side of the river especially if your parents are expecting you home or you will face an extortionately expensive boat ride.

  

            The lighted bridges all extending into the air made a spectacular sight.  She then drove us back to the hotel and Marcia and I went over to the Astoria Hotel bar for a beer and a glass of chardonnay while I emptied the photos from the memory stick into the computer.  It really was a romantic evening and we got to bed at 3:15 in the morning.

 

KJH                                                                  Go To -> NEXT DIARIO #43 

Kenneth J. Hoffer, MD

KHofferMD@AOL.comRETURN TO INDEX

St. Petersburg, Russia

Sent 3/28/05

Edited 5/4/11

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