Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Off the beaten path- Russia!

We did not step one toe off the beaten path in St. Petersburg, but going to Russia in the first place was relatively off the beaten path! This was the only port where we booked tours through the cruise line, in part because obtaining visas to travel outside a group is a lengthy process.
Tourists get a nice tour bus, and I noticed discrepancies between how we were treated, and regular people's lives- see tram above. The historic buildings we stopped at were amazing, but regular apartment buildings had boarded up/barred windows, and some had peeling paint & rusting window frames. Most tours included a stop at an official souvenir shop, which felt like a gimmick because there was nowhere else nearby to go except into that shop. On a half-day tour, it seemed oppressive to spend 20 minutes in an overcrowded shop with higher prices.
One tour bus stopped for “lunch and shopping” across the square from the Russian Museum, which was well worth the $5.29 entrance fee, payable in Rubles or credit card (the amount quoted here was based on the exchange rate that day). The museum, formerly a palace, had very nice artwork on display in magnificent rooms.
An evening at the ballet was wonderful. I didn’t know that the ending of Swan Lake had been re-written at some point, because the original ending was so tragic.
Look at these magnificent mosaics! Millions of pieces of glass! This is the interior of the church pictured above.
We didn’t go to any American fast food restaurants. This trip was an amazing opportunity to a historic city.

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