It’s a beautiful sunny day in Saint Petersburg. We get off the ship at 9h00 and it takes an hour to clear passport control due the large crowd. There are at least 8 cruise ships in town and it is the first day of World Cup in Russia.
Out tour guide’s name is Marina – the same as our ship. She speaks excellent English and off we go as a group of 16 on a luxury tour bus – day 1 of 3 here.
Saint Petersburg is breathtaking with 400 bridges over the Neva River and canals. The streets are wide, straight and surprisingly uncrowded for a city of 5 million plus. Founded by Peter the Great in 1703, it is Russia’s largest port and known as “The Venice of the North”. The only thing bad here is the weather. If it is nice, here they say wait 10 minutes and it will change. Today is glorious.
We stop for a photo shoot on the Neva. We head for the Peter and Paul Fortress and tour the golden domed cathedral. Inside we see the crypts of Peter the Great, Catherine the Great and many other Tsars.
We drive out into the suburbs and have lunch at a mini-palace facility. Food is somewhat bland like Poland but nourishing. Refueled, we head for the Peterhof Summer Palace.
Peterhof, constructed on the bank of the Baltic, was Peter’s getaway place. Extensive gardens and fountains abound. We tour the palace and marvel at the gold trim everywhere and the beautiful portraits of several Tsar dynasties. The fountains out front are stunning – gold aninals and statues and dozens of smaller fountains surround a 70 ft high fountain. It is all powered by gravity using 300 year old oak pipes designed by Peter himself to the carry water. Stunning!
That night, I head out on a private world cup experience tour with Jack from Virginia. We have our own guide and driver. We take some photos of the new soccer stadium and pick up some souvenirs. We go to a local bar. Everyone is cheering. Russia has just beat Sauida Arabia 5 – 0.
We have some beer and vodka. A fan from Toronto strolls over and explains he has tickets for 5 matches. Two Russians come over and want to have a toast. We drink some vodka and part as friends. We stroll down the Nevsky Prospect. There are hundreds of fans with flags. A large group of Iranians drown out the smaller Moroccan fan contingent. Russians runs by with their flag cheeriing. Everyone smiles and high fives us. Wow, a real international brotherhood experience! We call it a night, a fantastic one.