Trip to Russia Oct 4-19. 2007
Church of the Spilt Blood St. Petersburg, Russia
Oct. 6, 2007
Before we left Grand Haven, Len, Wanda’s husband asked me to look out for Wanda, my room mate. What a responsibility. I had invited her and so I was always looking around for her. In Russia, we were in a very different world than we were used to. I tried to keep my eye on her, but she was always disappearing. Much later I realized that she was taking wonderful photos. I was too, but somehow, hers turned out better. After all, she is an artist.
We arrived in St. Petersburg after 30 hours in airports and on planes with very little sleep. Our plane went from Grand Rapids to Chicago to Frankfort to St. Petersburg. We were given a walking tour around the Ambassador Hotel and we purchased bottled water, chocolate and crackers. I was very thirsty, but too tired to go to dinner.
Our hotel was new and very beautiful. From our window we can see the golden dome of St. Isaacs Cathedral, an apartment building and a playground in the foreground. We slept well in the very comfortable room.
After a great breakfast, we visited the Church of the Spilt Blood, but we did not go in. Then we visited St. Isaac’s Cathedral, a marvelous space built on a swamp. Amazing. The heavy bronze doors and the soaring interior columns of lapis lazuli and malachite caused us to look up at a golden dome with a dove. The place is a museum, but a small side room is used for worship since 1998. There were many beautiful mosaics. Under Communism, many churches were torn down until someone got smart and said, “Let’s keep these as museums of atheism.” That saved many of them.
Then lunch in a restaurant: chicken salad, a lovely soup and ice cream. The place was rather dark and Wanda tripped over someone’s coat that was on the floor. She fell on the stairs this a.m. in her haste. Now her back and knees are sore, but this has not slowed her down. She is eager to see everything.
After lunch, the Hermitage. We were dismayed to see women wearing stiletto heels on the exquisite parquet floors that were the same design as the gilded ceiling. This was the throne room with two headed eagles. I loved looking at the famous art collections, but the walls were also painted with traditional Russian scenes. I even got our guide to quote poetry. Russians love music, dance and poetry.
Wanda, Mary Dow and I stayed longer than the rest. There is simply far too much to see. We needed a month. This was the winter palace and behind it is the Palace Square with a tall Alexander Column in the center. A beautiful carriage pulled by two young Arabian horses circled it and two teenagers hitched a ride behind on their skateboards. A group of kids ran by following one with a sign saying “Free Hugs.”
Finally we got on our late bus and returned to the hotel. Dinner at 7. We sat at a table with two couples, one from Manistee and the other from New York. From our table we could see the illuminated city—St. Isaacs and then fireworks. We had salmon with a lovely sauce, then sat in the lounge downstairs with some of our group. A trio, piano, guitar and vocalist played jazzy renditions looking thin and tortured.
Wanda visited Peterhof. I was too tired and rested. Then the group went with Guzel, our guide, to a synagogue, fortunately untouched by th war. We also visited a Russian Orthodox Church where I bought an icon of Mary—looking like a black madonna. In the evening we went to the 19th Century Conservatory Theater and saw a performance of Swan Lake. What a treat to see a Russian ballet in an elegant white marble building. On the way, we passed Red Square illuminated at night.
We visited the Catherine Palace in Pushkin, an hour out of town passing the monuments of war heroes and Lenin. We’re told that some places toppled statues of Lenin, but not St. Peterburg. Our guide Ivan says Lenin looks like he is hailing a cab. He does. Catherine’s Palace is crowded even at this time of year. It was put back together like a broken eggshell after being bombed in WW II.
Our dinner is not included and so we eat next door at an Ajerbajen owned restaurant. The owner is Moslem, and our waitress who looked like a China doll is from South Russia. Russians are all sorts—like Americans.