Many cruises call at St. Petersburg, some via the Baltic states, ours was the beginning of a river cruise to Moscow.
St. Petersburg the former capital and the second largest city in Russia has a population of four million. The City was founded in 1703, was renamed Petrograd for a period and became wealthy by virtue of being Russia’s access to the sea in winter, together with its vicinity to Western Europe. It became Leningrad in 1924 and suffered a terrible siege in the war from 1941 – 43 when over 600,000 people starved.
Today it is prospering. The many waterways, which divide the city, give it an air of relaxation and if the police were keeping a watchful eye on visitors it was not apparent. There were no restrictions on what we could do or where we could visit.
Included in the tour were two days of sightseeing. The Hermitage Museum of Art is so extensive it is said to take seven days to see it all. We passed innumerable showcases of glassware. It is easy to become mentally saturated amongst so many exhibits; a half-day was sufficient for me.
The Great Palace at Petrodvorets and summer palace of Peter the Great is a coach ride into the country. It faces the Gulf of Finland and is fronted by an impressive array of fountains with an abundance of water. Court musicians in ceremonial dress played on the veranda while crowds of Russians relaxed on their day out.
For us this augured well for the start of a two week river cruise to Moscow. From St. Petersburg we were to go east to Lake Kadoga and on to Kishi Island, then southwards to Moscow stopping at many towns on the way.