St Petersburg – First impressions


Life can get crowded as the Arcadia arrives just behind us.


Of course our old favourite had to join us  Sapphire Princess


A short time later Queen Victoria arrived


and to top it all Marco Polo slips in . . .

Fortunately we were the first to arrive, so had clearance quickly. But to be fair the Russians had a number of cruise terminals and were quite efficient, if not all that ‘smiley’ at processing visitors.

I first visited Leningrad, as it was then called in 1965, and we arrived at 6.00 am. We were alongside a large public square rather than a dock area, and we were greeted by hundreds of teenage (both sexes) athletes running around this huge square. We were only allowed ashore as part of a group tour, operated at that time by the Government tourist office.

The city was founded by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703, and later renamed Petrograd in  1914 because of WW1, they thought the original name was too Germanic.

In 1924 it was renamed again, this time to Leningrad, five days after the death of Lenin in 1924. The city was named in his honour.

After 70 years it was renamed once more to St Petersburg after the fall of the USSR.

The ship’s tours were quite expensive so after a bit of research we picked  who were very easy to deal with over the internet and arranged for our tourist visa.
That’s not particularly accurate because if you visit Russia off a cruise ship, and will not be staying longer than 72 hours, and will be sleeping on board, as against a hotel – you are not required to obtain a visa.
Passing through immigration was easy, about ten minutes because they had plenty of officers on duty. All we did was produce our passport and our TJ Travel tour ticket, that I’d printed at home, and that was it – passport stamped welcome to Russia.

On the landward side of immigration we passed through stalls selling souvenirs etc. and we exited the building. Maureen & I were a little early for our tour so we thought we’d go back inside to check the stalls and wait for our friends. We approached the door, but we were not allowed to enter and were told (in Russian & sign language) to go around the side – we did so and entered through another door to be greeted by a security screen and x-ray machines. All to hard so we waited outside and a few minutes later our friends arrived and the mini-bus from T.J Travel. Our party for the two day tour had a total of twelve so exiting and entering the bus as sites of interest was quite fast.


The area around our berth was all reclaimed land and apartments had been sold promising sea views and small beaches. Like many developments around the world it didn’t take long for the land to be rezoned and the owners of the current apartments were not all that happy about new apartments being built between their homes and the sea, so blocking the view.


Our first stop on the bank of the River Neva, which runs through St Petersburg, was at a sphinx. I think there are fourteen sphinxes in and around the city but the sphinx on the river bank is the most famous. They are around 3500 years old and were imported from Egypt around 1832 and bought for 64,000 rubles , which today is about USD $1000.
At that time they paid in silver rubles, and one silver ruble dated 1841 sells to day for USD $500.

DSC03000c The Rostral Columns

They used to be beacons or lighthouses and the basin at the top would contain the oil.


The beacons are only lit now for special occasions.


The palaces and buildings across the river I found attractive – the Admiralty Building right opposite the Rostral Columns.


The other side of the river from the Rostral. Tried to capture the grand houses etc.


The one historic item that I was waiting for was the cruiser Auroa , launched in 1900, she took part in the  Battle of Tsushima during the Russo-Japanese war of 1905. She managed to escape and made her way to Manila where she was interned for the rest of the war by the Americans. She was handed back to Russia in 1906. In 1917 she was in St Pertersburg for repairs when she was seized by the crew. At 9.40 pm on the 25th October (local time) 1917 she fired a blank shot that signaled the start of the attack on the Winter Palace, which was the beginning of the October revolution.


Moored in St Petersburg today.

During WW2 they removed the guns and used them in defence of the city during the 872 days it was under siege by the German / Italian army. The siege began on 8th September 1941 and went through to 27th January 1944. It is estimated the Germany lost 580,000 troops killed or wound during the siege and the Russian lost 3,436,066 killed and wounded. Many were civilians who died of starvation. Many of the historical building that we visited during our two days had been damaged through bombing, shelling and by fire. I think they have all been restored to their forma glory and during out visit to the Hermitage Museum we saw photographs of the museum after the bombing – a blackened shell of its former self. The restoration team have done a magnificent job.


John and I were considering Auroa for the new position of HMS Conway, to be moored in the Menai Straits just off Plas Newydd, in Anglesey.

ConwayHMS Conway moored off Plas Newydd
We both joined Conway on the same day in 1960.
John remained working at sea until he retired last year after many years as a Master Mariner.DSC03019rThe Peter & Paul fortress – Peter the Great had this built for defense against the Swedish forces during the Great Northern War (1700-1721), it was designed as a star fortress.



The above was copied from the internet – on the main river side it has a small beach.


When we were in St Petersburg it was warm enough to sit on the beach, but I bet they have the shortest of seasons. The above is from the internet.


Taken from a boat on the river – we were quite a distance away but with cropping and zooming it gives you an idea.

There were many statues & monuments that we were shown, but I was interested in the people, and a visit to a local farmers’ market called, I think,  Kuznechnyy Pereulok, I found interesting.


Couldn’t resist the tram, which we didn’t use.


On the left counters full of cheese and on the right fresh vegetables.


For the carnivores  . . .


Garlic of sorts, not long after they had opened –
the assistant is either asleep or on Facebook..


In the centre a colourful display of fruit and veg. If looks could kill!


If you like fresh bread, don’t buy the above, because they are all made of cheese – none of the items contain flour.


Perhaps a chocolate to finish the meal.

The stall holders have to pay for the space of course, but outside the station along the pavements edge are others selling food cheaper, but risking prosecution if the police arrive.


We start our way down to the rail-metro network, one of the deepest, if not the deepest network in the world. Built to be used as a bomb shelter in case of a nuclear attack, as well as move people around the city. The deepest part is 86 mtrs (282 feet) and the system handled 740 million passengers in 2016.


It is so deep the escalators take over two and a half minutes to get to the bottom. For an average a Russian worker using the metro everyday, five days a week, fifty weeks a year, he /she would spend about two days (48 hours) a year on one of these escalators.
Notice the lack of advertising, we saw plenty of people reading books or messing with their phone, during the transit to/from the trains.
Extrapolating the figures for 2016 the citizens of St Petersburg spent over four million years riding the escalators – and I allowed each one to have two weeks off :- o)


We’ve reached the bottom.


Our train has arrived – they run about every two and a half minutes. Note the lack of rubbish or graffiti.


The only underground memorial statue in St Petersburg, it is a statue of Alexander Pushkin.


 Beam me up Scotty! (which was never actually said in Star Treck)
Perhaps it is a stairway to heaven
At the bottom of each escalator a person sat in a small hut and watched what was going on in case of an accident. I’ve no idea how long they were expected to sit and watch . . .I couldn’t think of a more boring job, but still an important job, someone had to shut off the power in an emergency.rc

Daylight again and on to the next place of interest.

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