Thursday, September 20, 2018

Travel Thursday -The Baltic Adventure Part 5

When I was 12, I babysat on Friday nights for a family who lived 3 doors down from our house. Because I was a slightly weird child (and remain a very weird adult) I use to watch 20/20 on Friday nights. This show had a big impact on me. First it made me think I wanted to be a journalist (which one year in journalism school taught me it didn't), and second, it made me fall in love with Russia. They did a show on treasures inside the Kremlin. I was hooked. I became a little Russia obsessed. While over the years that obsession has decreased, my desire to see Russia has not. The entire point of this adventure was to spend two days in St. Petersburg, to make my dreams come true. (Number one on the bucket list is to stand in Red Square in Moscow, but we are pretty darn close!) [Note: Russia was never a place the Man wanted to visit, but he went because it was my #1 place].

I am not a crier by any means, but I will say, when we stepped off the ship and onto the dock in Russia, I sobbed. I realized I still had to go through immigration, so I pulled myself together as being the sobbing person there was likely not going to help. Russian immigration is intimidating enough!  I spent the next 2 days in a state of awe. The Man kept asking me if I was ok, or what I thought, and I nicely told him to leave me alone and just let me be in Russia. It is not every day you get to live a dream you have had for 31 years! Even now, as a prepare this post about 1.5 months later,  I feel the emotions swell up! 

Most of the pictures I am going to show over the next at least 3 travel Thursdays, are going to be of the Russia of my dreams. The palaces of the Tsars.  This is what our tour showed us. However, we did see a little bit of the city that was not the land of the Tsars, it is the life of Russians. I tried when possible to snap a few pictures of this too. Because while I was living my dream, I am very aware of the state of this country. However, these blog posts are not going to be the place I explore my thoughts on this. 

An apartment building

Our first official stop was to river, where we got to make our wish to a cat. Legend has it if you rub the cats tongue as you whisper in his/her ear, your wish will come true. (You will note ear pieces in these pictures, that is so we can hear our guide. We were a group of 14).

The Man's wish

My wish

Touching the Neva
Next we went to the Peter and Paul Fortress. This is where most of the Russian Royal Family (including the last of the Romonavs) are buried.  The cathedral is the first and oldest landmark in St. Petersburg.

Morning sun on a an usually sunny day

My one dislike in Russia was the crowds. It has become a very trendy place to travel and we went at peak tourist season (something we won't do again). Our guide was wonderful at helping us navigate this. 

Next we were off to the Church of The Savior on Spilled  Blood. It has this name as it was the place where Emperor Alexander II was fatally wounded in 1881.

The interior of the church is covered with over 7500 square meters of mosaics. All the art inside is made of tiny tiles.

From the back

A remaining statue of Lenin

Because it amused me

Lunch was included on our tour and while I am not one to just take pictures of people eating and food  normally, I was so surprised to see the Man eating Borscht (one of my faves) because he hates beets!

Our first stop after lunch was the Catherine Palace. Much of this palace has been rebuild due to damage from WWII. It is famous for the Amber Room which has been reconstructed and is the one place in the palace you can't take pictures. To see it and learn about it, click HERE.

The palace is in Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin) 30 km out of St. Petersburg. It was the Tsars summer residence.

Our tour group wearing the cool booties

This is what I love about the Tsars - over the top beauty! 

One of Empress Elizabeth's gowns. She only wore each outfit one time and had over 15 000 dresses. Members of her court were only able to wear an outfit once. After an event, paint would be thrown on them or they would be cut so they could not be re-worn. 

Next week we will start at Peterhof - home to over 144 fountains.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Another Trip To The Feline Cafe

I have a good friend who is recovering from a major surgery and she thought she could use some animal love, so we headed to the Feline Cafe.  

For those who don't know about this cafe, it is a cafe that has a cat room. For either $5 or $3 with a purchase you can spend at least 40 minutes with cats from Furry Tales Rescue (if others aren't waiting you can stay longer). All the cats are up for adoption. Don't worry there can't be any impulse adoptions as you have to go through the Rescue's process.

During this visit there were a lot of kittens. More than before. At first my friend said she would love a kitten, but after watching them for awhile she thought maybe one of the older cats would be better! She didn't know if she could handle the kitten energy all the time. (She is not going to rescue right now, she is considering a dog once she has finished recovering).

Here are some of the cute cats we hung out with. 

This cat was grumpy, I fell in love

Monday, September 17, 2018

Mischief Monday - The Moth Strikes Again

Last Friday the Man went to get dressed. He took a clean shirt off a hanger and found this! We know it can't be new as the laundry is no longer kept in Lee's safety cave, and Man had not worn that shirt in the past week or two. Looks like the moth is a big problem in our house. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

Flower Friday - Tallinn Estonia

A part of the garden at Kadriorg Palace (which means Catherine's valley) Tallinn, Estonia. Built by Peter the Great for his wife Catherine.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Travel Thursday -The Baltic Adventure - Part 4

If I am honest and withhold my bias about Russia (more about that next week), Tallinn Estonia was my favourite port of call. It is probably one of my fave cities yet. Founded in the 10thC the small town grew into a large fortified city under the Danes control in the 13C, when it was known as Reval.  Russian invaded and took control in 1710. While it had escaped most of WWI, it was in 1918 when Estonia became independent and Reval was renamed Tallinn, the capital. During WWII it was seized by the Nazis and was annexed to the Soviet empire. It became independent again in 1991.  It is the influence of the Russian empire that probably influenced by love of this town.

Our first stop was Kadriorg Palace. This palace was built by Tsar Peter the Great for his wife Catherine. Peter had a fear of big indoor spaces (high ceilings, big rooms) and Kadriorg was a far smaller and more intimate setting. 

Me in the garden surrounding the palace

Me right outside the palace

The inside of the palace was home to both historical pieces and artwork.

Period clothing

More period clothing

Some art . . . .

One of my favourite features in some of the palaces we visited was the stoves. They were beautiful and practical. 

The next stop on our visit was the old city, which is still surrounded by the wall and is now the entire old town is a Unesco Heritage Sight.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral 

Kiek in de Kok

As this was our wedding anniversary, we took this picture at Kiek in de Kok

Having some fun

St. Nicolas' Church

Danse Macabre

Wood scultupre from the 13C I believe - amazing it has survived

In the old town, we stumbled across a free walking tour, which was one of the best tours I have ever been on (and I have been on a lot). Created by a young man in period costume, he and a woman, also in period costume, led a group of tourists around the city telling us interesting by historically accurate  stories from the Middle Ages. 

Reval got its name after a king chased a deer, and the deer jumped off a cliff to its death rather than let him kill it. He as so impressed by this deer, he named the town Reval, which means something like deer jump or deer fall (we can't remember exactly and I couldn't easily find it on an internet search).

A statue of a deer near where it fell

To avoid paying taxes on windows, this merchant built a house with doors instead of windows.

Here is a piece of the original painting on the ceiling on this windowless house, dating back to the 16C.

The Man and our guide

A couple other fun facts. The bigger the curl in your shoe toe, the more money you had. If you passed someone on the street with a bigger curl than you, they had the right to the dry/clean spot of the road. It lead to people learning to walk funny or prance as the weight of the toes forced toe walking.

Also, many moons ago, a group of single (most likely drunk) merchants decided to light the tree that had been standing in the square on fire to celebrate Christmas. They did this for 3 years, until they burnt a house down. Then it was illegal to carried lit trees around the city. So they put candles on the trees, and put the candles in glass so they couldn't burn, but it looked like they were on fire, and since then people have decorated Christmas trees.

After a lovely day in the city, our waiters at dinner serenaded us and brought us a special cake (which I could not eat, but it was the thought that counted). 

Next week we will go to Russia. The land of my dreams and the whole reason for this trip.