Tour Update: Russia 2019, Moscow to St. Petersburg

An interesting bit of trivia, the Bistro is usually associated with either Italian or French but is actually from a Russian word for immediate. During the Napoleon war, the Russian military didn’t travel with kitchens to feed the men so when they invaded a town or city they would go to the restaurants and demand food “blistra”, the word was changed to bistro and the Italians and French get the credit instead of Russia.

We are on the high-speed train from Moscow to St. Petersburg and it is very different from the one from Kiev to Zaporozhye. This one is very quiet, there is no clackity-clack like we are used to and it isn’t as much fun to travel in. The one we went to Zap in was divided into compartments and you could talk and laugh, this train you are reminded to be quiet so as not to disturb the other passengers. The trip is 713km and normally the drive is 8 hours 45 minutes but the high-speed train takes about 4 hours. There is coffee service like you get on the airplanes and sandwiches are also available. We were in the last car (the cars are about three times the length of the skytrain cars) and we had to walk all the way to the front of the train, at least 5 cars, to reach the station then through the station and almost a block more to get our bus.

We have had to go through checkpoints in a few buildings this trip, more than I remember from the last time I was here. We had to put our bags, purses, and in some cases coats on an airport type X-ray machine. We are not in Canada that’s for sure.

Today we got started about 9 and we did a city tour of some of the more famous buildings and monuments, toured Winter Palace, then the Hermitage Museum where if you were to spend one minute at each exhibit it would take 11 years to see everything. We were scheduled for 2 and a half hours but some of us were ready to pack it in after an hour and a bit. There is no way you can absorb all the information they want to tell you and it was so crowded that it was hard to keep track of everyone.

About half of us made our way to the cafeteria for lunch and rest our feet while the rest of the crew continued on, hardy souls that they are. Then it was off the Peter and Paul fortress and the St Peter and St Paul Cathedral where the nobility are buried and inside the Cathedral is St Mary’s Chapel where the remains of Tzar Nicolas and his wife and three daughters, as well as some of their servants, are entombed. The remains of his son and another daughter were found two years ago but are still undergoing tests to make sure they are authentic. Contrary to all the stories of the last century, Anastasia did not survive the mass murder of her family as Hollywood and many writers would leave us to believe.

St. Petersburg is built on the delta of the Neva River and was originally a Swedish settlement. Peter the Great was westernizing Russia and needed a more suitable port than Arkhangelsk which was closed to shipping during the winter. Because the land was swampy canals were built to control the water and drain the land so it was suitable for building the new city. There are about 68 canals and St. Petersburg is often called Russia’s Venice. The city was the capital of Russia for about 200 years before moving the government to Moscow.

Sandi Wight

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