Saturday 17 July 1993 - Ferry, Ballet and Final Trolley Bus
Glaswegian mum and daughter joined us in a mad trolley bus dash and Olympic sprint down Nevsky Prospect to the Hermitage jetty to catch hydrofoil ferry to Petrodvorets -- we arrived breathless with only minutes to spare.
Ferry was packed with tourists and Russian daytrippers but was so smooth on the water, it felt like being on a train as we sped across the Gulf of Finland. Had hoped to resume last night's travel journal catch-up, but the crossing was so fast we arrived in Petrodvorets before I made much progress (again).
Petrodvorets (Peterhof) Palace and Gardens
Petrodvorets felt like a beach resort, though not as hectic as Brighton in summer. We pushed past the tourist-touts on the approach to the palace and found ourselves in the first of a series of gardens, with fountains and amusements, like swings and ancient dodgems.
Classical and folk musicians serenaded us along the tree-lined paths -- one folk group had a six-foot bass balalaika. We reached the top of the hill and found another palace with landscaped gardens, resembling Versailles, upon which Peter the Great commissioned the design of Peterhof in 1714. It was renamed Petrodvorets in 1944 by the Soviet government after the defeat of the German occupying force.
The palace was too crowded and stuffy, so we sat on a bench in the gardens and enjoyed the views and sun instead. I fed crumbs to a few sparrows which soon grew into a small flock. Interesting to watch the young sparrows demanding food from their parents, even though they proved capable of foraging on their own.
Wandered the upper gardens for a while and then we returned to the lower gardens. There were many families among the Russian daytrippers, and they knew fountains were also part of the amusements at Petrodvorets. Kids took great delight in finding which cobblestone set off streams of water. It was like playing chicken: you ran across the path and hoped you didn't get drenched. I had a go, and like a lot of kids, had fun and got wet!
We caught the ferry back to St. Petersburg at 2 PM. Had front row seats, but the only thing of note I saw was a large passenger ship. I wondered if it was the Jules Verne group who'd spent the week cruising from Moscow, instead of having extra days in the cities and taking the overnight train as we had done.
Spoilt by Sights and Sounds
Back at the ferry terminal, we took the Metro under the River Neva to Finland Station, where Lenin returned to Russia to lead the revolution. It was anti-climax, with Lenin's statue and his glass entombed train shown little reverence -- people slouched along the side of the train.
We hopped back on the Metro and headed to the Peter and Paul Fortress. Like Finland Station, we found it disappointing. Even the busker, a kid with a violin, was below standard -- I tipped him so he could afford lessons. Perhaps we've been too spoilt by the sights and sounds of Russia?
One place of interest was the central cathedral, with its 122 metres high golden spire. It's not as elaborate inside as St. Isaac's, but the collection of tombs of the Romanov Tzars was worth a browse, as much for the notable omission of the last Tzar.
After a wander to Palace Square for icecreams, we caught a trolley bus back to our hotel, where we freshened up for the evening's performance of Swan Lake.
We'd bought our tickets from the theatre kiosk rather than booking through Intourist, paying 600 roubles (less than a pound) instead of $US40. That said, our cheap seats where thirty rows further back than where we sat for the Intourist Nutcracker ballet in Moscow -- I was grateful for my binoculars.
Enjoyed the ballet, but perhaps the intermission was most memorable. Kids took turns sitting at the grand piano in the theatre foyer to give impromptu performances, each rewarded with generous applause. It reminded me of the Intourist guide's insight into the appreciation of music in the old Soviet Union (and subsidy of tuition).
The sun was still high in the sky after our post-ballet dinner, so we caught the Number 1 trolley bus down to the River Neva and walked across to the Winter Palace.
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Had a farewell wander around Palace Square, before heading back to St. Isaac's. Felt sorry we hadn't made the time to revisit inside the cathedral -- and climb its dome. But the views from outside were worthwhile.
Getting late, so we caught our final trolley bus back to the hotel, resting our feet after a last long day of sightseeing.