From Russia with Love

On this week’s episode of Wanderlust Wednesday, we are off to the magnificent city of St. Petersburg, Russia, one of the stops on our Baltic Sea Princess Cruise. Touring for two days, there was so much to see, and to share, so today I will just show photos from the State Hermitage Museum.  This simple bronze sign on the building’s facade shows no indication of what awaits inside.

Begun with a collection of art from Catherine the Great, and housing over 3 million works of art and artefacts of world culture, this is one of the great museums on the planet. Oppulent cannot even begin to describe the decor- every surface glimmered in 24k gold.

Spectacular chandeliers graced every room. 

With only half a day to spend touring here, we were limited to the main building, The Winter Palace. Greeted at the entrance by these enchanting dancers, 

we kept pace with our tour guide, walking through room after impressive room, filled with velvet and gold

at breakneck speed, snapping pics along the way while she pointed out the works of famous artists and sculptors: “We’re walking, we’re walking, keep moving folks! Here are the Picassos

oh, and here is the Renoir collection (this happens to be one of my own personal favs: “Boy With A Whip”)

Would you like to see Michaelangelo’s “The Crouching Boy”

Or perhaps Leonardo Da Vinci’s Madonna and Child!?

“We’re walking, folks, please keep up!” Overwhelming is probably the best way to describe this day at the museum.

So much to see,

so little time.

At one point I believe our guide said it would actually take someone a full year to see this museum’s collection in its entirety. Certainly not going to happen in half a day! Following our whirlwind tour, we were treated to lunch at Cafe Literaturnoye, a spot frequented by the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.

We were bearly able to relax with some Russian vodka before we were back onto the bus for the rest of our tour! You’ll have to tune in next week for the castles and churches of from Russia with Love. In the meantime, I think I may have some of that vodka left…time for a martini!?! Susan 

Essential Estonia

When we first saw Tallin, Estonia listed on our itinerary for last summer’s Baltic Sea Princess Cruise, I thought “Hey, isn’t Estonia that fake country that was in “The Princess Diaries!?” (actually, that was Genovia). Having never even heard of it, we really didn’t know what to expect until we approached the docks, spying the ancient towers of the town of the capital city of Tallin in the distance. Once inside the walled city

we were instantly transported back in time, surrounded by great stone churches including St. Olav’s Church– and yes, we did climb all the way to the top of the tower!

Climbing that narrow stone stairways was most definitely not for the faint of heart…but well worth the trip- what a view from the top!!)

360 degrees of spectacular sights greeted us

from the docks to the city center (thankfully there was a grill at the very top, so no chance of toppling out!)

We strolled through the walled city

taking in all the sights, including the chunky tower know affectionately as Fat Margaret – can you see where she gets her name?and the bustling Town Hall Square filled with shops and tourists alike.

The stunningly colorful architecture gives you the illusion of being on some medieval movie set,

I think Shrek and donkey may have gotten lost …

Although the official languages are Estonian and Russian, most of the vendors and townspeople spoke English, so it was quite easy to navigate our way around through the city, shop the local artisans

and dine in the famous Olde Hansa. 

Our lunch at Olde Hansa was one of the highlights of the day, sitting in the brilliant sunshine, enjoying the local cuisine. Although we passed on the Wild Boar and Rabbit Roast, we did enjoy a platter of oven-baked cheeses and herb beer. We tried to buy these amazing mugs at the restaurant shop, but they were not for sale!

If anyone knows a potter who could replicate these, let me know- they were fantastic!! What we did purchase was this hand-wrought, iron and copper candle lantern that now hangs proudly in our kitchen.

The salesclerk literally took it down from the wall and wrapped it up, screws and all, for us to take home. Try explaining that bundle to airport security.  So another great stop on our Baltic Sea tour, Estonia definitely being one of the highlights of our trip. And that’s no bull!!

Have a wonderful Wednesday… Susan

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