Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Redux: St. Petersburg, Russia #1


Thinking "my prerogative" is sometimes a good way to go, I've decided to break up the St. Petersburg port-of-call on our cruise into 2 parts since we were there 2 days and covered more territory. So, this is part one, day one, of a city of opposites. (The first-day photo album is 200 pics, which is reason enough to split it up!)


When I say a "city of opposites," I'm talking about a city--a country--that is the best of times and the worst of times, as Dickens would say. We had listened to a seminar on the ship before arriving and were prepared for what we saw. This is a country with a high mortality rate, lots of rust and decay, paranoia, and helplessness. Behind the times. Not on the cutting edge. Ironically, that's exactly what greeted us at the pier where we docked. Both days we drove through extreme poverty to get to the extreme opulence of the Tsars and Peter the Great. It was quite unsettling. Security guards were everywhere and, as you might remember, this was the only city on the cruise for which we had to go through passport control. No passport control, no getting off the ship. So sad. This is what begins the photo album.


We made 2 stops on our 4-1/2 hour afternoon tour and had the chance to switch gears, as it were, to the other Russia. The Russia that gleams with pride over its rich history. The Peterhof Pavilions of the Russian Tsarinas were luscious. Extravagant. Summer homes of the rich and famous! To die for. How could you not love the creative, artistic flare. In one of the photos you'll see a pic of the booties we had to wear over our shoes while inside. Protecting and preserving is the name of the game.


From the pavilions we drove to the Lower Gardens of Peterhof's Great Palace to see the myriad fountains. The Great Cascade in the photos is spectacular, sitting in front of the palace. This fountain here is the Lion Cascade and is just one of many that Peter the Great had constructed on his "property" of 1000 hectares. All fountains are supplied with water from reservoirs from the Upper Gardens by the use of sluices and gravity, rushing through pipes from the height of 16 meters. 150 fountains. This particular tour did not take us inside the palace. It didn't need to. We were totally mesmerized by the outside on a gloriously sunshiny day. Guess we'll have to go back for the inside tour!

I certainly don't claim to understand or know much about Russia after a couple days of impressions. But impressions I do have...and lots of photos! My part two/day two will add more, of course. Once I plow through those pics, you'll see her mystery. Who was she; who is she; and who will she become?

15 comments:

  1. Woow, your such a globe trotter and have great of you to share all this with us. Lovely pictures and very informative. I’ve never been to St. Petersburg, only in Murmansk, up north and close to the Norwegian border, a very dirty mining district. Crystal was very cheep there so I bought 12 champagne glasses:-) Looking forward to post #2!

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  2. It must have been fascinating, and disturbing as you said, to see these contrasting images of St. Pete.

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  3. Great photos!!!

    Please read my email. Important news about Tofino!

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  4. I'm glad that Aunt Ruth commented on this aspect- because I was thinking about it. Knowing the history of Russia makes it very easy to see the significance of the contrast between the poverty and extravagantly rich. In the wake of the Palace, I see millions of people who died of starvation. In the poverty, those who managed to survive and for whom there is still hope. Of leaving Russia and seeing how beautiful the world is?- maybe not in their lifetime.

    In the grander scheme of things- America represents that extravagant Palace in the world, gleaming with pride. Because it is on a larger scale and one cannot sail by America and then five minutes later, war-ravaged Iraq while on vacation, it's not as easy to see that America is the Tsar of the world exploiting precious resources to build upon its long-superfluous opulence. Yes, literally, to die for.

    I am absolutely fascinated with Russia and Eastern Europe for this reason. From my experience in the Czek Republic, I imagine there is no where in the world that feels so cold, dark and haunting, while at the same time, gleaming with springtime beauty.

    If only...

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  5. Renny: You get around yourself in your neck of the woods, don't you! Russia was so different from the rest of the cruise, like comparing apples and oranges. Sounds like you know what I'm talking about.

    Ruth: Yes, indeed. Disturbing is a good word.

    ET: Thanks and okay.

    Rachel: Thank you so much for taking the time and energy to write this response. I didn't want to go too far in my post, letting more of it come out in comments. I totally agree with your comparison of America's "Tzar" position in the world and how we come across to everyone else. That, too, is disturbing! (sigh)

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  6. Wow! Impressive pictures and trip! I'll have to go through your album this evening. It's just sad to have to drive through the poverty to reach the opulence of a city.

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  7. I know, CS. Every big city has its poverty, of course, but this hit us differently. Maybe it's the desperation of people who live in a country that isn't keeping up with progress/technology?

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  8. I think the difference is that we can leave America any time we want, or we can leave our city, our state and get away from a desparate circumstance. But over there, they can't just leave. Like you said, you were not allowed to enter without your passport- or leave. How many people have died trying to leave?

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  9. By the way, I am not trying to put a damper on your blog- I hope I don't seem too negative. So much is in the past, and I know they are trying to move forward. The "if only..." is if only we would stop destroying and start building-

    Then, I'd also like to add on your statement about not keeping up with progress/technology. At this time, everyone in the world is using obsolete technology. That's why we are polluting our planet to death. We have the technological means to make cars that don't pollute, and to use renewable resources- and if everyone stopped supporting the beef industry- there would be enough grains to feed the world many times over (and by the way, 70% of the water pollution in the world is caused by cows). So as far as progress and technology goes, someone up there really needs to give a shout out!

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  10. So very interesting, Ginnie. Also reading Rachel's comments and the perspective of America being likened and compared to the Tzar with all of our riches and oppulance. Interesting indeed.
    Jimmy went to Russia for a college learning trip in June 1989 and St. Petersburg was one of his destinations. After his return, he said he will never go back. I know it's because of that cold, dark, haunting feeling that Rachel spoke of in her comment. I think and hope that he might change his mind. I have the wanderlust; exploring these countries opens my mind so far beyond my little world and I love being challenged like that.
    I want and need to know who she is, who is she and who she will become.

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  11. Rachel: I LOVE that you are "up" on all this about Russia! I LOVE that you are sharing your views...much better than I've been able to articulate, incidentally! I wonder how we can help them move forward...apart from doing what we need to do HERE in America!

    Mad: Thanks for joining the discussion! So much to learn....

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  12. Impressive statues and awe-inspiring cathedral in your photo album. And poverty is a hard thing in every country.

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  13. Yes, Tim. "The poor you have with you always!" This just felt different. Why do I want to say "They should know better!"

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  14. Seems a good place to announce it... We did our show today featuring your photos and blog comments. It was the best show we've done yet! We have a lot of things to work out, but it's going to be great! One of the comments was it was the best movie she'd seen in how long she can't remember. Such beautiful pictures and so informative. Once I get all the details perfected, Swede and I will film it and send you a copy. It may not be for a couple of months because the repetoire he is using is fairly new and it's going to take a bit longer before it's recording quality. Thank you soooo much! And Swede thinks that you are one of the most brilliant writers he's ever read. Can't wait to share it with you!

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  15. Rachel, you are just way too much! I actually was thinking about your show yesterday, wondering how it went. You and Swede are so kind with your effusive compliments. I eat them up, of course :)

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