Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Swedish Royal Wedding

June 13, 2015 -

How often do you get the chance to live in a city where you can witness the pomp and circumstance of a royal wedding?! We live two blocks from the water where a large queue of celebrants were waiting to board a ship for a special pre-wedding dinner on Friday. Saturday, friends and I staked our spot in Berzelli Plaza/Nybroplan harbor to watch the royal wedding parade.  Before we left home we watched, on t.v., the red carpet arrivals at the Royal Palace a few blocks from our home. It was fun to witness the crowds, anticipation and excitement while Gordon was giving me a play-by-play from home on the sofa via the t.v.... he had previously been stranded at the marina without tram service due to the wedding. 

The Swedish Royal wedding has been a hotly anticipated event this Spring in Stockholm with the 36 year old prince marrying a reality t.v. star...
military band waiting to play
waiting crowd
guards lined the entire parade route
Linda and Claudette
happy to have the kitchen step ladder to see above the crowd... a trick I learned from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC! 
guard check
security detail
boats gathering in the harbor to catch a glimpse of the celebration


We were lucky to have a group of royal enthusiasts next to us. When the carriage passed they got the royal couple's attention by shouting 'hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!' and singing a song about the king.
the royal newlyweds... Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia

after the parade the guards all fell in line and cleared out

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Baltic Tour - second stop St. Petersburg, Russia

Russia would have felt more ominous if it had been a cold, grey day. On a sunny day, St. Petersburg felt, in Gabby's words, like another old European city.  Five million people live within 18 city districts spread over 44 islands that make up St. Petersburg, the second largest city in Russia. 

Thanks to our super organized friend/personal cruise director, Sophie Fang, we took a St. Peters ship organized tour of St. Petersburg to see the highlights of the city and a tour of the Hermitage Museum. The benefit of a ship organized tour is swift disembarking before the general crowd. Following are the highlights and history bits from our guide... 

A very brief history lesson -

1700 - 21 year war against the Swedes for access to the Gulf of Finland
1703 - Romanov Tsar Peter the Great founds St. Petersburg
1713-1728 - St. Petersburg, capital of Russia
1732-1918 - St. Petersburg, capital of Russia
Late 1700 - early 1800 - built the St. Petersburg sea port
Up to the mid 18th century - architecture is Russian Baroque followed by Neo-Classical
1914 - renamed Petrograd 
1917 - end of the Romanov era with the Lenin revolution, moved the first Socialist government back to Moscow
1924 - Lenin dies, St. Petersburg renamed Leningrad until 1991when the original name is reinstated

The first stop on our tour...

Rostra - red columns - decorated with parts of defeated boats, former lighthouse
Grandma Lorene
waiting for a photo op
stock exchange, across from the red columns

The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood was built (1883-1907) at the site of Tsar Alexander's 1881 assassination.  Soviet rulers wanted to destroy the church, however war distracted them thus saving the church, although it was badly damaged during the Russian Revolution in 1917, used as a temporary morgue during WWII, and post WWII used as a warehouse. The church was fully restored  from 1970-1997. The interior of the church is covered with  over 7500 square meters of mosaics. Unfortunately our tour did not include time to see the interior, something I definitely would love to return to see.

battle scars on the church
ornate gates surrounding the Church
The Hermitage Museum is one of the oldest, largest museums in the world, founded by Catherine the Great in 1764.  It occupies six large buildings, the main one being the Winter Palace, the former Russian emperors' residence.  The Hermitage is closed on Mondays and free the first Thursday of every month.  There is no way to show even a fraction of the Hermitage's over 3 million items and the largest collection of paintings in the world, I think the interiors themselves are equally stunning....
the Winter Palace - now the Hermitage Museum
enough gold to make Donald Trump proud!
beautiful inlaid wood floors
beautiful mosaic floors
Pavilion Hall
Pavilion Hall
Italian Renaissance galleries
monkeys outside the Winter Palace... their owner wasn't happy we were taking their pictures
Palace Square - setting for Bloody Sunday (1905 - unarmed demonstrators were shot by Imperial Guard as they approached the Winter Palace to present a petition to Tsar Nicholas of Russia)
and the October Revolution of 1917.  The Alexander Column (center, 1830-34) made of red granite (tallest of its kind in the world) is 47.5 meters high.  On a happier note the Palace Square has hosted concerts by the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Madonna, and Sting... just to name a few. 

Winter Palace/Hermitage Museum on one side of Palace Square
Palace Square - Alexander Column - not to be confused with the Red Square in Moscow
Guard Corps Headquarters (1837-43)
General Staff arch
Walking around St. Petersburg in search of Starbucks...

wedding limo
A trip is not complete without a visit to Starbucks to buy a mug and get some free WiFi. Our names were written in Russian on our drinks... we're easily entertained.
Starbucks Coffee - not easy to spot the name... luckily we spotted the logo
sometimes it's nice to know exactly what you're getting, a little slice of Americana!
St. Isaac's Cathedral, dedicated to St. Isaac of Dalmatia, a patron saint of Peter the Great, largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city, fourth largest cathedral in the world, constructed from 1818-1858.  Under communism the church was stripped of religious symbols and in 1931 turned into a Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism, now simply the Museum of the History of Religion.  During WWII the dome was painted grey to avoid attracting enemy attention. The church remains a museum although a side chapel again holds services. Again, we only saw the exterior, something else to see on the next trip!

the dome is 101.5 meters high and covered in pure gold

Monument to Nicholas I of Russia, 1859.  Unusual at the time because the horse was only supported at two points.
proof that we were there
old Russian symbol - double headed eagle
welcoming band at port
Communist era port building
Random photos of St. Petersburg from the bus...

Peter and Paul Cathedral inside the Peter and Paul Fortress
the Bronze Horseman, monument to Peter the Great