Scandinavian Holiday: Summer 1999
||For many years, we've been
hoping to visit St. Petersburg. On this trip, we knew we'd be so close
that we could not possibly pass it up. We went on a "Visa Free" cruise
from Helsinki that allowed us to pack a lot into just a couple of days.
One of the half-day options was to the Hermitage. We found the museum
to be even more magnificent than we'd imagined, but also much more crowded.
|There are many positive things
about having everything arranged for you on a visit to a city such as St.
Petersburg which still retains many of the controls and inconveniences of
its Soviet past. But there are also some negatives. We were able
to see the Peterhof, Peter the Great's lavish palace a few miles outside
St. Petersburg, but because of the tight schedule we had to maintain, we
were not able to take a leisurely walk through the gardens. This visit
was one of our favorite options on the trip. First of all, the drive
out allowed us to see some of Russia outside a city, and secondly, because
we were not inside the city, everything was so much cleaner. There
was not the covering of urban grime that pervades everthing inside St. Petersburg
||On our trip to the Peter
and Paul fortress, we encountered this group of musicians. They had
selected a great stage with the Neva directly behind them and St. Petersburg
itself as a backdrop. So many of these groups in St. Petersburg strike
up an American song as soon as they spot the busloads coming. What
I liked about this group is that they played nothing but selections that
sounded distinctly Russian.
|What do you do with all the
surplus military equipment when the Cold War is declared over? Pound
it into "plowshares," of course, or use it to water all the flowers in the
city. St. Petersburg is really a study in contrasts today. The
richness of the treasures of the city vs the poverty of its people, or the
beauty of it's green areas vs the grimy ugliness of its crumbling infrastructure.
||The first night in St. Petersburg
we visited the ballet, a beautiful production of "Swan Lake" performed in
one of the great old buildings downtown. It was so hot that I thought
some of the dancers surely might collapse. But on the second night,
we sat in air-conditioned comfort at a modern hotel auditorium for the folklore
show. Brenda was selected to be one of the Cossacks and did a terrific
job in her stage debut.
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