Sunday Trees – 308

Alexander Pushkin is a famous Russian Poet. This statue is located on the grounds of the ‘Summer Palace’ in Pushkin, Russia, about a half hour drive from St. Petersburg.


Behind the palace is a wonderful garden filled with trees. Here is just one example:


Sunday Trees is a weekly challenge sponsored by Becca Givens on her blog ‘On Dragonfly Wings with Buttercup Tea‘. Follow the link to see other wonderful Sunday Tree photos.

Cruise Day 7 – Part 2 – The Palace Grounds

After touring the interior of Catherine’s Palace, we were lead outside to the palace grounds. The gardens, ponds, walkways, and pavilions were all very beautiful even though the season was late and there were very few flowers in bloom. Here are a few pictures from the gardens.


This is the Upper Bath House.




Here is a picture from the Grotto pavilion with a statue outside.


Inside the Grotto, we were treated to a wonderful musical treat:

In the rear of the gardens is another beautiful building called The Hermitage Pavilion. It was used by the rulers to host more private dinners and parties away from the palace and the servants.




After leaving the grounds of Catherine’s Palace, we were driven to a small store that was chocked full of Russian goodies to buy, like the nesting dolls and amber necklaces and bracelets. I took a couple of pictures outside that give a little perspective of Russia when you are not in one of the palaces:


Here is our tour bus. Notice the Jersey Barrier on the sidewalk. It is made of hollow plastic and is used to save parking for the tour buses in front of the store. I laughed when what appeared to be a concrete barrier was picked up by an attendant and moved to the sidewalk.



At this point, we had spent the entire morning touring and everyone was getting hungry. This particular tour included a full lunch on a floating restaurant in the heart of St. Petersburg.


Our table was just inside the smaller floating building on the far left. Notice the two orange statues on the back of that floating barge. Here they are up close. One is Neptune and the other is a Mermaid.



Behind the two statues is the bridge that we used to cross the river to get to the restaurant.


Here is a picture looking in the other direction (downriver toward the Baltic):


Looking directly across the river, you will see that many buildings are under renovation, like most of St. Petersburg:



Here is one of the tables in the restaurant, preset with bread, water, and salads.


The meal was delicious and helped to prepare us for a full afternoon at the Winter Palace, also know as ‘The Hermitage’. That will be the subject of my next post.

Cruise Day 7 – St. Petersburg, Russia and Thursday Doors – October 5, 2017

For Thursday Door pictures, just page through all of the palace photos to see many wonderful doors in Catherine’s Palace.

What happened to Cruise Days 5 and 6 ?

Returning to Cruise Day 4, you might remember that we were deluged by a major storm that soaked those passengers coming back by train from Berlin. In fact, the wind was so strong that the ship was not allowed to leave the port until the next morning. That meant that we missed the port stop of Tallinn, Estonia. It was a two day sail to Estonia from Wismar, Germany, and we therefore passed Tallinn about 7:00 PM on the day after we left. That meant we were back on schedule at the cost of one port stop. It also meant two full days at sea (Days 5 and 6).

On Day 7, we woke up to a beautiful sunny morning at the Cruise Port for St. Petersburg. Here are a few pictures from our verandah deck:


The following picture is of Lakhta Center, which is going to be a 462 meter tall skyscraper with an amphitheater at the bottom left. You can follow the link for more information on Wikipedia.


The next picture is of Krestovsky Stadium, one of the venues in Russia that will handle the 2018 FIFA World Cup. This stadium has been calculated to be 518% behind schedule and 548% over budget.


I think this is a new power station built to support the needs of the new Lakhta Center.


From the ship, we boarded a coach for the half hour ride to the Catherine Palace, also know as the Summer Palace. The featured image was taken in the front courtyard, looking down the 325 meter long front of the palace.


Here are a few more pictures from that front courtyard.





Here is the front gate into the courtyard:


Once inside, we were lead to the grand ballroom, or ‘Grand Hall’ or ‘Hall of Lights’. The room takes the whole width of the building, so you will see doors and windows on both sides surrounded by gold overlay wood carvings.




The ceiling has a wonderful fresco titled the ‘Triumph of Russia’:


The ballroom floor has a marvelous design that we were told was used to indicate the starting point for each dancer for some of the ballroom dances.


I managed to capture a picture of myself in one of the beautiful mirrors positioned between each set of doors:


From the ballroom, we were led down a series of formal rooms known as the Golden Enfilade. The first room is the Courtiers-in-Attendance Dining Room :






In the corner of each of these rooms is a tall ceramic stove used to keep the room warm during the cold winters:


Here is a closeup of the designs on the ceramic:


Each room along the Golden Enfilade had its own theme and purpose. Here are some photos of interest along the way:





The next three photos are of almost priceless vases enclosed in protective boxes.


Notice the photographer in the mirror in the rear.







Another ceiling fresco.




Another beautiful floor design.






Now we have moved to the residence next to the palace. Notice the design change and the lack of gold.




I am sorry if this is overwhelming. The displays were quite overwhelming just walking from one room to the next. There was also a room covered in amber. We were not allowed to take pictures in this room.

From here we went out to the gardens behind the palace.  I think I will save that for my next post.





Cruise Day 4 – Wismar, Germany

September 6, 2016 – The ms Koningsdam docked in the port of Warnemunde, Germany. This is the principal port on the Baltic Sea for access to Berlin via train, and many of the ship’s passengers chose to take the 2.5 hour train to see that city. Alice and I were not very interested in spending 5 hours on a train, so we chose an excursion to the nearby city of Wismar, a world UNESCO Heritage site.

We boarded a comfortable coach at the pier and met our guide for the day. He was a pleasant young man with some wonderful insights into the recent past, when Germany was divided into East and West.  He was seven years old when the reunification of the country started in 1990. We will delve into that recent history at the end of this post, as most of the information was offered on our ride back to the ship.

On the drive west from Warnemunde to Wismar, we experienced a beautiful rural farmland dotted with many modern windmills.

Upon arrival in Wismar, we were let off of the coach at the large Market Square. As the name suggests, the square was used for centuries by local merchants to market their produce and goods. The completely cobble stoned area was surrounded on all sides by buildings in many architectural styles. The image below is Northern German Gothic building housing a restaurant called Alter Schwede (or Old Swede).


Right next to this is a building in the 19th century Romanesque Revival style:


I love the way the fronts of the buildings are styled. The tops cover the much lower building roofs and make the buildings appear larger and more impressive that their actual size.

Right in front of these two structures is the famous town landmark waterworks (Wasserkunst) built in the early 15th century to insure a supply of fresh water to the town, even if it was under siege.


From the square, we walked a short distance to the site of the mostly destroyed St. Mary’s cathedral. All that remains today is the 80m tall church tower and a reconstructed outline of the walls of the church with marked off pillar bases inside of the walls.


The main part of the church suffered two devastating blows in the 20th century. The first was the heavy allied bombing of this town at the very end of WWII. The second wast the self inflicted destruction of the remainder of the church by the East German government. In the guise of demolition prior to restoration of the building, the government enlisted the aid of the townspeople in dismantling all of the old Gothic brick works. The bricks were then carted of for use on other construction projects and the town was left with just the clock tower. The East Germans could not destroy the tower because it was a major landmark used for shipping navigation in that part of the Baltic.


There was a second large church nearby that was also heavily damaged in the bombing raid. This is the reconstructed St. Georgen Church.


St. George’s church was saved and restored because an important member of the city government during that period was a member of that church and not St. Mary’s. You should notice that all of the windows are clear. There was never enough money to try and restore lost stained glass.




Perhaps my German speaking followers can interpret this sign on the building:


After our tour of the old town, we were given about an hour to walk through the more modern part of Wismar. Here are some street scenes that I hope you enjoy. I know that I love the wide open cobble stone streets.








The tour group gathered once more to head to our last stop: one of the oldest continuously operating brew houses in the city. On the way, we crossed over one of the canals in the heart of the city.




Walking along the street on the side of the canal, I snapped a few interesting pictures of an old firehouse (no longer in use or there wouldn’t be cars parked in front) and a few other buildings:




We finally arrived at the brew house:


This brew house was established in 1452, and today still brews several different types of beer for both local consumption and for export. We got to sample three different types of beer, and each was excellent. Since my wife does not like beer very much, I got a little extra.

From here, we boarded our coach back to the ship. During the trip back, the passengers asked many questions about what it was like living in East Germany as a child. Our guide told us that his mother was a doctor and her father had another important job, so he grew up not wanting for very much. He said that many of their family and friends fled East Germany just after the war and before the wall went up to stem the tide of millions of Germans fleeing the Communist regime.

He also remembers the propaganda being taught in the early grades of school about how much better off they were under the state controlled regime where everything was shared equally by the people and how corrupt the western governments were. He also described the slow progress of reunification and the eventual improvements in local conditions by the end of the 1990’s.

After we got back to the ship, we learned about the fate of all of the passengers that went to Berlin. They were caught in two downpours of rain while in the city. Then, at the end of their return train trip, they all had to walk through a major storm to get from the railway station to the port. The heavy rain and strong winds managed get everyone completely soaked. We were glad we chose the more local excursion.


Cruise Day 3 – Dragor, Denmark

On Day 3 of our Baltic cruise we woke up in Copenhagen. My wife and I had visited this beautiful city in 2010 on our Fjords and Highlands cruise, so we planned a different type of excursion. About 10 miles directly south of Copenhagen is the quaint and historical fishing village of Dragor. The old section of town surrounds the harbor with many historical buildings crouching over narrow cobblestone streets.

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Most of the houses are a yellow color and have thatched roofs that are 8-10 inches thick.

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Other buildings have traditional red clay tile roofs that have been weathering this seaside environment for centuries.



Here is a picture of the watch tower in the harbor where I believe the the villagers watched for the return of the fishing fleet:


We had a pleasant stop at the Dragor Strand Hotel for a wonderful mid-morning coffee and danish.

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Believe me when I tell you that the apple filled danish pastry was the best I have ever tasted.

This was followed by some free time for wandering the streets and doing a bit of shopping. Here are some photos of this beautiful village:

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Then we went back to the harbor where I wandered around snapping pictures:

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I also got a few pictures of the famous boat Elisabeth K571. This boat was part of the Dragor Museum. It was used to evacuate the Jews of Copenhagen during the Nazi occupation.



Before boarding the bus back to the ship, I took one last picturesque photo of the Dragor Badehotel off to the side of the village.