Friday, February 24, 2006

A Grand Tour Part 16 - Kizhi via Mandrogy

WE'RE CRUISING!!!! First a welcome by the Captain and his crew - all very posh like:

Sailing from St Petersburg on the Neva River, we cruised on Lake Ladoga, which is the largest fresh water lake in Europe - some 17,700 square kilometers, and then entered the Svir River.

There are some 13-14 Water-locks along the waterways to Moscow. Here is the first one:Our first stop was a delightful place named Mandrogy where we wandered around the lovely wooden buildings, such as these:
You might detect Siebrand on top of this structure from where he took the next photo:Mandrogy is a place where artists live and work in summer, but return to St Petersburg for winter, and also has a Vodka Museum. One may well wonder how many different Vodkas are made in Russia. In this place there were over 2600 different varieties!! It is a cheap drink and highly favoured with Russian people. Well, I can at least pretend to like it and in good company, at that!One thing we did do in Mandrogy was to purchase some of the many souvenirs that were on display. Herewith a little sample, along with things from the US, Hungary and Estonia:
But, we must move. The ship is ready to cast off, and dinner is served:And what a dinner. It was superb. As far as the service was concerned, we could not have asked for a nicer, more efficient and prettier waitress than Olga. She would make a lovely granddaughter-in-law!

A visit to the Bridge and meeting the Captain was part of the entertainment:
But now for the difficult part of this chapter. Our visit to Kizhi Island is so special, that I will have difficulty in controlling the number of images to show. Kizhi Island is a Russian Treasure in every way. It is home to an outdoor museum of edifices of northern Russia WOODEN architecture that includes the remarkable Cathedral of Transfiguration. It dates back to the reign of Peter the Great in the seventeen hundreds, though wooden churches on Kizhi date back as far as the 13th century.
It was a cold, early morning when we sailed into Kizhi and immediately were struck with our first view of two outstanding buildings - Church of Transfiguration and the Church of Intercession together with the Bell Tower:Note the twenty 'onion' domes, but also the delightful architecture of the whole complex. The timber shingles give a silvery feel and are most distinctive:

So, let's have a look inside and enjoy the iconostasis of the Church of Intercession:This interesting farming house also took our fancy and with the backdrop, is quite a picture:A look inside the house gave us some idea of life in Northern Russia years ago:
As we looked out through upstairs barn door, we feasted on the following delightful views:WOW!And nearby was a sauna! Wonder what it is like in mid winter?By now, as you can see, the day began to take on sunny proportions, which made it so much more pleasant. The autumn colours created wonderful atmosphere:This is the relocated Chapel of the Archangel Michael, shifted from a nearby island:
Looking back, and now bathed in sunshine, we saw the churches in the context of the windmill:Carol is standing in front of the Church of the Resurrection of Lazarus (dating back to the 14th Century) and is the oldest wooden building preserved in Russia.
With the sun now up, just another couple of images - can't resist these:Just look at these shimmering silver domes. Can it get better? (Perhaps in winter)The icing on cake was when the Bell Ringer' called the island folk to worship. The ring of the bells gave us a special thrill. If you click on the image, it will enlarge and in the Bell Tower you should be able make out the Bell Ringer.

A final look and goodbye to Kizhi Island. What a great morning we had!
After that, well a rest for both body and soul was definitely called for:
As the autumn colours just passed by our window:

Friday, February 17, 2006

A Grand Tour Part 15 - St.Petersburg Part 2

The idea was to only do one BLOG on St Petersburg, but...there is just so much more to share. We would really like to show you more of this magical city.

First, let's give you a few more glimpses of the wonderful buildings in St Petersburg and what better place to start then with this neo Russian style, the 'CHURCH OF THE SPILT BLOOD' - lots of onion domes and mosaics. History tells us that on this spot Alexander I was assassinated. The colour of the domes and the general appearance is something out of a fairy tale - perhaps, Carol is the Fairy godmother!
Close by, the market was teeming with Russian specials. Just great to wander through all of this.St Petersburg has also been compared with Venice, although we found it quite different, but nice:Our drive around the city included this church, which had a door that showed incredible detail of religious scenes:This cruiser has the distinction of firing a dummy shell signaling the start of the Revolution in 1917. The ship saw active service in both world wars and the Russia/Japanese war.
BUT FINALLY.......the amazing PeterhofIt is hard to tell you what was the most wonderful sight in St Petersburg as they were all quite amazing. However, Peterhof sort of stood by itself in its opulence and the use of the best of everything. This was evident both inside the palace and in the splendid gardens with about 150 fountains - we were very fortunate that these were still operating as they normally would be shutdown by this of the year.
Of course, one expects a 'royal' musical serenade and welcome:The palace was initially built by Peter the Great and added to by his successors. There simply isn't space to show you the treasures inside, including the parquetry floors that were a real treat. So let's remain outside and give you a taste of the wealth of the Tsars. Peter had visited Versailles and was determined to recreate that splendour in Peterhof. How well he succeeded. The fountains and waterfalls operate by gravity - no pumps, and the system hasn't been changed since 1721! Share the enjoyment of this magic:

And it just didn't stop!

Well may we look pleased. It was thoroughly enjoyable!The above and the previous BLOG are just a few samples of our St Petersburg experience. We haven't even told you about the Hermitage. There were so many wonderful pieces of art, including those from Michelangelo, Van Steen, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Rembrandt. So let us leave you with just a tiny taste of these amazing treasures:
Last, but not least, the very special painting by Rembrandt entitled 'The Return of the Prodigal Son'. It depicts the father as a blind man just wishing to touch his son who was lost, but was now found. Pretty powerful!
Next, we sail on board MV Kirov!