After cruising all night on the sea of glass, our next destination after Finland, was St Petersburg. Everyone was excited, and not one of us knew what to expect. We all stood silently in line to clear customs as we entered Russia.
The customs agents were stone, cold sober. Not a smile! But they weren’t threatening either, they were just doing their jobs, and doing it seriously. I find our own customs agents are sometimes much the same way.
After clearing customs, we proceeded to our designated tour busses, and there we met our guide. She was very friendly, and helpful, answered questions, and took us on the most incredible journey through the city of St. Petersburg.
The bus trip started with the Hermitage Museum. The lines were long even though it was mid-morning, the artwork was beyond imagination. Much of the museum was gilded in gold, and we would later realize that much of Russia is also gilded in gold! There was a great deal of up the stairs, down the stairs, waiting in line to go into another part of this gigantic museum. Without any air-conditioning, this huge building was stuffy, and hot. Occasionally there would be a window open for some circulation, but not often enough, and certainly not enough circulation for the amount of people. We were allowed to take pictures in most parts of the museum, that really surprised me. Some turned out pretty well, some were too dark to keep.
From there we toured the city, and as we were touring we realized that never once did we see an ambulance, or even a police car. The city seemed void of any kind of law enforcement. Later the next day, we did actually spot a police car but it was not engaged in any activity, just driving along the road.
The first day was devoted to sightseeing, the museum, and seeing the winter palace.
During the Second World War, after taking much of the artwork out, the Nazis bombed almost all of the palace Everything has been recreated based on pictures, and remnants of wallpaper, gilding, floors, etc. The green foil is a recreation as well, based on green foil found in the palace after the war.