After our visit to Saint Isaac’s Cathedral we filed onto our coach once more and took another short trip past the naval headquarters and over the Palace Bridge onto Vasilyevsky Island which splits the River Neva as it flows into the Gulf Of Finland.
The west of the island includes the cruise ship terminal where our vessel, the Crown Princess, was located and from where we’d left in the morning but our stops were both closer to the main tourist points of interest on the east of the island. First up was a photoshop near the Old Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange building and the Rostral Columns. From this position we had some nice views out over the Neva towards sights such as the Peter And Paul Fortress and the Hermitage Museum although the weather – as it had been all morning – was overcast and occasionally spitting with light rain so it didn’t make for the most appealing of photos (luckily, the weather would improve later during our trip to Saint Petersburg).
The Rostral Columns were built in 1811 in the Doric style and were originally built as beacons, though they are more typically only lit for ceremonial purposes these days. Together with the Stock Exchange building there is a very clear Greek revivalist influence in the architecture of the area of the island.
Around this part of Vasilyevsky Island, on account of its impressive views and obvious appeal to visitors, there were a number of stalls and salespeople wandering around trying to get tourists to part with their money. While many would take dollars (we were on an American cruise, after all) and roubles (grudgingly), their preferred currency was actually the Euro. A word of advice, that I’ve mentioned before, is that if you are coming to Saint Petersburg on a cruise ship it’s worth checking out the merchandise at the cruise terminal and making a note of prices there; the market was not good value for money for things such as the reproduction Ushanka hats (made in China, tags removed) or Matryoshka dolls but there were some things there that we didn’t see elsewhere. The “Putin riding a bear” t-shirt, for instance, would’ve been purchased if they’d had it in my size.
Back on the coach and another very short ride to the rear of the Stock Exchange building followed where we hopped off and entered Restaurant Academia for a meal. The service was good and food was very nice indeed, and it was good to have some red caviar in Russia because it feels like that’s the sort of thing you should do when you’re there. There was also a shot of vodka for everyone because, again, you’re in Russia so you should drink vodka if only to say you’ve done it. I quite like vodka but I drink it very, very chilled at home or with mixers; the room-temperature and neat approach to drinking that we experienced was one that saw a great many faces of torture around our dining table, some sips and discards, and some people not even risking it. My wife and I downed ours because to do otherwise felt like failure.
Following the meal there was folkloric entertainment from some musicians and singers, all very good and very entertaining and taking advantage of those feeling pleasantly merry from the vodka by getting people involved up front with them and by passing around some weird, wooden, clacking instruments (that you could buy, naturally).
As we left the restaurant it became suddenly evident that the weather had changed dramatically; the clouds and light drizzle of earlier had been replaced by clear blue skies and the contrast between the photograph below with the earlier picture of the Stock Exchange building on Vasilyevsky Island outside the restaurant was marked. Indeed, we’d have good weather for the remainder of our time in Saint Petersburg.
Our next stop would involve a short drive back over the Neva to visit the Hermitage Museum.
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