First full riding day in Russia.
The ride from Vyborg, which is a great little city, to St. Petersburg was a fairly short day of only 180 miles. The ride itself was really pretty as we rode through forests and along the Gulf of Finland coast line with lunch at a wonderful hotel right on the beach overlooking the ocean.
We did get our first taste of Russian roads with a few potholes as we criss crossed over the rail way system and got overtaken by several vehicles going several miles an hour over the speed limit. Having ridden in to St Petersburg before, we had concerns about getting stuck in traffic for hours, more so on a Saturday afternoon but we could not have been luckier. Other than getting stuck behind a bus for a few blocks, the ride in to the centre, Palace Square, was an absolute breeze! We were exceptionally lucky and grateful.
The early arrival meant that we had time to get checked in, dump our riding gear and take off to explore the city by foot. With a population of over five million people, St Petersburg is Russia’s busiest and most popular destination for both locals and tourists. It is also the second largest city (After Moscow) in Russia. Being the cultural capital of Russia, there is an abundance of historical sites, museums and places to visit. We are here for two nights to give everyone a chance to enjoy a free day to explore this beautiful part of the world.
Our arrival dinner in St Petersburg was certainly one worthy of remembrance. If the beautiful chandeliers upon entrance were not a giveaway of how wonderful this place was going to be, then the glass of champagne and fruit berries to get us started certainly was a good second hint. Duck, caviar, scallops, sturgeon, truffle soup were only a few of the items that we enjoyed during our chefs 10 course dinner.
Just as we were all at the point of gastronomical contentment, the chef walked in with a small table full of kitchenware and a few ingredients and announced that he had a surprise for us… Now, when a chef puts on a plastic coat, a hat and safety glasses one has reason to be concerned about consuming the following dish, more so when it starts off with ‘smoke’ pouring out of a large ice bucket…
10 minutes later we were each presented with an absolutely amazing serving of hand made ice cream that he had just made right in front of us using liquid nitrogen to freeze the cream which he then beat by hand in to a wonderful creamy bowl of ice cream that he then decorated decorated with raspberries. A small box of hand made chocolates was gifted to each of the ladies before we took a nice (and much needed) stroll back to our hotel. An absolutely perfect day in Russia.
Today, the free day, we arranged a guided tour to Pushkin where everyone got to explore and enjoy the beauty of Catherine Palace and the famous chamber room. Tonight everyone is on their own to enjoy St Petersburg and pick out their own restaurant for dinner.
Vyborg to St. Petersburg. Beautiful day of riding along the coast of the Gulf of Finland.
Lined up and ready to leave Vyborg, Russia.
We had a mostly quiet road riding through coastal resort towns.
The Gulf of Finland.
Fellow rider – David Roberts
Our first stop for coffee turned out to be a no-go. So back to the road.
Our second stop for coffee and lunch was at a beautiful waterside cafe. Oh – and a few handsome men to boot. That’s Claus between the two Davids.
Our lunch stop. The food and view were superb.
Our guides for today, Svetlana and John
St Petersburg in the distance.
Fellow rider – Doron Sacham.
Arriving in St. Petersburg we rode past the Peter and Paul Fort in the background. That is where Tsar Peter the Great founded the city in 1703.
Passing over the bridge into St. Petersburg we saw the Hermitage to the right. Our hotel, the Kempinski is just behind it.
After checking into our hotel, we had a few free hours before meeting the group for dinner. Since we were so close to the Winter Palace Square, we first stopped there for pictures of the Winter Palace and General Staff Building. Then we headed over the the Cathedral of the Savior and Spilled Blood. It was the site Alexander II’s assassination. After the revolution it was used in a variety of ways including storing vegetables. In the late 70’s a restoration of the mosaic interior began. We were astounded at the size and detail of the work. Every single inch of the interior is covered with tiles.
For our “rest day” in St. Petersburg, the group decided to take a tour of Catherine’s Palace and Garden’s in the city suburb. Although called the Catherine Palace because it was originally built for Peter the Great’s wife, it became the summer palace of their daughter, Empress Elizabeth, who oversaw most of it’s construction.
The main attraction of the palace is the Amber Room. The walls and ornate moldings of the room are completely covered with amber. Unfortunately, no picture-taking was allowed – so check it out online.
Only the palace walls survived the German invasion during WWII. Restoration efforts started soon after the war, but as you can imagine, the research, expense and workmanship is taking time and the effort is ongoing.
Svetlana and Claus
Imagine what the exterior must of looked like covered in all that gold!
To preserve the parquet floors, we all had to don shoe coverings.
Several rooms are completely restored.
The White Dining Room.
Wow! The Great Hall. That’s nearly 20kg of gold on the walls!
And if you can afford it, it can be rented for functions today.
These heaters are decorated with Delft tiles from Holland.
The main staircase, completed in the mid 1800s reflects the less ornate classical style of the day.
Fashion that would have been worn by Empress Elizabeth I.
This is a separate building located in the gardens for when the royalty needed a little quiet and privacy. The dining table in the upstairs room had a functioning dumb waiter in the middle of the table so that food an drink was provided without the necessity of seeing the servants.