Barbara & Heather - Arctic Winter 2018 travel blog

Catherine Palace

Catherine Palace

The Ballroom Catherine Palace

Dining room, Catherine Palace

Catherine Palace

The Hermitage Theatre

The Nutcracker, Hermitage Theatre

The Nutcracker, Four Seasons Hotel

The Nutcracker, Four Seasons Hotel

The Nutcracker, Four Seasons Hotel


Monday 7th: Rozhdestvo - Russian Christmas. Our final stop on the Golden Eagle is St Petersburg and we arrived during breakfast. Then it was straight onto the coach for visit to Catherine’s Palace at Pushkin. As it was still early (and dark!) we first drove around some of St Petersburg marvelling at how beautiful it looked dressed up in all its lights.

The Catherine Palace was built by Elizabeth I, Peter the Great’s daughter, in honour of her mother Catherine I and she spared no expense. The palace was extensively damaged during WW2 but most of it has been restored. We marvelled at the spectacular Great Hall lined with mirrors and windows covered with carved, gilded wood. Here Elizabeth held parties virtually every night wearing one of her 15000 party dresses.

We passed through a number of impressive rooms but the highlight, though, was the Amber Room, commonly regarded as the eighth wonder of the world. No photographs were allowed in here. The original amber room was presented to Peter the Great by the Prussian King Frederick William I and it ended up in Catherine Palace. Every wall is covered in amber inlays with the most beautiful carvings, mouldings and picture frames and light reflects off every surface. Attempts to hide the room during the war failed and when the Nazis occupied the palace they dismantled and shipped the panels to Germany. Then it disappeared and remains a mystery to this day. The recreated amber room was opened in 2003 for St Petersburg’s 300th anniversary.

Heather and I were driven back to St Petersburg with Julia early as we had booked for the matinee performance of The Nutcracker at the Hermitage Theatre. In the city the traffic came to a standstill in one direction along a canal. As we wondered why we were sitting there so long, sirens and a cavalcade of vehicles began shooting along the other side of the canal. Then we were told by Julia that it was Mr Putin passing by! So we almost rubbed shoulders.

Today Russians celebrate their Christmas Day and parents took children to see the traditional Christmas ballet, The Nutcracker. The theatre is very small and intimate and we thoroughly enjoyed the performance.

From the theatre we were taken to check in to Four Seasons Hotel. We caught up with Barb F and Irene in the bar before the special Golden Eagle champagne reception and ballet performance. A small group of dancers performed excerpts from The Nutcracker and it was lovely to experience some of the dancing again. Finally, we were all seated for Christmas Dinner in main dining room.



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