Amber Room Rating:
A marmite room. Opinions were were rarely indifferent. I loved it, but sadly the palace 'stasi' forbade photographs in this one room. I can understand not wanting flash photography - few art museums do - so I assume the difficulty in getting ignorant and wilful tourists to understand the difference means its just easier to say "Niet". The workmanship that went into the place is just mind blowing.
Catherine Palace Rating:
The wealth of these early despots was staggering... little wonder the Bolsheviks got fed-up with seeing horses drinking from solid silver buckets whilst all they had was indigestion from not eating properly. Here was a woman who knew what she wanted and was utterly ruthless in going about getting it. Mostly money and power of course - nothing new then or since. A must see.
City Tour Rating:
Its never easy to properly experience a city from inside a coach. "On your left you will see the old KGB building, said to be the tallest building in St.Petersburg". I looked at a large but not very tall building, unimpressed. "They say it was tall enough to see Siberia from there". Ah! That wonderful Russian humour :)
The tour is more about filling time in between going from point A to point B and therefore, like it or not, absolutely necessary.
Hermitage Museum Rating:
Again, arrival by hydrofoil is preferable - the Russian police can be most unreasonable about coaches disgorging not entirely able-bodied elderly American tourists. You could spend every day for a month looking round that place, taking in one of the most amazing collections of artwork in the world and being able to get right up close to masters so you can examine each brush stroke without being fenced off or peering through glass.
Peterhof Palace Rating:
The weather was fine and this, according to our guide, was most unusual. St.Petersburg is well known for its rain. We arrived via hydrofoil and left by bus (there's a bridge) to see a different perspective. Impressive determination of the Russians to rebuild their heritage after German WW2 occupation and wilful destruction of priceless heritage. I did spot the odd 18th century pozidrive screw head which suggests that perhaps all that glitters is not entirely gold... but you've got to look quite hard. Well worth visiting.
Russian Ballet Show Rating:
Mea culpa... this was my first ballet (Giselle) and I really enjoyed it - surprisingly moving too. The theatre was intimate but no crush for a drink during the interval. Most civilised. Actually, this ballet was in Moscow and not St.Petersburg. Sadly Moscow has fallen off the CruiseCritic map.