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Russia!  Once a tightly sealed country that was the centerpiece of the Soviet Union, now is open to the adventurous.  In the summer of 2011, I hosted a group for a 12 day trip to this amazing country.  We flew into Moscow and spent a couple of days taking in the amazing sights of this sprawling, ancient city.

Saint Basil’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral
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The statue of Marshall Zhukov at the north entrance to Red Square
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We boarded our tour boat and cruised through Lake Onega. This is the Church of the Transfiguration on Kizhi Island, one of 1650 islands and a favorite stopping point on the lake.

We spent six days on our tour boat, passed through 16 locks and cruised through the Volga River, eventually ending up in St. Petersburg.  When we first stepped onto the boat we were welcomed with a traditional slice of salt-crusted brown bread and a shot of chilled vodka.  In Russia, there’s no shortage of occasions that call for a toast with chilled vodka.  The cruise was so memorable and the Russian people can be very warm and open; always happy to engage an eager tourist and discuss their country’s history. In St. Petersburg we delighted in such grand architecture as the Hermitage Museum, home to many works from DaVinci, Reubens, Picasso and of course Faberge.

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The Hermitage Museum is the crown jewel of St. Petersburg and a lovely example of Rococo architecture

At the Hermitage Theater, next door to the museum, we watched a performance of Tchaikovsky’s ballet, Swan Lake.  So beautiful!  Following that we toured the grounds of Catherine’s Palace.  Once the summer home of the czars, the famed architect Bartolomeo Restrelli created the palace in 1752 and it is now one of the top attractions in Russia.

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The gilded golden gates to the Palace Catherine
Catherine Palace is almost 1,000 feet long and decorated in layers of gold leaf.  It is breathtaking!

Following the splendor of Palace Catherine, we toured the even more glamorous Peterhof.  Peterhof is actually a series of palaces and gardens that was once the summer home of Peter the Great.  One of its more memorable features are all the fountains that are fed by a series of springs and ponds and not by pumps.

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Peter the Great wanted his own version of France’s Versailles
A hallmark of Rococo architecture, the amount of detail in Peterhof is stunning

Compare the architecture of these great palaces with this earlier church.  This is the blue domed Church of  St. Dmitry on the Blood.  Dimitry was the son of Ivan the Terrible and this church was built on the site of Dmitry’s death in 1591 near the city of Uglich and this little church sits right on the edge of the river bank.

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Church of St. Dmitry the Blood

The Russian people that we met were warm and welcoming.  They love to show off the many charms of their country and talk about its history.  We enjoyed many delicious meals and of course we were never far from a chilled bottle of vodka.  If this trip sounds like something you want to do, get in touch with me and I’ll make it happen.

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