A few very interesting facts we learned about the church:
- It was shut down by the Soviets in the 1930s. They debated for a long time over how to destroy the church without harming the buildings around it. Finally they decided not to destroy it and locked it up instead.
- It served as a morgue in WWII and then afterward as a storage space for vegetables and then theatrical props up until the 70s.
- The ceiling has a huge mosaic of Jesus lifting his hands. During renovation, they found an unexploded bomb above Jesus’ right hand. During the war it was not destroyed and the only real renovations the church needed was a new floor and the walls to be washed with soap and water.
- The new floor of the church is made out of 12 different types of stone from countries all over the world. I wish I would’ve gotten a picture of it!
- The church reopened as a museum in 1997.
We got back on the bus and were taken to a small market with many different Russian-made souvenirs to buy. We only had about half an hour and multiple tours were there trying to do the same thing. The main thing I wanted from Russia were Matryoshka dolls (nesting dolls) and they had so many to choose from! This one was about as tall as my forearm and had 20 dolls included that were intricately hand-painted. It was also almost 3,000 Euros. Sooo we opted for a smaller version!
I saw these beauties on the side of the road walking back to the bus. Thought they were pretty funny!
- St. Petersburg used to be a bunch of canals. Peter the Great wanted the city to resemble Amsterdam and Venice, so many of the main streets were turned into waterways. I found that fascinating!
- St. Petersburg was the Imperial Capital of Russia from 1713-1918.
- It is known as the “cultural capital” of Russia because of its many art and history museums.
- St. Petersburg’s name was changed in 1914 to Petrograd, then to Leningrad in 1924 and finally back to St. Petersburg in 1991. It was first changed during WWI when the Russians felt the name Sankt Peterburg sounded too German, so they switched it to Petrograd, the Russian version of the words Saint Petersburg. It was then changed to Leningrad five days after Lenin’s death. Then in 1991 the people voted 54% in favor of changing the name back to Saint Petersburg, as it remains today.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to visit this unique country. I wish we would’ve had more than just 3.5 hours, but I felt we were able to see and learn a lot in that amount of time.
We jumped back on the bus and high-tailed it back to the ship. The formal dinner had already started, so we tried to get to the sushi restaurant instead, but they had suffered a power issue and had no lighting! So we went to the cafeteria and had pizza instead. The girls and I hung out at the Crystal Lounge afterward watching people dance while chatting the night away.
We are so thankful for those that worked with our kids all week. They were wonderful and the kids truly did love it. They made pizzas, had dance parties and even performed a talent show in the theater! It really made everyone’s experience that much more enjoyable!
We went to the finale show that evening, which was called the “Ninja Turtles Show” but again, had little to do with Ninja Turtles. But it was fun and my oldest really enjoyed it. I hung out with everyone until 11:00 and then picked up my oldest from kids club and got a good night’s rest before getting ready to head out the next morning. We ported around 10:00 and disembarked 45 minutes later. We got to our car much quicker than I anticipated. They had all of the cars out and ready to go for us, so we just drove off and headed home. We stopped to grab pizza since we didn’t have anything prepared for dinner and got home around 8:00 that evening. It was so nice to sleep in my own bed again, but I swear I still feel like I’m swaying sometimes!
I think my only regret was not getting more pictures with our friends! I’m so glad we all got to go together. It made it all the more fun!
A few random tips from our trip:
- MSC’s initial prices do not include the 15% service tax that is added to EVERYTHING. On top of that you pay a daily tip rate, which is completely separate from the service charges. We even got charged a full day of gratuity for the day we left, in which we had to be out of our room at 9am. At the end of the cruise we got a bill for about 500 Euros, which included these service charges and the drink package we purchased right before getting on the boat. We were expecting this, but I still would rather them just include all of the service fees flat out rather than at the end.
- Do the math on the drink packages. We did not get a package because that would mean spending about $74 a day on drinks for our family, and we did not nearly use that much. We don’t drink soda or anything, so we would’ve had to drink quite a bit to make up for that amount. We did purchase drink tickets, though, which was a set number of coffee and alcoholic drinks for a little less. That worked out for us nicely, but these options are NOT listed on the website when you are purchasing your tickets. So, if you do not drink tons of soda or just don’t drink a ton in general, I would advise not getting a drink package and just purchasing drink tickets when you arrive.
- Download city apps for areas that you are not going to have internet service in. This helped us to visit places efficiently when walking throughout the city in a very limited period of time. Tallinn had free wifi throughout the entire city, but we had no way of knowing this when planning.
- Most of the ports have money exchanging places. Many places took Euros, but some did not, especially the little stores or food vendors. It was a little difficult to figure out how much to get out at first, so knowing the exchange rate for the different areas you are going to is very helpful.