Today I began the day at the Peterhof Gardens in St Petersburg. Pictures won’t do it justice; it’s truly stunning. The gardens mimic the gardens of Versailles (which I went to in 2006) in France. It has beautiful fountains and lush green landscapes as far as the eye can see. It’s situated right next to the Baltic Sea, so I felt a nice breeze as I strolled through the fairytale-type grounds. Right after visiting these gardens, I went to Catherine’s Palace where I saw the famous Amber Room. The palace was full of several types of model dinning rooms to represent how each room would have been presented to guests. I fell in love with the china. I was taking several close up pictures of the china in each table with my camera. If you have been to dinner at my house you know I have several sets of china and I enjoy using all of the sets for different occasions. And you probably noticed I have an obsession with Lenox and all my Christmas ornaments are Lenox and I buy the new ornaments they release every year. I’m going to stop writing about china so I don’t lose my male readers. As I was exiting the palace there were several pictures of famous people who visited the palace. I saw Hilary Clinton and I quickly went to take a picture. #LoveWins!
Another cool thing that happened as I was leaving Catherine’s Palace was that I carried a monkey and a raccoon. The monkey was very docile and let me carry him like a baby. The raccoon was insane and it was crawling all over my head and neck going bananas. I don’t have a picture of that with my phone, I have those pictures in my camera so I will include those in my full online photo albums once I get home.
We left Catherine’s Palace and drove two hours to Novgorod. Novo means new, gorod means old. Back in the day, Novgorod was the capital of Russia so Novgorod still has a kremlin. The city was founded in the year 859. I also found out that Sergei Rachmaninov was born in Novgorod. There is a statue in the town square in his honor.
We arrived to Novgorod around 6pm and our tour director promptly collected our passports again. He explained that it is not safe for us to carry our passports as we explore Russia so as we arrive to each Russian city he is collecting or passports, then returns them to us when we leave each hotel. This is only taking place in Russia so far. He said in the past, police stop tourists and ask for their passports. They say something is wrong with their visa and they take them to a station. They won’t return the passport to the tourist until the tourist gives the police money. Since we already crossed the border, there is NOTHING wrong with our visas. So this is why our director collects them every time we are in a new hotel and keeps them in a safe until we leave.
Back to Novgorod... our local guide was amazing. She works at the city’s archives and said they have recently uncovered documents from WWII when the Nazi’s occupied the city in 1943. She said they found a propaganda flyer saying something like, welcome to your new Paradise, urging people to move to Germany. They would butter up families with small children and tell them of the life they could have. The Germans were actually trying to get them to Germany’s concentration camps. The Germans knew the Novgorod had a lot of the country’s historic artifacts and gems, so they targeted the city and its people. Out of 200,000 inhabitants in 1943, only 30 people were left after the Germans took over. Today, the city has 200,000 inhabitants, same as before the Germans attempted to destroy it. We walked through the kremlin and enjoyed a stroll outside the grounds.
Have passport, will travel.