Day # 151 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Never knew how hard this would be…Photos from St. Petersburg…

Photo of a canal at the Peterhof Fountain Park and Garden in St. Petersburg, Russia. For more photos, please click here.

Unsure if this post will get online today or in the days to come, I’m spending less time posting photos, captions and text. I’m at a loss as to when our site will become “live” again, enabling our readers to continue to read new and old posts.

Real gold leaf was used in these buildings.
Based on the huge size of our site, getting it uploaded is proving to be a long and complicated process. Each day, the web developers ask me to be patient while trying to get the site back up, and I remain frustrated regardless of these reassurances. Had I known this would transpire, I don’t believe I would have been willing to make such a substantial change.
We toured many exquisite buildings such as this.

It’s been incredibly challenging because I am also dealing with the loss of my dear sister only days ago. Of course, continuing to be stuck in this hotel room isn’t making it any easier. Listen to me whinging (whining, complaining)!

One of the many beautiful gardens.

Little did I know how dependent I’ve become over the years of the comfortable routine of preparing a new post each morning for the past many years. My routine has been thoroughly out-of-kilter recently, so I decided I’d schedule a new post today, even if it may not be online anytime soon.

An elaborate fountain in a man-made pond.

Many readers/friends often ask how I manage to “make myself” prepare a new post 365 days a year. Oddly, it never felt as if it was a task or obligation. However, I’ve always made it a priority when we had plans for any particular morning.

More fountains with extensive detail.

We’d often planned to return from sightseeing or other outings in time to prepare a new post since I’ve never felt like doing it in an evening. Once 5:00 pm comes, I prefer to be off my computer and out of my head.

One of many towers in the park.

A nice dinner, great conversation, in regular times a glass of wine with a pleasant evening on a veranda overlooking our scene-of-the-moment has always been a priority, not only since we’ve been traveling but also in our old lives.

It was a beautiful sunny day, and the facility was packed with tourists.

Now, in this particularly odd situation, stuck in a hotel room for five months, we still partake in good conversation but are seriously lacking in the scenery, the wine, and the veranda.

Instead, we hide away, engrossed in a few good TV series on one of several streaming services we are using at this time. Right now, at night, we’re streaming Lucifer (just ok) and the engaging, The Man in the High Tower, free on Amazon Prime.

Another stunning fountain.
In the late afternoon, we watch mindless drivel, nothing of great importance. We watch the light, silly show, Schitt’s Creek, which is always good for a chuckle or two during dinner.

After posting each day, my recent viewing obsession for about an hour, I watch The 100 on Netflix. Tom doesn’t care for dystopian; sci-fi type shows, so I am on my own on this. I know I’ve mentioned this in the past, but if you like sci-fi (or not), this show is the best TV series of this type I’ve seen in years. I watch it with my laptop on my lap, using my earbuds to disturb Tom.

A couple dressed for the era, charging fees for photos.

Hopefully, our new site will be up and running soon. Today’s photos are from the Peterhof Fountain Park and Garden in St. Petersburg, Russia, one year ago.
Have a peaceful day!

Photo from one year ago today, August 21, 2019:

Beautiful house on the waterfront in Helsinki. For more photos, please click here. 

Part 2…St. Petersburg, Russia…A city to remember…Peterhof Fountain Park and Gardens…

Due to a poor WiFi signal, I am unable to add captions to today’s photos.  All photos included here today were taken at Peterhof Fountain Park and Gardens in St. Petersburg. Please see this link for historical data.

Once we arrived in St. Petersburg on Friday, we’d anticipated that there would be a lot of walking.  Little did we know how much there would be, far more than any walking I’d done in a long time.

We knew we ran the risk of having to cancel all or part of the prepaid two-day tour. As it turned out, as mentioned in a prior post, I made it through Day 1 but knew another such day would be impossible. We bowed out of Day 2 and lost the amount we’d paid for the second half of the tour. There was nothing we could do.

We spoke to several passengers who stated that Day 1 was more significant in the sites visited, but more walking was on Day 2. We did the right thing. We thoroughly enjoyed the sites we did manage to see during the entire day’s tour. 

Today we’re sharing photos from Peterhof Fountain Park and Garden, our second stop for the day, here again requiring lots of walking. We managed to stay up with the group except for one short segment with many stairs to climb.  We waited until they returned a short time later and continued with the group.

It was odd, but in St. Petersburg, there were few benches and places to rest. Most likely, with the massive crowds at these venues, they wanted to keep the public on the move rather than languishing on benches.

An important aspect of visiting Russia is that no one is allowed to enter the country without a planned tour and the documentation to prove it.  

The tour company’s provided itinerary and proof of payment allow ship passengers to enter the country. However, we still had to go through immigration both entering and to depart the ship, each time showing the tour documents along with our passports.

Otherwise, visitors must obtain an expensive visa with certain limitations. If we had not booked the tours, we would have needed a prepaid visa for Russia to board the ship (although the cruise line wasn’t very diligent in verifying this).

Our experiences in Russia were interesting and enjoyable. I doubt we’ll return since most likely we wouldn’t care to stay for an extended period. But, we’re grateful we had the opportunity to experience it on this Baltic Cruise on Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas.

Today is a sea day and tonight is another formal night. Fortunately, I’d purchased three somewhat simple dresses that are floor-length, which arrived in the shipment from the US while we were in South Africa.  

I’d purchased the dresses long before the surgery, but much to my delight, they have round necklines and completely cover all of the scars on my legs and chest.  Tom has black pants and a white dress shirt. That’s the extent of our formal night attire.

For some odd reason, I thought this cruise would be ending in Amsterdam on Thursday when it will be Friday. We still have one more port of call, but in the interim, I will be trying to catch up on posts for other countries we’ve visited thus far with many accumulated photos. On this particular cruise, we’ve visited every port of call in countries all new to us.

This afternoon, besides socializing as always, we plan to see yet another movie in the theatre. We love going to the movies since we never do so in other countries, often due to a language barrier. Neither of us cares to watch movies with subtitles.

Have a fantastic Tuesday filled with wonder.

Photo from one year ago today, August 20, 2018:

A bazaar in Zambia.  We looked but didn’t buy. For more photos, please click here.

Part 1…St. Petersburg, Russia…A city to remember…The Peter and Paul Fortress and Cathedral…

“The Peter and Paul Cathedral (Russian: Петропавловский собор) is a Russian Orthodox cathedral located inside the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, Russia. It is the first and oldest landmark in St. Petersburg, built between 1712 and 1733 on Hare Island along the Neva River. Both the cathedral and the fortress were originally built under Peter the Great and designed by Domenico Trezzini. The cathedral’s bell tower is the world’s tallest Orthodox bell tower. Since the belfry is not standalone but an integral part of the main building, the cathedral is sometimes considered the highest Orthodox Church in the world. There is another Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul Church in St. Petersburg, located in Petergof.”
This Baltic cruise provided us with an opportunity to visit and subsequently add six new countries to our world travel itinerary. We hadn’t added many new lands in the past few years, and this is particularly exciting.
Sailors were walking down the street with a mission in mind.

It’s not as if we’re on a mission to experience most of the world’s safe-to-visit countries. That was never the purpose or goal of our world travels. Instead, it’s simply fun to add more countries to our travel map on the right side of our home page.

On the streets of St. Petersburg, this Russian woman had an impressive arrangement of fresh fruit cups available for sale.

These Baltic countries have been exciting and unique compared to many other countries we’ve toured in almost seven years. Never in our travels had we been to Russia or other of the Baltic countries.

The luxury in the cathedral is indescribable.

Today, as we travel through Scandinavian countries, we find a very different feel from European countries, except for the varying designs of many churches and historical buildings.

There were so many tourists inside the Peter and Paul Cathedral. It was challenging to take photos without including them.

Let’s face it…buildings 200 or more years old seem to take on decor, design, and ambiance of specific typical characteristics, architecturally interesting, significant, at times flashy, and often made of gold and valuable stones, marble, wood, and jewels.

“The current building, the first stone church in St. Petersburg, was designed by Trezzini and built between 1712 and 1733. Its gold-painted spire reaches a height of 123 meters (404 ft) and features an angel holding a cross at its top. This angel is one of the most important symbols of St. Petersburg. The cathedral’s architecture also features a unique iconostasis (the screen which separates the church’s nave from the sanctuary). In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the iconostasis is normally a flat wall or screen with three doors through it. The central Holy Doors are used only for very solemn entrances and the two side doors by which the clergy and others enter and leave the sanctuary. However, at St. Peter and Paul, the iconostasis rises to form a tower over the sanctuary. The cathedral has a typical Flemish carillon, a gift of the Flemish city of Mechelen, Flanders.”

After seeing 100’s of historic buildings, we’re always searching for an unusual or unique series of features that can take our breath away. This happened in St. Petersburg a few days ago.

Pure gold was used in creating the exquisite ambiance of this famous cathedral.

As mentioned in our last post, found here, I wasn’t able to participate in Day 2 of our St. Petersburg tour due to my difficulty walking. After the previous day’s 12,000 steps ending at 13,500 when wandering about the ship that evening, my legs hurt enough to prevent us from another long day on foot.

“The cathedral is dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, the patron saints of the fortress (Saint Peter being the patron saint of the city). The current cathedral is the second one on the site. The first, built soon after Peter found the city, was consecrated by Archbishop Iov of Novgorod the Great in April 1704.  The cathedral was the cathedral church (i.e., the seat of the bishop; the term cathedralsobor (собор) in Russian—can mean the seat of a bishop, but it can also mean simply a large or important church) of the city until 1859 (when St Isaacs became the city’s cathedral.) The current cathedral church of St. Petersburg is the Kazan Cathedral on Nevsky Prospect. The cathedral was closed in 1919 and turned into a museum in 1924. It is still officially a museum; religious services, however, resumed in 2000.”

Yesterday morning we were docked in Helsinki, Finland, and after attempting to post with no luck, we took off for town, utilizing a  private taxi which is the most accessible means for me.  

As we moved through the immense structure, we discovered one fantastic scene after another.

Photos aren’t as good as they’d be when on foot on the Hop-On, Hop-Off buses since they have to be taken through the glass windows, although it’s better than not going at all.

The remains of many leaders and their family members were interred within the church walls.

Years ago, we wouldn’t get off at some ports-of-call on some cruises, especially in the Caribbean, when we’d already been to many cruise lines owned islands intended for passengers to spend, spend, spend…on drinks, beach chairs, umbrellas, and trinkets.  

“The cathedral houses the remains of almost all the Russian emperors and empresses from Peter the Great to Nicholas II and his family, who were finally laid to rest in July 1998. Among the emperors and empresses buried here was Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia for 34 years.  Of the post-Petrine rulers, only Peter II and Ivan VI are not buried here. Peter II is buried in the Cathedral of Michael the Archangel in the Moscow Kremlin; Ivan VI was executed and buried in the fortress of Shlisselburg or Kholmogory (alleged discovery at Kholmogory in 2010 currently under forensic investigation). On September 28, 2006, 78 years after her death, Maria Feodorovna, Empress of Russia, was reinterred in the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul. Wife of Tsar Alexander III and mother of Nicholas II (the last Russian tsar), Maria Feodorovna died on 13 October 1928 in exile in her native Denmark and was buried in Roskilde Cathedral in Denmark. In 2005, the governments of Denmark and Russia agreed that the empress’s remains should be returned to Saint Petersburg in accordance with her wish to be interred next to her husband.”

Such ports hold little appeal for us when we are always seeking authenticity, history, and charm. An artificial island or strip of beach certainly doesn’t fit that criterion. However, many passengers find such places as the highlight of their cruises, especially those who don’t live near an ocean and sandy beaches. We get that.

The exterior is slightly less impressive than the interior of the cathedral.

Of course, a natural strip of sandy, volcanic or rocky beach always inspires us, prompting us to take many photos of varying angles of nature’s bounty. We never tire of the view.

As expected, the evenings have been entertaining and filled with lively chatter among other passengers we’ve met and between ourselves. There’s never a dull moment, nor do we spend much time in the cabin.

The chapel’s roof, ornate and gold-covered.

We managed to squeeze in a few movies in the ship’s small theatre, the Cinema, the past two days. The first was the most recent documentary about Apollo 11’s trip to the moon with live footage that left us on the edge of our chairs. It’s well worth watching and provides a perspective we could hardly imagine from memory 50 years ago.

After returning from touring Helsinki in the taxi yesterday, we relaxed and watched another movie, “Instant Family, “very sweet and entertaining. Tom dozed during the first 20 minutes but was awake for the balance.

As soon as we upload this post, we’ll be taking the shuttle bus from the ship to Stockholm, Sweden. From there, if possible we’ll take a taxi to tour the city.

Tomorrow, a sea day, we’ll have time for Part 2…St. Petersburg. Look for us then! We still have many more Baltic cities to share!

Enjoy the new week!
Photo from one year ago today, August 19, 2018:
This artistic piece, made by Agness at the Wayi Wayi Art Centre in Zambia, was made with hundreds of scratch-off tickets.  Please click here for more photos.

Back to posting one day earlier than expected…Why?…Tallinn, Estonia…

View over Tallinn, Estonia, from a scenic overlook.

Yesterday was a day we’ll never forget, not only for the exquisite sites we visited in St. Petersburg, Russia but for the challenging experience of my attempt to navigate over 12,000 steps in one day with my lingering painful legs situation.

The town well.

No doubt, a month ago, I couldn’t have conceived I’d make it through such a day as this but somehow, with Tom’s unrelenting help and emotional support, overall we’d stayed up with the group of 15 passengers in our group, only avoiding a few less critical additional walking sidelines during the entire day, beginning at 8:30 am and ending at 6:00 pm.

It wasn’t easy. It was painful. But I knew I wasn’t hurting anything by forging ahead. Ultimately, maybe my legs would become stronger after this cruise with all its walking while attempting to recover after over six months of pure hell.

The remains of a historic castle tower.

I’ve “sugar-coated” it long enough to be tough, resilient, and strong. Yes, attitude is a big part of recovery, and I credit myself for remaining upbeat and hopeful.  But, at times, I have felt hopeless and fearful that I’d never recover.

There is stunning artwork on the many churches within Old Town.

In the next several days, we’ll be posting, time allowing, the fantastic photos we were able to take while on yesterday’s St. Petersburg tour. However, last night we decided we would not be going on Day 2 of the prepaid tour since I knew I wouldn’t be able to spend another day like yesterday.

We are disappointed to lose the non-refundable fees we paid for Day 2, but this decision had to be made. And now, as we sit comfortably in the Park Cafe on deck 5, we’ve totally at peace with our decision.  

We didn’t enter the churches due to the many steps and long queues.

Yes, today we’ll miss a few choice locations popular with tourists to the magnificent city, but yesterday provided us with considerable information regarding St. Petersburg’s rich history and culture.

The winding streets of the walled city of Tallinn, Estonia.

To follow a sequential course for our posts as ports of call as they occurred, today we’re sharing photos of Tallinn, Estonia, which we visited two days ago. We hadn’t booked a tour for this city and decided to “wing it.”

Instead, we were planning to use the shuttle bus to get us into town, and from there, we’d figure out how we’d get around, fearful that being on foot may be too much for me when the more extensive tour lay ahead following day in St. Petersburg.

Here we are on the motorized bike.

No more than a few seconds after we exited the shuttle bus, we were approached by a clean-cut looking young man in his 20’s who had a motorized bicycle with a cart attached, perfect for the two of us.  

It was pricey for one hour at Euro 153, US $170, which we’d already negotiated down from Euro 189, US $210, but after about 70 minutes, we couldn’t have been more thrilled after seeing most of the highlights of Old Town.

Historic churches and buildings lined the streets.

About Tallinn, Estonia from this site: “Tallinn (/ˈtɑːlɪn, ˈtælɪn/; Estonian: [ˈtɑlʲˑinˑ]; names in other languages) is the capital, primate and the most populous city of Estonia. Located in the northern part of the country, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland of the Baltic Sea, it has 434,562. A part of Harju maakond (county), Tallinn is Estonia’s major financial, industrial, cultural, educational, and research center. Tallinn is located 80 kilometers (50 mi) south of Helsinki, Finland, 320 kilometers (200 mi) west of Saint Petersburg, Russia, and 380 kilometers (240 mi) east of Stockholm, Sweden. It has close historical ties with these three cities. From the 13th century until the first half of the 20th century, Tallinn was known by its historical German name Reval.”

Many churches with architecturally interesting steeples filled the rooftops.

The cobblestone and brick roads were bumpy but didn’t cause a problem for either of us. And this young man knew his way around quickly maneuvering between crowds and other vehicles to take advantage of every moment.

When our bike tour ended, he dropped us back at the shuttle bus, and minutes later, the bus arrived at the pier as we tackled the long back to the ship with a smile on our faces for a day well spent.

We crossed a red-painted wooden bridge.

As for the remainder of the cruise, we continue to meet more and more passengers with great stories to tell. At night, we tend to stay out late enjoying the music and entertainment in various venues throughout the ship. It’s been such fun to be out and about after all this time.
Tomorrow, we have another port of call and hope to post when we return later in the day.

Thanks to all of our readers who continue to “look for us” online and send endless good wishes and encouragement. We so appreciate every one of you!

Photo from one year ago today, August 17, 2018:
While back in Zambia for another “visa run, “Tom was busy reading the extensive menu at Café Zambezi, trying to decide what to order. It was nice to be back. For more details, please click here.