Air Berlin Business Class A330 Review TXL-MIA (And Lounge at TXL Airport)

This entry is part of 23 in the series Russia 2014 Trip Report

Air France / Air Berlin / British Airways Lounge at Berlin Tegel Airport (TXL)

After spending our overnight connection at a nearby Holiday Inn, we arrived at Berlin’s Tegel airport bright and early for 9:20AM flight from Berlin to Miami. After two weeks abroad spanning many hotels and cities, we were anxious to get home!

Air Berlin Business Class passengers share a lounge with Air France and British Airways business and first class customers. When we arrived at the lounge, it was quite empty. I think it was just Ken and I plus one or two other guests. However, by the time our flight was ready to board, it had really filled up.

There was a decent amount of seating, but if the lounge got much more crowded, I’m not sure if there would be enough for all the guests!

Air Berlin Lounge at TXL - Berlin Tegel Airport | Shared with Air France Lounge Air Berlin Lounge at TXL - Berlin Tegel Airport | Shared with Air France Lounge Air Berlin Lounge at TXL - Berlin Tegel Airport | Shared with Air France Lounge Air Berlin Lounge at TXL - Berlin Tegel Airport | Shared with Air France Lounge Air Berlin Lounge at TXL - Berlin Tegel Airport | Shared with Air France Lounge

There were light snacks available, plus self-serve beverages, including beer and wine.

Drinks and Snacks at Air Berlin Lounge at TXL Drinks and Snacks at Air Berlin Lounge at TXL Drinks and Snacks at Air Berlin Lounge at TXL Drinks and Snacks at Air Berlin Lounge at TXL

When we checked into the lounge, the receptionist said she would announce boarding for our flight. When 9:00AM came and went, we decided to ask if they had started boarding, or perhaps there was a delay. She said, “Yes, they’re boarding now.”

Umm, thanks for the heads up!

We rushed to the gate, where we transited security (security was done at each gate, not at a central location), and got on board.

Air Berlin Business Class A330 Review TXL-MIA

When we boarded, the business class cabin was already quite full.

Air Berlin A330 Business class cabin

We took our seats in 1E and 1F. And while it was infinitely better than what coach would’ve been, I couldn’t help but think that our seats looked pretty squishy.

Air Berlin Business class seats

We were promptly offered drinks, and we both opted for orange juice.

Pre departure drink service on Air Berlin

We had plenty of legroom, and enjoyed streching out our legs.

Legroom on Air Berlin Business Class A330 Legroom on Air Berlin Business Class A330

But, I will say one thing. The seats were WAY too close together. I love my husband and all, but if we both had our arms on the armrests, our elbows always touched. And during the course of a 10 hour flight, that is really REALLY annoying.

It also didn’t help that the plane was swelteringly hot, so sharing body heat just worsened matters. I definitely would not recommend the E and F seats on rows 1, 3, and 5 on Air Berlin’s business class product, especially if you are traveling by yourself. It was bad enough touching elbows with my husband. You wouldn’t want that around a stranger. The seats A, D, G, and K have more privacy. (Check the seat map here).

Headphones were provided, and they worked well for the inflight entertainment. Seat controls were on my left hand side.

Air Berlin Business Class headphones Air Berlin Business class seat controls

There was this dire-sounding warning next to our seats:

Seat warning on Air Berlin

And there was a task light if needed.

Lighting on Air Berlin business class seat

The opening to get into your seat was really tiny. I know that Ken and I can stand to lose a few pounds, but it was a really tight squeeze.

Opening to get to Seats XX

We were served lunch, which I actually thought was quite tasty. (My apologies, I did not get a photo of the menu, and I’m not sure what these dishes were).

Meal service on Air Berlin Business Class - appetizer Meal service on Air Berlin Business Class - appetizer Meal service on Air Berlin Business Class - main course

And even though the dessert looked slightly off-putting, it was great!

Air Berlin dessert

And with that, we were full!

Air Berlin Business Class meal service

After lunch, we settled in for the long haul. However, thanks to the morning flight time, a good night’s sleep the night before, and traveling 10 hours all during daylight, we weren’t that tired. So sleeping to pass the time wasn’t really an option.

I watched three full movies: Behind the Candelabra, The Butler, and No Country for Old Men. (I had actually seen No Country for Old Men in the theaters, but I thought it was worth re-watching!)

At some point, Ken’s screen started acting up, and the flight attendant restarted it over and over until it started working again.

Inflight entertainment system on Air Berlin

And finally, after what seemed like a painfully long flight, we started our descent into Miami.

Air show on Air Berlin

The Service

I thought the service onboard our flight was impeccable. We had three male flight attendants, and each one was polite and attentive. They always made sure my wine glass was full, and always remembered which wine selection I had made. Even when Ken was having trouble with his TV screen, the flight attendants kept working on it until it was fixed.

Bottom Line

Although I definitely enjoyed having the extra space compared to coach, Air Berlin Business Class seats were quite small and way too close to neighboring seats. But, given how easy it was to redeem AAdvantage miles on Air Berlin with low fees, I’d definitely take Air Berlin again if that was the best option.


Pulkovo Business Class Lounge Review and Air Berlin from St. Petersburg to Berlin Tegel (LED-TXL)

This entry is part 22 of 23 in the series Russia 2014 Trip Report

Ken and I like getting to the airport early, especially in cities we’re not familiar with. We never know what traffic might be like, how long security and immigration lines are, and what the check-in process might be like. So, we left for the airport about 4 hours prior to departure, even though it was only supposed to be about a 30 minute drive to the airport.

We did actually get stuck in traffic for a while. I could tell that the taxi driver was getting nervous. He started saying something in Russian, but I couldn’t hear him. Then, in my (VERY LIMITED!) Russian, I finally heard him ask what time our flight was leaving. I was saying, “5:45” in Russian, but he looked really confused. Then I realized that I should have been saying 17:45, since they use the 24 hour clock in Russia. Whoops. So, I just quickly set an “alarm” on my phone for the time, and then showed him. He looked relieved that we weren’t running late, even with the traffic.

In English, I said with a smile, “No problem!” And, he responded, using his arm to span the traffic jam, “BEEG Proplem!” And we all laughed.

I love how even when somebody can’t speak a different language, there are certain phrases that just everybody knows. Like people who can’t speak any English still know what “No problem” and “Big Problem” mean!

Well, when we arrived at St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport, we quickly learned that you’re barely allowed IN the airport more than 90 minutes prior to departure. Our taxi driver dropped us off, and we immediately had to put all our luggage through an x-ray scanner before entering the airport (something we had seen at Sochi and Moscow’s airports as well).

Then there is a pretty small “lobby” area for the airport. In the lobby, there were officials checking ID’s at podiums prior to passing through a separate set of doors, which would take you to the ticketing and check-in area. Well, we were basically “stuck” in the lobby. You could not pass through those doors until the ID-checkers said so, and it was completely unclear how long that would take.

The entire lobby area was a completely crowded zoo of people. There was a small restaurant / coffee shop place, and Ken and I managed to find a table. And we just sat there, drinking beverages until it got closer to departure time.

Once we were finally allowed into the ticketing area, we checked our luggage and received our boarding passes for our Air Berlin flight from St. Petersburg to Berlin’s Tegel Airport. Then we transited immigration, and we were finally on our way to find the Business Class lounge. (Security was not conducted until immediately prior to boarding, in the gate area).

I had low expectations for the Business Class lounge. I had read that it was pretty much a joke. Well, it was still better than a lot of U.S. domestic airline lounges (I’m looking at you US Airways lounge at DCA!)

Business Class Lounge at St. Petersburg Pulkovo Airport (International Departures)

Business Class Lounge Pulkovo Airport

The lounge was one big room, with chairs that very closely resembled (and might have actually been) Ikea Poang chairs.

Business and First class Lounge at St. Petersburg, Russia Pulkovo Airport Review of Pulkovo Business Lounge | Air Berlin

There was a food and beverage area that was self-serve, complete with coffee, bottles of beer and wine, chips and other snacks, and bottles of water. #StillBetterThanMostUSAirwaysLounges

Snacks and Beverage area at Pulkovo Lounge | St. Petersburg, Russia | Prior to departing Air Berlin LED-TXL Snacks and Beverage area at Pulkovo Business Class Lounge Snacks and Beverage area at Pulkovo Business Class Lounge Snacks and Beverage area at Pulkovo Business Class Lounge Snacks and Beverage area at Pulkovo Business Class Lounge

There was even an aquarium and a flat panel TV. Okay, I know that is not saying much, but considering how much of a zoo the airport was, and how limited seating was in the actual gate areas, Ken and I appreciated having a quiet place to sit before our flight started boarding. And of course, as a nervous flyer, I appreciated the free booze at my disposal.

Aquarium at Pulkovo Lounge TV at Pulkovo Lounge

Air Berlin Flight from St. Petersburg to Berlin (LED-TXL)

Ken and I booked business class tickets for the entire journey (St. Petersburg > Berlin > Miami > Washington, DC), but I knew that this leg would be economy class because it was a single-class aircraft. It wasn’t the end of the world, considering the flight was only 2 hours and 15 minutes.

At some point before our trip, I could’ve swore that I read online that Air Berlin just keeps an empty seat next to passengers who are booked on Business Class but riding on a single-class aircraft. Of course, as the trip approached, I could not find where I had read that, so I wasn’t sure if it would actually be the case.

When Ken and I checked in, we were booked for seats 1D and 1F, meaning that there would be an empty seat in between us. But, I really can’t be sure if we were given those seats because we were Business Class passengers. Why? That flight was literally the emptiest commercial flight I had been on in a LONG time. I’d estimate there were maybe 25–35 people on that A319 aircraft. So the fact that we had an empty seat between us wasn’t really saying much!

Legroom of bulkhead seat on Air Berlin flight Ken and I in row 1 on Air Berlin flight LED-TXL

We were provided with a sandwich and chocolate. The sandwich was actually quite good!

Air Berlin sandwich Air Berlin chocolate

The flight was uneventful, and we landed at Berlin Tegel, transited immigration and customs, and made our way to the Holiday Inn Express Tegel Airport. We ate a late dinner at the hotel and went to bed (no review of the Holiday Inn, it was a basic hotel, but a convenient location for overnight connections), and woke up early for our flight the next morning to Miami. We were ready to get home!


St. Petersburg, Part 3 (and final) – Russia 2014 Trip Report

This entry is part 21 of 23 in the series Russia 2014 Trip Report

Our last day in St. Petersburg was pretty much a half day. Our flight was leaving around 5PM, and we’re compulsive about getting to the airport early, especially in a city that we’re not familiar with. We just did things on our own that day, compared to the private tour of the previous two days.

So, this post is a random mish mash of things we did in St. Petersburg on our last day (as well as a few photos from other miscellaneous things we did in the previous days that weren’t exactly “tour” related).

We wanted to walk along the Neva River some more to take in the sights. Luckily it was a short walk from theW St. Petersburg.

Frozen Neva River in St. Petersburg Sites along the Neva River Neva River

Although the air temperature was quite cold, and the river, obviously, quite frozen, the wind was almost non-existent, so it really wasn’t as cold as it looks.

There were also plenty of cool statues along the river banks.

Boat statue along Neva river in St. Petersburg Russia Lion Statue

And, some reminders that you should not drop anchor, nor drive your car into the river. All good advice!

Don’t drop anchor sign Sign that shows don’t drive into river

Although we never went inside it, St. Nicholas’ Cathedral is also a famed church in St. Petersburg. It was actually just one block over from our hotel.

Outside of St. Nicholas Cathedral in St. Petersburg Dome’s on St. Nicholas Cathedral

I couldn’t help but notice that cars were just absolutely filthy in both Moscow and St. Petersburg. Like far dirtier than our cars would get here after a snowy winter. Well, the guide explained that pollution is quite bad in Russia, so when it rains, there’s a lot of “dirt” mixed in with the rain. So cars just get covered in soot when there’s precipitation. Gross.

Soot covered cars in St. Petersburg

During a break on our tour one of the previous days, we had also asked our tour guide where we could buy some classic Russian Nesting Dolls. She pointed out a small outdoor marketplace near the Church of our Saviour on Spilled Blood. Russians are hard core. Outdoor markets in February? No problem!

Outdoor market in St. Petersburg Nesting dolls at St. Petersburg Market

We couldn’t help but chuckle at the nesting dolls with NBA logos and TV show characters. I’m sure they got the proper copyright permissions to do that, right?

Nesting Dolls Nesting dolls

And God Bless America, don’t you think, that things like the NBA and NFL are so pervasive that they make Russian nesting dolls for them. Seriously, they outnumbered the nesting dolls with European soccer logos! And European tourists far outnumbered American tourists based on what we saw.

Well, our trip to St. Petersburg certainly did not start off on the right foot. But we ended up being very impressed by the city. I’d love to go back to St. Petersburg one day (in warmer weather!) to see some sites that were closed during winter. For instance, the fountains at Peterhof Palace are supposed to be spectacular, but they don’t operate in the winter. Plus, a lot of things like outdoor statues at sites like Catherine Palace were covered by steel boxes for protection. Also, I’m sure that the city has a completely different vibe when it’s not so dreary and overcast.

Perhaps a Scandinavian Cruise that includes a stop in St. Petersburg should be added to our travel bucket list!

We finished our time in St. Petersburg with some hot chocolates and an early lunch at “Coffee House.” It’s essentially Russia’s equivalent of Starbucks. We went back to the hotel, finished gathering our things, and got in a taxi for the airport. It had been a long and eventful trip, we were ready for our first leg home.


St. Petersburg Touring, Part 2 (Russia 2014 Trip Report)

This entry is part 20 of 23 in the series Russia 2014 Trip Report

The second full day of our private tour was just as busy as our first!

Our started our day by taking us to a local bakery-type place called Stolle. They sold mostly savory type pies. It was a good light breakfast to start the day. We also walked around the area and took in the sights of St. Petersburg’s famed canals.

Canals in St. Petersburg

Stolle bakery in St. Petersburg Russia Canals in St. Petersburg Russia

By the way, can you tell there is some slight sunlight shining on the buildings? Well, it was the first sunshine we had seen since leaving Sochi a week earlier. Within a few hours, it was overcast again!

Canals in St. Petersburg Ken and I on canal bridge in St. Petersburg Russia

Our guide called one location the “Seven Bridges” lookout point. Standing at one particular point, you can see seven canal bridges.

009-storyboard

 

St. Nicholas Cathedral in St. Petersburg

After checking out the canals, we went to St. Nicholas Cathedral (also pictured with the golden tower in the photograph above.) Photography was not permitted inside the cathedral, so we just snapped a few photos of the outside and its grounds. But the inside was very ornate!

St. Nicholas Cathedral in St. Petersburg Russia St. Nicholas Cathedral in St. Petersburg Russia

 

Along Nevsky Prospect

Following St. Nicholas Cathedral, we walked along the main St. Petersburg thoroughfare called Nevsky Prospect. Along Nevsky Prospect we stopped here, the Kazan Cathedral. (Again, photographs were not permitted inside)

Kazan Cathedral Kazan Cathedral Kazan Cathedral Kazan Cathedral

Nevsky Prospect was lined with ornate buildings and spectacular views of canals and cathedrals.

Along Nevsky Prospect Along Nevsky Prospect Along Nevsky Prospect Along Nevsky Prospect

And of course, we spotted American restaurants like Carl’s Jr. along some side streets.

Side streets from Nevsky Prospect

It’s worth noting that while walking along Nevsky Prospect, our guide told us to hold our cameras tighter and to be aware of our surroundings. I’m guessing it might be an area of higher pickpocketing activity. However, it certainly didn’t seem like a shady area or anything.

We stopped by a cafe/chocolaterie type place called Eliseyev Emporium for some desserts and hot chocolate.

Food cases inside Eliseyev Emporium Beautiful food displays in Eliseyev Emporium Inside Eliseyev Emporium Chocolate dessert Creamy hot chocolate

The cafe also had a very elaborate window display.

Window display at Eliseyev Emporium

We continued our walk along St. Petersburg streets, on our way to the famous Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood.

We walked past the Russian State Museum:

Outside the Russian State Museum in St. Petersburg Outside the Russian State Museum Outside the Russian State Museum

And I just loved how colorful things were along St. Petersburg streets.

Walking along streets in St. Petersburg Walking along streets in St. Petersburg Walking along streets in St. Petersburg

Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood

When we arrived at the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood, we were blown away by how beautiful it was. In Moscow, St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square is SO iconic. It’s recognizeable worldwide. But to be honest, it was plain in comparison to Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood.

Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood

By the way, that’s quite the mouthful. So I’m just going to refer to it as “the church” in this section.

Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood along the canal Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood along the canal

Inside, it was even more amazing. But first, a funny sign at the entrance to the church:

No chewing gum or ice cream | sign outside church of our savior on spilled blood

So everything other than chewing gum and ice cream are okay?

The inside was simply indescribably beautiful. And, it was one of the few churches we visited in Russia that permitted photography.

Views inside Mosaic walls inside Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood Views inside Mosaic walls inside Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood Views inside Mosaic walls inside Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood Views inside Mosaic walls inside Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood

The walls were covered with mosaic art.

Don’t know what I mean? Look more closely at these images on the wall. They are comprised of tiny stones! Can you imagine how long that must have taken??

Mosaic walls inside Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood Mosaic walls inside Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood Mosaic walls inside Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood

The Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood was built on the site of what is known as the first terrorist attack in history. In 1881, Tsar Alexander II was assassinated when a bomb was detonated next to his carriage. The church was subsequently built on that site to commemorate him.

Inside the church, a canopy marks the precise spot of his assasination.

Canopy inside Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood Sign describing assasination of Tsar Alexander II

The Hermitage Museum

Following our stop at the church, we went to the Hermitage, which currently serves as an enormous art museum in St. Petersburg. Previously it served as the Summer Palace for russian Tsars. (The previous day we had visited Catherine Palace, which had served as the Winter Palace.)

The Hermitage has a distinct green color, even among the colorful buildings in St. Petersburg.

Outside the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia Outside the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia Outside the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia

Inside, it definitely had a palatial look.

Stairs Inside the Hermitage Ornate walls Inside the Hermitage Inside the Hermitage Grand staircase Inside the Hermitage

And our guide, who so clearly loved art and art history, made the tour so interesting for us. She could hardly contain her excitement when walking into different rooms and explaining the art on the walls. It really made the museum experience even more amazing.

Hermitage Museum Visit in St. Petersburg Russia | Hermitage Review Hermitage Museum Visit Hermitage Museum Visit Hermitage Museum Visit

This room in particular was so amazing. It served as a ballroom when the Hermitage was a palace.

Ballroom at the Hermitage Ballroom at the Hermitage Ballroom at the Hermitage Ballroom at the Hermitage

It was difficult to capture it in a single image, but the gold leaf design on the ceiling actually mirrors the wood design on the floor in the ballroom!

Ballroom at the Hermitage Ballroom at the Hermitage

In another room, there was this very elaborate peacock clock inside the Hermitage. Once a week (and not the day we were there), the clock-keeper goes into the case and winds the clock.

Peacock clock at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg

Amazingly, there was some tour group that had paid extra to see the clock get wound, so we just stood around and watched it. It was a really fascinating process. I never thought I’d say that watching a clock get wound was fascinating!

Peacock clock at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg - Getting wound Peacock clock at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg Peacock clock at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg

There was an additional wing at the Hermitage that was under restoration that contained some impressionist and cubist pieces. So the halls they were displayed in weren’t nearly as ornate

Impressionist and Cubist pieces at the Hermitage Impressionist and Cubist pieces at the Hermitage

There was an incredible antiquities exhibit at the Hermitage that contained artifacts from the Altai mountains region. The artifacts are from cultures that lived in the 4th and 5th centuries BC! Here was an incredible chariot from that era on display.

Altai chariot on display in Hermitage

I’ll just let some remaining pictures of the Hermitage do the talking here:

Art inside the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia Art inside the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia Art inside the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia Art inside the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia

After the Hermitage (we spent like FOUR HOURS in there, and probably could’ve spent more time if our tour wasn’t wrapping up. Oh, and if our legs weren’t killing us from standing all day).

We were starving, and couldn’t tolerate having to decipher any Russian menus, so embarrasedly, we went to a Pizza Hut that was nearby. Don’t judge! We had Russian food as a late dinner later that evening, including red caviar:

Russian red caviar

Ken also was coming down with a pretty nasty cold. Luckily we only had one day left in our trip! We found a pharmacy (and a super helpful pharmacist!) and Ken got some good cold meds and sore throat sprays. It worked “much better than the meds you buy over the counter in the US,” he said.

At dinner that night, our waitress asked us where we were from (although she mistook us for Russian! Just like everybody else in Russia seemed to do!) We told her, and that it was our last full day in Russia, and that we had been the Moscow and Sochi for the Olympics. She got SO excited when we told her we went to the Olympics.

She asked us what we thought, and we said it was so fantastic. She nearly started crying tears of joy. “Really??!!,” she said. We were like, yep! She said how happy that made her. That she couldn’t tell based on all the different news reports, she thought it might have been terrible for visitors.

For some reason, that memory just really sticks with me from our trip. Just how happy that girl was to know we enjoyed our time in Russia. It was heartwarming!


St. Petersburg Touring, Part 1 (Russia 2014 Trip Report)

This entry is part 19 of 23 in the series Russia 2014 Trip Report

 

For our time in St. Petersburg, we hired a private guide for a two-day tour. Sites in St. Petersburg seemed incredibly spaced apart, and even though we had some sticker shock at the price of private tours, it ended up being a fantastic way to see the city and maximize our time (meaning no getting lost!). Plus, our tour guide was literally the BEST TOUR GUIDE that I’ve ever had. Ever. In any country. Of all times. Message me if you’re looking for private tour guides in St. Petersburg, and I’ll provide you the information!

Our tour started with some picturesque stops along the very frozen Neva River! The Neva River is the river that flows throughout St. Petersburg and also creates stunning canals, earning St. Petersburg the nickname “Venice of the North.”

 

Along the Neva River in St. Petersburg

Frozen Neva River in St. Petersburg

Across the River, we could see St. Isaac’s Cathedral:

St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg, as seen from across the Neva River

As well as the Hermitage, a HUGE art museum that we visited the next day.

Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg, as seen from across the Neva River

Our guide told us of a local legend about this huge ball at the bottom of the ramp that leads to the Neva River. If you push it into the river, you’ll have amazing luck and love for the rest of your life. Apparently it’s customary for newlyweds to come here and try to push the ball and then drink some champagne

Along the Neva River

Ken tried to push the ball, but didn’t have any luck pushing into the river. Thank goodness, because that really does sound like something you could get arrested for. 🙂

Ken tries to push huge stone ball into Neva River Path leading to river bank

We also saw this old lighthouse nearby.

Old lighthouse on Neva River

One of the stranger things that our guide pointed out was this green building (partially pictured). Our guide told us that this museum had an exhibit of malformed dead babies. So there’s that. Apparently it has been there for several centuries. I’m hoping there was something lost in translation and that it is more of a medical research facility than an actual museum? I’m not sure, and to be frank, I’m afraid to Google it!

Strange museum in St. Petersburg

By the way, our guide pointed out that buildings in St. Petersburg are so “colorful” because the weather is so gray and drab for much of the year!

 

St. Peter and Paul Fortress

We got back in the guide’s van and then drove to the St. Peter and Paul Fortress. We had actually been able to see it from our stop with the giant ball!

St. Peter and Paul Fortress from across the Neva River Outside the St. Peter and Paul Fortress Outside the St. Peter and Paul Fortress

Inside the church, our guide showed us a lineage charge of Russian Czars before showing us the tombs where many of them were buried.

Lineage charge in the St. Peter and Paul Fortress Inside St. Peter and Paul Fortress Inside St. Peter and Paul Fortress Inside St. Peter and Paul Fortress Inside St. Peter and Paul Fortress Inside St. Peter and Paul Fortress Inside St. Peter and Paul Fortress

Here are the tombs of, among others, Peter the Great and Catherine the Great.

Tombs of Peter the Great and Catherine the Great in St. Peter and Paul Fortess

Then we walked around the grounds of the fortress for a while.

Grounds of the St. Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, Russia Grounds of the St. Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, Russia Grounds of the St. Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Catherine Palace

Afterwards, the guide took us on the 40 minute drive to Catherine Palace, on the outskirts of St. Petersburg.

Catherine Palace was stunning. It served as the Winter Palace for Russian royalty.

Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg

Outside Catherine Palace Outside Catherine Palace, as seen in winter

The grounds were stunning, but many of the statues on display are covered by those metal boxes to protect them in winter.

Grounds of St. Catherine Palace

We probably spent 3–4 hours inside Catherine Palace. Our guide gave us such amazing and detailed information for each room.

Inside Catherine Palace Inside Catherine Palace Inside Catherine Palace Inside Catherine Palace

One of the most stunning rooms was the ballroom. The ballroom contained wooden carvings all along the perimeter of the room, which are covered with gold leaf. The floors were made of wood from Russian forests.

Ballroom at Catherine Palace Ballroom at Catherine Palace Wooden floors in ballroom at Catherine Palace Ballroom at Catherine Palace Ballroom at Catherine Palace

We continued and moved on through other rooms in Catherine Palace.

At some point, a Russian Tsar visited Holland and was inspired by their blue and white pottery. So he commissioned stoves and fireplaces to be made of this pottery throughout the palace

Blue and white dutch pottery in Catherine Palace

And here is a room that would have served as a kind of h’orderves room before people would enter the ballroom.

Small dining room before ballroom

Clocks were numerous and intricate throughout palaces in St. Petersburg.

Clocks in Catherine Palace

Now is a good time to point out that Catherine Palace was intentionally destroyed by the Germans in World War II. Here’s a painting of Catherine Palace after the Siege of Leningrad.

Painting of Catherine Palace after the Siege of Leningrad

Many of the artifacts inside the Palace were salvaged prior to the attacks, but many were destroyed, including much of the physical structure. Many of the rooms in my pictures have actually been fully restored since World War II. There are still, sadly, many rooms that have not been completely restored, like these:

Un-restored rooms in Catherine Palace Un-restored rooms in Catherine Palace Un-restored rooms in Catherine Palace

But, there were only a few. The remaining rooms we saw had been fully restored.

Ceiling with portraits in Catherine Palace Rooms in Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia Rooms in Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia Rooms in Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia Rooms in Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia

Apparently there are other buildings on the grounds of Catherine Palace that you can visit, but they are closed in the winter. Oh well, just an excuse to have to go back to St. Petersburg again! Summer Scandanavian cruise anybody?

 

Pavlovsk Palace

After Catherine Palace, our guide drove about 10 minutes to Pavlovsk Palace, a residence built by Paul II of Russia.

Outside Pavlovsk Palace inside St. Petersburg Outside Pavlovsk Palace inside St. Petersburg

It was smaller than Catherine Palace, but we still walked around for quite a bit.

Like Catherine Palace, Pavlovsk Palace was also destryoed by the Germans during World War II. Many of the rooms have been restored or are still under restoration

Photograph of destroyed Pavlovsk Palace after World War II Inside Pavlovsk Palace View of Palace grounds from inside Library inside Pavlovsk Palace Library inside Pavlovsk Palace Inside Pavlovsk Palace Inside Pavlovsk Palace Inside Pavlovsk Palace Inside Pavlovsk Palace Inside Pavlovsk Palace Inside Pavlovsk Palace Inside Pavlovsk Palace Inside Pavlovsk Palace Inside Pavlovsk Palace Inside Pavlovsk Palace Inside Pavlovsk Palace Inside Pavlovsk Palace Inside Pavlovsk Palace

Afterwards, we walked around the grounds of the palace, which were stunning!

Grounds of Pavlovsk Palace Grounds of Pavlovsk Palace Grounds of Pavlovsk Palace

The rear of the palace has paintings that make it look like it views the inside. I did a double take!

Rear of Pavlovsk Palace Rear of Pavlovsk Palace

That was it for our first full day of touring in St. Petersburg. We had been on our feet almost the entire day, and were looking forward to resting our legs at the hotel for the rest of the evening. We did an evening walk around the hotel, but didn’t even take our cameras with us, we were so spent! We’d be up early the next morning for another full day!