Sunday, July 22, 2012

July 22, 2012 St. Petersburg

July 21, 2012             St. Petersburg

Our last day…

Just in case you're nervous about valuables, the hotel provides a safe in the room.

If you're still nervous, you can just bring it with you for the day..

The strategy to skip the Palace for the synagogue was a good one.  We slept late(r) with a 10 am departure and headed straight to the synagogue.  It is gorgeous, built in the Moorish style, undamaged by WWII, and still an active synagogue with about 1,300 worshippers on the High Holidays.

We were met by the synagogue’s cantor, who offered us the history of the building and of the community.  Later, Evi convinced him to sing a few songs for us.

Under the chuppah...again..

Even though we doubt great great great grandmother Toba Rice was born in St. Petersburg (only one source places her birth here while other more convincing sources place her birth in Ukraine), we taped for the movie just in case…

We hopped back on the bus for the short ride to see the place where Rasputin was murdered.  I never really knew the story but learned it today.  It’s intriguing and for the Rasputin afficianados in the group, it was interesting to retrace his exact footsteps as he was being murdered for posing a political threat to the ruling families of Russia.

The theme of stolen Jewish art continued to reverberate through the group.  Evie pressed our tour guide, once again, on the question, letting her know that it wasn’t German art but Jewish art that was taken by the Soviets.  Our guide didn’t flinch.  She recounted how many Soviets were killed by the Germans, concluding that anything the Soviets stole from the Germans was theirs to keep.  Evie pushed back kindly, explaining that the art belonged to fellow victims of Nazism and not to those who killed Soviets.  Nyet.  When Evie told her that we were a Jewish group and interested, then, in the synagogue and in questions such as these, she asked why we didn’t just get a Jewish guide.

Evie and I don’t believe the guide was anti-Semitic.  We just think she’s ignorant and that her Soviet, er Russian, perspective is blinding her to seeing other perspectives.  That said, I believe all of us fail on this standard so I think we can take it as a mirror for ourselves.

From the Rasputin tour, we headed to the Church of the Spilled Blood, one of the largest Russian Orthodox churches in the city.  We saw the spot where Alexander was murdered (hence the name of the church) then said goodbye to our guide.

We ventured next to an open air souvenir market which was the perfect place to do last minute shopping (and no we didn’t get you anything.  Sorry.)  OK, not really sorry but we gave up on getting gifts for all our friends many trips ago J 

Shayna has been in search of a Beatles Russian doll.  FINALLY, we found one in this market.  Success.

They had many musicians, including Lady Ga Ga.

If they had one for Springsteen, we would have bought it for Lezak.

If they had Cal Bears, I would have bought it. 

We walked to our new favorite food spot, a cafeteria that good, fast, and so much less expensive than any restaurant.

Walking back to the hotel...  outdoor market...

After a few hours resting and packing back at the hotel, Shayna and I met for one last taping.  I had asked her a bunch of questions the night before we left about her anticipation of the trip.  This afternoon, I asked her the same questions, now that the trip is over.  Some of it may make the bat mitzvah video though most of it will be for her own personal DVD of the experience to remember as she gets older.

While we were told we would have to change rooms for this last night, it turns out that we could stay, which made the afternoon more relaxing. 

In the evening, we joined the group for a Russian dance and singing tourist show.  Marci and Shayna took the 45 minute walk while Rebecca and I joined the rest of the group in taxis.

The palace for the show..

Shayna reviewed it well: a good show even if it was touristy.

I enjoyed the show though at one moment did have some concerns for Tevye and Anatevka.

Fortunately, the dance ended without any trouble.  We don’t like trouble.

The show ended at 8:30 pm and since we hadn’t had dinner, we found another cafeteria-style restaurant for dinner. 

On the way back to the hotel, we took a detour and boarded a canal boat for a one-hour scenic cruise around St. Petersburg, complete with live Russian language guiding.   We basically made up our own commentary while we enjoyed an 11 pm sunset.

Captain on the right; first mate barely visible on the left side (top of his head).  Why is he barely visible?

He's playing video games...  We're in good hands..

Me on a jet ski?  Not quite.

fireworks at the end...

We reflected more on the trip, tried to stay warm as the weather dropped into the 50s with lots of cold wind.  What a difference from a month ago when we started in the heat wave.

It was midnight, again, before we got the girls to sleep.  Fortunately, our pick up for the airport isn’t until 11:30 am so we told the girls they could sleep as late as they wanted.

Trivia question: How many pictures did Shayna take on the trip?

Give your answer on one of our fb updates for the blog day and the winner will get a roll of 100 ASA color print film from Kodak to use on YOUR next trip.

Trivia answer from yesterday:  "languages of lamb" is lamb tongue. Good thing I asked (and gesticulated with my tongue to confirm).  If you think about it, I guess it makes some sense..

It’s 1:30 am.  Gotta get this blog page up before sleep…  It’s just no fun to blog about Russia from San Rafael. 

What a fabulous journey its big and we thank you for indulging us by reading the blog. 

We are creating a special journey book for Shayna as a keepsake.  It will contain this blog as well as her favorite 100 photos she took on the trip (that’s a least 100 photos).

On that note, and if you are inclined, Shayna’s email is:  Please share with her your thoughts and reflections about her journey.  I’d love to incorporate them into her keepsake book.

We have been invited already to lecture on this trip at the Jewish Community Library sometime in the Fall.  You are all invited and I’ll put details up on fb.

We may also host a parlor meeting for Shayna to tell you about the trip and then solicit donations from anyone interested in helping her keep the cemeteries she visited in decent condition.

In the meantime, we head back to San Rafael tomorrow and look forward to seeing many of you in the weeks and months to come…

Until the next adventure….

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