Europe 2007 was wrapped around a visit to Hayden and Elisse in their new home of Barcelona and a tour of Russia.
Sos del Rey Catolico, Spain
Our first day of driving took us to Montserrat with its wierd rocks and the shrine of Mare de Deu de Montserrat (the black virgin and child).
Then through some amazing country in the lower Pyranees. It was hard for Bruce, driving late in the day into the sun, but we drove through forests, grassy plains, crops and countless small villages, all with a castle.
Our first stop was the paradore of Sos del Rey Catolico, an old monastery.
Great accomodation on a hilltop, fantastic sunset – but the wind! No wonder we were surrounded by wind turbines, we saw hundreds of them.
Interesting dinner, Bruce chose the local speciality of breadcrumbs and egg!
To Lerma, Spain
We left Sos del Rey Catolico and travelled through wine growing country. Bought petrol and the world’s worst sandwiches, then stopped off at Burgos to see the Gothic Cathedral and eat an egg thing.
Arrived in Lerma late afternoon, walked around town, and dinner in a quaint restaurant.
We explored Lerma, including a market outside the Ducal Palace, then drove a few kilometres, visiting Covarrubias for a yummy lunch, the ruins of the San Pedro de Arlanza monastery (under restoration – another Paradore?) and then Santo Domingo de Silos for a disappointing Gregorian chant.
La Granja, Spain
After navigating the one way streets of Madrid, locating the hotel and dumping the car, we hit the sightseeing trail.
We lunched in Plaza Mayor and walked a little, interspersed with some serious (unrecorded) shopping.
Elisse had organised seats to the National Orchestra of Spain’s first concert of the season, in the old abattoirs, accompanied by out of synch fireworks. Great evening.
St Petersburg, Russia
St Petersburg, Russia
First full day in St Petersburg included a bus tour of the main sights – a tour past the St Petersburg State University to Birzhevoy Place with the twin lighthouses, then to the St Peter & Paul Fortress and Cathedral, St Catherine’s convent and some shopping.
We then visited the Hermitage museum to see “the best of the best” – magnificent rooms and a huge art collection.
St Petersburg and Peterhof, Russia
St Petersburg, Russia
A free morning. After a decent sleep-in and a rush to breakfast before it finished, we walked… Across Dvortsovty Most to the Rostral Columns (lighthouses) and then to Gorkovskaya to see a Russian part of St Petersburg, past the zoo to the Music Hall. From there, over Troitskiy Most, past the Marble Palace back to the Hermitage Museum where we went through the Antiquities (Egypt, Greece and Rome).
Back to the hotel to meet our tour guide for a tour through St Isaac’s Cathedral and on to a Russian folk theatre.
St Petersburg and Novgorod, Russia
A very busy day. We left St Petersburg to tour Tsarskoye Selo (aka Pushkin) and the Catherine Palace, a truely baroque experience, enhanced by magnificent gardens.
From there we drove to Novgorod, an ancient Russian capital, where we visited a Yuriev Monastry, Museum of Wooden Architecture (and more weddings) then to the city centre – Kremlin, Cathedral, monuments…
The day ended with an amazing dinner (stroganoffish) in a Kremlin tower, where another party thoroughly entertained us with birthday celebrations including a folk band and dancing.
The overnight “first-class” 2-berth sleeping compartment to Moscow was interesting. Sheets sewn the wrong way, square wheels and unopenable windows. Ahhh, only in Russia!
We arrived very early in the morning by train from St Petersburg and Novgorod.
Disappointingly it was raining and the Red Square was closed – seemed like a bad start.
Our first stop was to the see St Basils, then to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and the old stone bridge and on to the Novodevichy Convent and Cemetery.
After lunch we toured the city, saw Moscow from Sparrow Hill and then to the Tretyakov Gallery, which was founded by Pavel Tretyakov, a wealthy patron of the arts who donated a large private collection to the city. Our last sightseeing was the Luzhkov Bridge – popular with tourist and wedding parties.
In the evening, Bruce & I walked down Tverskaya street to Red Square.
Our second day in Moscow started on the underground. The stations are amazing, highly decorated and very grit free, compared to others we have seen.
Lunch was in the massive Okhotny Ryad Shopping Mall – four storeys underground.
Then to the Kremlin, where we visited the churches and the armoury, between sunshine and rain showers.
More underground, to the Verniasazh (Flea) Market for some shopping bargins – Bruce was tempted to buy a copy, antique Leica camera.
The day finished with a farewell dinner for most of the 16 – only 4 of us are continuing on the Golden Ring tour.
Vladimir and Suzdal, Russia
First day on the Golden Ring tour. A very wet stop in Vladimir, where we saw the Assumption Cathedral and a glass art gallery. Lunch was planned in a local Ukraine restaurant, but the electricity was out, so we moved to Suzdal for a very late lunch.
In Suzdal the rain stopped and we had some time to explore the town, the shopping centre and local streets.
Dinner was in the resort, and very friendly.
Suzdal and Kostroma, Russia
Day 2 out of Moscow was still grey. We spent the morning sightseeing in Suzdal – monastery and wooden village and had lunch at a local home – enough to feed an army!
It was a long drive to Kostroma, where our accommodation was a Soviet style hotel with the most amazing red-and-white bathroom.
At last, I got to see the mighty River Volga, the river of the boatmen and the music that my dad loved. This wide river freezes solid in winter – amazing!
Kostroma and Yaroslavl, Russia
Another day on the mighty Volga River – more churches and monastries. By now we are experts in Russian Orthodox Churches and Cathedrals (count the domes), iconostasis and the story of Jesus and the history of the church that they tell, as well as Russian weddings.
Yaroslavl, Rostov and Sergiev Posad, Russia
We had struggled our whole trip in Russia with disappointing grey, gloomy and damp weather. Yesterday the sun had shone, but not today. A boat trip on Lake Nero didn’t eventuate and a vicious dog frightened us from its shores.
Undaunted, we continued on to find sunshine and golden domes in Sergiev Posad.
Sergiev Posad and Moscow, Russia
Last day on tour and the sun shone. We painted a Russian Doll and visited the amazing Trinity Monastery of St Sergius where a feast day brought huge crowds. After a lunch of more beef stroganoff, we shopped in the local tourist market before heading back to Moscow.
In contrast to the grey, limited visit to Red Square they were in the last stages of dismantelling the military tatoo and we were able to see St Basil’s from all angles.
Following an expensive apperitive in Red Square we had a final dinner in Moscow (another story) and saw the city at night.
Prague, Czech Republic
Left Moscow early on Saturday morning and flew to Prague via Kiev, where we celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary.
Hotel Palace was fantastic, and we dined there in the evening – typical eastern fare of duck, red and white cabbage and local wines.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is tourism at its best and a lovely change from Russia.
The sun shone as we explored the city, firstly on a canned bus tour to get our bearings, then on foot.
We walked from Wenceslas Square to the Vltava River, discovered Charles Bridge which was overrun by tourists and stalls and musicians.
We climbed the hill to the Palace, refreshed ourselves with wine and beer and then climbed the tower of St Vitus.
Day ended with a wurst in the square and dinner in the Old Town.
Prague, Czech Republic
Another sunny, warm day in Prague. We explored the radio tower and walked through the park. Lunch by the river and a delicious meal in the Old Town before wandering down to the river for the night lights.
Prague, Czech Republic to Warsaw, Poland
We started our day with a sunshine visit to the Charles Bridge – before the traders and musicians invaded it. There were a few tourists, but only the serious photographer types.
A long day on the train to Warsaw.
Finding your way around a new city late in the evening, with hunger pangs, is always fun, but we were struck by the beautiful buildings between the old town and our hotel.
A grey day in Warsaw started at a coffee cafe, fantastic coffee and croissants. Then explore the old town and enjoy strudel and wine.
A tour of Warwsaw and then explore the shops and bars before dinner.
A visit to the palace and the posters museum – quite an adventure on public transport on our own.
Then to the Warsaw Rising museum, which was very confronting. The Germans tried very hard to destroy Warsaw (no photos here).
After an amazing dinner in the old town, we boarded an overnight train to Vienna. Sadly, no cafe/bar on the train.
Our last day! We arrive by train in the early morning – to rain. We dried out in the Art Gallery and saw some wonderful Bruegel, then found sunshine, wine and cakes.
In preparation for the next 30 hours of plane travel, we walked and walked and walked.
Finished our holiday in a wonderful bar near our hotel and a true Vienna Schnitzel in a local restaurant.