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2004 - 5
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Part Five: Russia and Estonia.

Tallin.

St Petersburg (21st July)

We entered the harbour area by the route proposed in The Baltic Pilot. From Kronshtadt along the 12 mile Morskoy (sea) Kanal then on through the harbour, past dozens of cranes in massive cargo handling areas all of which looked abandoned and the product of better times, then into the Bol�shaya Neva. Here the buoys are followed around a shallow area to the customs quay, just beyond which is the Central River Yacht Club.

Our first trip ashore meant passing through customs so we joined a queue of some 200+ people from 2 cruise liners which had just docked. Interestingly they didn�t have visas so were each given a bright red tour visa card but they had to stay in the tour group. We three were checked and stamped and then we had the freedom of the city.

From the yacht club it�s a 5km walk through the old industrial areas of the city, sadly all now closed, very tatty and a little bit frightening. We had a map of the city but navigation was really difficult because stupidly the map was in English and so used a mere 26 letters to construct street names, whereas the actual Russian signs used 33 and were pretty unreadable so totally failing to match our map. Imagine a word in upper case letters having a backwards facing 3 or a lower case b in the middle and then a random smattering of Greek letters hmmmm. We found the main road and then it all seemed less intimidating, we just needed to ignore street names.

St Petersburg is a city of real contrasts, splendid opulent palaces, and churches co-exist next to run down apartment blocks albeit they are housed in what once where splendid buildings. The roads have poor surfaces but in some places are six lanes wide, very busy and full of pollution as non of the vehicles have catalytic converters. Many of the vehicles are old and rusting, see the gallery photograph of one such taxi.

Yes we made it, as you can see here.

Winter Palace & Hermitage Museum

When we visited the palace we had never seen so many riches and opulence in one building, too much to take in in one visit. The cathedrals and churches we visited were breath talking in there splendour. A horizon full of spires and domes covered in gold leaf, so many riches and yet on every corner was also a reminder, in some form, of the poverty that exists in the city.

Yes we made it, as you can see here.
   Our son David has written the following about St Petersburg:

I have always wanted to visit Russia, after learning the language doing a college course. So I was very excited about a month holiday aboard Mithril and the chance see St Petersburg. Once we had lined up for 30 mins and been through a very organised and professional passport control we emerged into a sunny industrial St. Petersburg.

The first challenge was where is the city centre, after looking at the map turning it upside down a few times, putting it away we set off down the busiest road. It was a very hot day resulting in constant smell of car fumes all the way into the city. It was amazing , round every corner was something interesting, remains of old industry or an old derelict church and the ever present clapped out Lada.

It was a long walk into town, but once we found the river Neva we were nearly there. Once in the centre the architecture takes you by surprise, virtually every building is a masterpiece. We had our usual mid-morning coffee and then headed for the Hermitage museum.

I must add, that in each room was a security guard, well actually a Russian grandmother sat poised to shout at anyone who stepped out of line. You could not look them in the eye.

We also visited the Winter Palace, again, amazing decadence, gold leaf, silk wallpaper, crystal chandeliers and beautiful parquet flooring we could actually walk on. Amazing paintings and furniture. Altogether quite breathtaking.

Once outside we decided to take a walk through the city to see the sites. We ambled down Nevski Prospect, the main street, until we came to what seemed to be a war memorial full of columns. We walked round it and then realised that it was the main cathedral. We also saw the most amazing building The Church of the Spilled Blood. It is red brick but has elaborate bright coloured domes. It reminds me of a smaller version of Gaudi�s Cathedral in Barcelona. Inside is even more stunning, all the internal walls are made up of mosaic. 7,000 sq m of minute tiled pictures of the most unusual religious images. It is absolutely amazing. I can not imagine the time it took to complete these.

We ended the day with a Russian nesting doll shopping frenzy. An amazing day in a amazing city.

Day 2 we decided to spend the day just outside St. Petersburg and visit the famous Summer Palace, at Peterhoff. It is about an hour outside of St. Petersburg. The summer palace is where the Russian royalty would spend their summer, a bit like the Queen and Balmoral. The bus journey was fascinating it took us on a transect right through the centre, industrial areas, residential area and the suburbs. We had a guide on the bus who explained all the changes that had taken place over the last 30 years. A lot of the central part of St. Petersburg was destroyed during the second world war, and these areas have been left as parkland. Under communist rule they encouraged new housing to be built out of town, so there are lots of massive communities of flats. In the countryside you drive past derelict palaces, and grand buildings that are now abandoned.

   Peterhoff Palace

This palace is another amazing place, each room awash with historical artefacts, elaborate pictures, chandeliers and furniture. Again a show of wealth and power. What made the place special for me were the gardens, full of wonderful fountains inspired by Peter the Greats travels through Europe and all powered by gravity.

Late afternoon, on our way back to St Petersburg, we had a traditional Russian meal in a reconstructed wooden Russian village served in heavy hand made pottery.

Yes we made it, as you can see here.
One of David's photos.
One of David's photos.

Hanko (24th July)

We had another rest day after the exhausting trip to Russia and we changed the engine and gearbox oil. And later, for the princely sum of 1 Euro, we went up the water tower to see the splendid high level views over the harbour, the marina and the archipelago. Naturally we took a few photos.

Tallin.

Estonia

Tallinn (26th July, 64 miles from Hanko)

We had an early start, leaving the marina at 0615, and followed the 4 leads out to sea, it was then 50 miles straight to Tallinn.

The wind was light but enough for us to sail at over 5 knots on a fine reach until about 15 miles from Tallinn then the wind died. Redgrave our Hydrovane had handled the steering up to this point. David�s first off-shore sail, across the Gulf of Finland, couldn�t have been much better. There was little harbour traffic but we adhered to the Traffic Separation Scheme rules, in case the locals were as ruthless as the Germans are said to be over infringing local TSS rules.

We arrived at Tallinn and tied up at the customs berth at about 1730. Papers and passports they said. Passports, no trouble but what papers? It seemed we needed exit papers from Finland. Now in truth we�ve had no new papers since leaving Sassnitz in Germany, thinking that as we were still in an EC country we were OK. Anyway they looked at the Sassnitz one and said OK. They stamped one of our pre-printed crew lists and told us to clear out properly before we left.

We tied up in the rather small but nice guest harbour in front of the yacht club. The yacht harbour is at Pirita about 6km from the centre of Tallinn. The whole harbour complex, sports facilities and hotel were built for the 1980 Moscow Olympics and it must have been splendid then, as even now they are impressive. The showers facilities where great, huge changing and lockers rooms big enough to accommodate 50 people at a time, they had about 50 such rooms. The harbour loo block was a little less impressive the tiles which must have been the original ones were badly in need of replacing.

Tallin.

On our first day into Tallinn the weather was really hot. The old walled town is wonderful, particularly in the morning sun, its a vast array of original well maintained houses dating from the Hanseatic period and even earlier. All the rooves are a deep red and contrast beautifully with the grey walls and towers. You can see this from the picture strip below, taken from the top of a church tower - with only 320 steps to the top - phew.

Tallin. Tallin. Tallin. Tallin.
July's figures
Distance logged. 399
Hours at Sea. 80
Engine Hours. 32
Average distance per day. 44

Winding cobbled streets with lovely handicrafts, felt work, stained glass, hand knits in cotton and linen, amber and much more. Lovely town square where you can sit at pavement restaurants/bars and watch the world go by. For us this is the most impressive of all the Hanseatic towns we have visited. Then followed a day of such torrential rain that we stayed on board for the whole day. The newspapers later showed 46mm had fallen and although 23mm fell the following day we ignored it and ventured out to visit a ruined convent, the impressive botanical gardens complete with tropical houses and the TV tower. The tower was 314m tall and we where able to take the lift to 170m where there was a viewing platform and a restaurant.

The next day we ventured out into yet more rain to visit Tallinn where even the market was operating but we preferred to look around the large department stores to doge the rain. The stores equal anything that England has to offer. Prices are slightly lower than England so we bought some speakers to improve the sound whilst we watch DVD�s. We are told prices are slowly rising and locals expect them to rise even more now that they have joined the EU. Eating out in Estonia; we got very good quality and variety for little money.

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