Dancing with the Czars

The Amber Room in Catherine's Palace outside of St. Petersburg, Russia
While on my recent Baltic Cruise on Regent Seven Seas, my husband and I chose a very special shore excursion in St Petersburg that I have to share!
An Imperial Evening of the Czars was one amazing evening. We were taken from the ship in St. Petersburg to the town of Pushkin and Catherine's Palace (aka Summer Palace). We arrived in style with everyone was dressed to the hilt in long gowns and tuxedos, even a kilt! We were shown the carriages & sleds from days gone by; they really do look like they are straight out of a Cinderella scene! I have noticed by now there is nothing richer than Russian royalty!
After viewing these fabulous carriages and sleds, we walked up to the palace where we were met by a military band in full regalia, playing beautifully American classics, along with Laura's Theme (from Dr. Zhivago). We entered the palace, the red carpet and the Royal Guards were right there as if we were visiting royalty.
The palace was empty from the day's tourists, and our group had it all to ourselves! We were guided through the Royal Guards into this beautiful enchanted place. Of course, no visit to Catherine's Palace is complete without the Amber Room, which was stolen by the Nazi's in WWII and never found. It has been reconstructed since then, and is so elaborate you just sigh! The Amber Room with its history may be one of the most spectacular rooms you will ever see, I took this panorama of it (above - and yes, normally pictures are not allowed)!
Continuing on through this palace we ended up in the fabulous ballroom, which was quite exquisite. Gold everywhere. We were greeted with a glass of Champagne, and a string quartet playing as we assembled into the seats set up for us. After a few minutes listening to the lovely music, there was a [staged] introduction to the Queen. But the reception was such fun to watch. Then two dancers entered in full costume, who whirled and twirled to our delight. We were led outside to the front of the palace, where the military band was playing for us. As we listened, out of nowhere, clip clop clip clop! come the dancers in one of the antique carriages pulled by two horses!  They danced for us and bid us a good evening.
From the Palace we went to a Russian restaurant, where we were served traditional Russian cuisine, complete with wine and vodka on ice at each table. We made new friends, we had a few [okay, several]  drinks and enjoyed delicious food. We were serenaded by musicians playing guitar, balalaika, a singer and percussion. They were so much fun. I jumped up and played percussion with them. What an evening!
We returned to the ship after this romantic evening, more in love with each other and with our Russian hosts. I am sure I will return again to Russia; each time I do, I find more and more things to love about this interesting, historical and beautiful country.