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St Petersburg Collection 2012 Celebratory Tour

Our 2012 Tour saw the start of the celebrations for the Quadcentenary of the Romanovs. The guests of this year’s tour were fortunate to be part of history when our Chairman, Philip Birkenstein, presented the Romanov Quadricentenary Egg creation by Theo Fabergé in Catherine’s Palace. This attracted much interest from mass media, museum curators and officials.

The Romanov Quadricentenary Egg with 18 miniature decorations, celebrating the 18 Romanov Tsars, is created in solid sterling silver with sapphire blue royal guilloché enamel and hard gold plated with 24 carat gold. The finial of the Egg is the double-headed Romanov eagle, but in fact a triple-headed eagle, so that from which ever angled viewed the double-headed eagle is visible. The base, ornamentally turned on Theo Fabergé’s Holtzapfel lathe from 1860, again celebrates the 18 Romanov Tsars with 18 deep cuts and covered with pure 24 carat gold.

The surprise within, the Romanov Griffen in sterling silver and 24 carat gold. The Griffen with sapphire eyes can be removed and displayed outside of the Egg.

Some of our guests have kindly written about their experiences during the tour this year. We have also included a selection of their photos. We hope, like us, you will enjoy reading these accounts and looking at some of the stunning pictures.

I am especially thrilled to have participated in the 2012 St Petersburg Collection Celebratory Tour, aptly led by the Collection’s Chairman, Philip Birkenstein – July 21 to July 28, 2012.

We formed a small group – four Australians (David, Jan, John and Nola) and four Americans (Charles, Emily, Cassie and Travis); our number proved to be advantageous, particularly in terms of getting out and about and achieving the hectic schedule prepared.

From the outset the Tour was handled professionally, with dignity, lots of happiness and humour, whilst at the same time accommodating each of our idiosyncrasies.

Particular thanks is extended to our main guide, Frieda. Her wealth of knowledge and quiet disposition was something to behold. Nina, my thanks for all your work behind the scenes; and Margarita, Chairperson of the St Petersburg Association for International Cooperation for ably assisting at our formal functions. Sergei, our driver was very courteous and willing. My thanks for his special trip to take Jan and me shopping.

The Astoria Hotel accommodation was relaxed and extremely comfortable and nothing was too much trouble for the staff. They were a joy!

I especially appreciated our day visiting Peterhof, the Pavilion, the Grand Palace, the Grotto Pavilion and the fountains; what an experience to be able to go into the bowels of the fountain mechanisms! Great fun, not dampened by the rain or the fountain sprays.

Our visit to the Tsarskoye Selo (Czars Summer Palace) and being an integral part of the presentation of the Romanov Quadricentary Egg by the St Petersburg Collection was amazing. We were included, acknowledged and introduced to the receivers of the Collection’s gift and spent considerable time joining in the excitement with officials and media alike.

I cannot begin to share with readers the amazing places we were privileged to visit, but a sample for you to gain an insight into our tour were the canals, St Peter and Paul Fortress, Monplaisir Gardens at Catherine’s House, the Hermitage Museum, the Russian Museum, Alexander Palace, St Isaac’s Cathedral, and Marlinsky Palace St Petersburg Parliament, where we shared dialogue with Members of the St Petersburg Legislative Assembly.

The jewel in the crown was our black tie dinner and concert in Catherine Palace, Tsarskoye Selo. We were entertained firstly by Leonid Nalchadgi from the Musorgsky Musical College, and then by two young but extremely accomplished artists, Natalia Michaleva – Opera Singer and Andrej Gubin – Pianist. Thank you all – a most befitting end to our wonderful, inspirational and exciting tour of St Petersburg.

I recommend the St Petersburg Collection Tour to any person considering visiting this exceptional place immersed in history.

— Tour Participant – Nola Smart, Kalamunda, Western Australia

Our trip to St. Petersburg, Russia, with the St. Petersburg Collection, was the first international vacation for my husband and me. I had been to St. Petersburg once before with a cruise line, and the experiences were night and day. The St. Petersburg Collection team succeeded in making us feel important and welcome to every venue on the itinerary – from delicious restaurants and exclusive tours to tea in Catherine’s Palace. Of course, one of the highlights was being a part of the unveiling of the Quadricentenary Egg designed by Theo Fabergé.  Philip Birkenstein and his associates in St. Petersburg should be commended on a very thoughtful, pleasant, and smooth journey through some of the magical and opulent sites in this Russian city.

— Cassie Hotchkiss

It was with some apprehension that David and I arrived into St Petersburg’s Pulkova Airport. During the descent we’d been issued with documents to complete and warned that mistakes or corrections would not be tolerated. Once inside the bustling, bare concrete terminal and surrounded by seemingly stern officials and unfamiliar language, I felt relieved and grateful that we were in the care of a vastly experienced tour leader Philip Berkenstein. I became even more relaxed when we met our American tour companions and were welcomed by our guides Frieda and Nina, and Margarita, Chairperson of the St Petersburg Association for International Cooperation. As well our driver Sergei was waiting to help with the luggage and bus us to our hotel.

The unembellished façade of the Astoria Hotel gave no clue as to what we would be treated to once we stepped inside. Its elegant interior, courteous and friendly staff, spacious well-appointed rooms and central
location opposite the magnificent golden domed St Isaac’s cathedral made it the perfect choice of accommodation. We had breakfast there each morning and especially enjoyed dropping large dollops of caviar on to our gently poached eggs.

Each day the personable Philip and Frieda escorted us on a new adventure, sometimes with the welcome additions of Nina and Margarita. Sergei drove us from site to site in a comfortable mini bus while Frieda coached us in useful Russian expressions and outlined the day’s program. At each stop Frieda took us on a journey of discovery and delight, escorting us through the magnificent palaces of the czars, glorious galleries and cathedrals and the exquisite, lush formal gardens of St Petersburg,. Her knowledge of history, art and Russian culture knew no bounds and while after several hours some of us flagged mentally and physically, she never seemed to tire of walking and talking. On one of our visits to Tsarskoye Selo we were thrilled to see Philip presenting Theo Fabergé’s Romanov Quadricentenary Egg to the museum.

Each day we had generous lunches and dinners at different restaurants and had the opportunity to taste a range of Russian dishes. Most meals began with a light salad which could include greens, dried fruit and a scrumptious dressing. This starter was often followed by soup and poultry or fish, the most common being sturgeon and sea bass, and accompanied by delicious tiny rolls filled with fried cabbage. Ice cream or a deep fried dessert was rarely passed up by any of us.

While most evenings were spent discussing the day’s activities and aspects of life in modern day Russia two were taken up with special events. We enjoyed the ballet Don Quixote at the beautiful intimate Mikhailovsky Theatre. On our final night we attended a black tie dinner in a pavilion in the grounds of the splendid Catherine Palace and were treated not only to a fabulous meal but also to memorable and moving performances by a very talented young pianist Andrej Gubin and an equally accomplished opera singer Natalia Michaleva. This was certainly a night to remember.

David and I loved the 2012 St Peterburg Collection Celebratory Tour. At all times we felt safe and well cared for and we learned a great deal about Russian history, art and culture. Hopefully our fond memories of our first visit to Russia means that it won’t be our last.

— Jan Lord

Our tour to St Petersburg in 2013 will celebrate the 400th Anniversary of the Romanovs. To mark this special occasion we will be visiting many new attractions not previously seen on our tours. Places are filling fast – don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to join us.

Live like a Tsar or Tsarina for the Day !

Live like a Tsar or Tsarina for the Day !


First Impressions

First Impressions


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