Sunday, May 4, 2014

Travel Back in Time in Russia

Russia has been celebrating several holidays this week and next, so it has been slower in the office and in the field. As you can see from the picture I rented a local tank to take you on several journeys through the towns of Vyborg and Pushkin this week. Our missionaries are working very hard to meet new people and increase the pool of people they teach. Please keep them in your prayers as we take this journey together. 

First Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Church  in Russia, Vyborg, Russia
The church employees in St. Petersburg had Thursday and Friday off so it was very quiet in the office and we didn't receive any mail.  Kathy has been active setting up the Mother's Day calls with the office elders so all the missionaries can talk with their mothers on this special day!  
Kathy and I remember how awesome it was to talk with our missionaries on Mother's Dayand I know the missionaries in St. Petersburg are excited to talk with their families. They get to e-mail once a week, but only get to call home twice per year on Mother's Day and Christmas. The weather in St. Petersburg was colder and even snowed a little this week. 

The weather didn't dampen our enthusiasm and we were still able to slip out and visit Vyborg on Wednesday and then Pushkin on Saturday. As you can see from the pictures it was an amazing couple of days that we look foward to sharing this amazing country with you this week in our blog!

Vyborg is one of the older areas within Russia and was involved in many battles between Finland and Russia for this prime piece of property. It was a two-hour drive from St. Petersburg, so we hired a local member of the church to drive us, and the other senior couple went with us there for the day. It would be fun for you to visit the history of Vyborg, so I have provided a link. . 

We show you a lot of palaces around St. Petersburg, but the pictures in Vyborg are of an old castle. The difference between a palace and castle center around war and defense. A castle was used to provide shelter and living for the people and help them to fight off people trying to take control of their country.  This castle is located in the center of the town and has a tower that we climbed to to take some magnificent pictures of the city. You can see the city has rivers and waterways surrounding it and it provides majestic settings. 

As we were driving we noticed a bridge with hundreds of locks attached, and the driver told us that when people get married they take a lock to the bridge, put it on the railing and then throw the key in the river. This shows their commitment to marriage and staying together in the bond of marriage. Vyborg is also rich in history for our Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The church built the first church house in Russia in Vyborg and we included a picture of the building at the beginning of the blog.   

Before we left the city to return home we stopped by the market to pick up some dinner. We snapped a quick picture because we couldn't decide between the heart, tongue or liver, shown in the picture, so we just settled for some more chocolate for the drive home. HaHa.  

After a long day journey through the city Kathy and I stopped for a quick rest next to this old wall and door dating back to the 1400's. It was an amazing journey and felt like home being near the water, trees and even some small neighborhoods with houses instead of apartments. 

On Saturday we got up early and decided to take the metro and bus ride out to Pushkin to see Catherine's Palace. I have also provided a link to information on the palace for those of you who enjoy history. It is always an adventure to travel without your own car, but it always adds to the experience. 

It took us about an hour and fifteen minutes to get from our home to the palace.  It was a combination of metro ride on the blue line and then catching a small bus to Pushkin. Since we have never been there before you always hope you got on the right bus and can figure out the stop. At least my Russian is getting better so I can ask for help with directions. 

After arriving at the palace we realized we were in trouble when we looked at the line to get into the courtyard. Understanding there are 5 million people in Russia and this was a holiday weekend, everyone decided to go to the palace. 

We had to wait over an hour just to get through the gates, then another hour to get in line for the next line to get tickets. Needless to say, I quickly ordered up a carriage ride for my Queen Kathy and three hours later we started to enjoy the beauty. 

While we waited in line, we bought a painting from one of the local street vendors and Kathy went and looked at all the little shops next to the entrance. 

Kathy purchased a new dining room set in the palace and a dinner dress from the queen for  when you all decide to come visit us and have a dinner party :-). 

As you look at these pictures imagine you lived in the mid 1700's and this was your summer palace. I like to think of the grandeure of parties in the palace and nightly strolls along the garden and ponds. 

The grounds were absolutely amazing with bridges, statues, a boat house to access the house on the island, several bath houses and swimming areas, meeting house, etc., distributed throughout the land on top of the palace itself. 

They were renovating the palace so the outside was covered in certain areas and we couldn't go into several sections of the palace. The rooms we were able to see were amazing, as you can see from the pictures.  

On our way home in the bus we passed by a local church building in Pushkin and snapped a quick picture of its beauty. We are truly blessed to be here at this time serving the people of Russia and sharing the journey with all these wonderful missionaries. We have an amazing gift to bring the people of Russia through our simple testimonies that God lives. We know where we came from, why we are here and where we are going when we die. God sent his son Jesus to the earth and he died for our sins. Through this atonement we can seek forgivenss and return to our Heavenly Father. Joseph Smith did see the father and the son through revelation and restored Christ's true church and the priesthood on the earth today. This plan of salvation gives me comfort to know that I can be with my mother again and tell her how much I love her. I have missed her since her passing 1.5 years ago and look forward to being together as a family again. Russia is amazing and beautiful and we are excited to share this message of the restoration with all the people we serve. Love Bob and Kathy

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