Behind Palace Doors


Two Russia enthusiasts from Rochester, N.Y., get a private tour of St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Palace.

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The upgradees
"For the past year, my husband Paul and I have been learning Russian, and now we're heading to Russia and the Ukraine. We enjoy trying things we've never experienced. Please upgrade us! I know you'll come up with something amazing."Kimberly Schmidt, Rochester, N.Y.

Using our powers for the good of the people
Living near a Russian community in Rochester, N.Y., Kimberly and Paul Schmidt became fascinated with the country's culture and language. "We've wanted to go to Russia for ages," says Kimberly. So when two Ukrainian friends planned a trip to their hometown, Lviv, and to Russia, the Schmidts couldn't resist joining them. Kimberly was particularly excited about St. Petersburg, with its 18th- and 19th-century czarist palaces, so we arranged a tour to one of the city's most magnificent structures. The Mariinsky Palace, built in 1844 by Nicholas I, is now the seat of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly—and entirely off-limits to the public. But with the help of Assemblyman Arkady Kramarev, Kimberly and Paul received a 90-minute tour and a book on the palace. "The place was phenomenal!" says Kimberly. "It was a wedding gift for Nicholas's daughter—that's quite a present!" The palace was recently renovated, and the Schmidts were impressed by its condition. "Our guide took us into a room with doors so ornate, they cost a million euros each to restore. And there were seven of them!"

Many thanks to...
St. Petersburg Assemblyman Arkady Kramarev and the Russian travel experts at Eastern Tours (800/339-6967,


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