Russia and the Baltic travel blog

Hermitage - pottery BC

Hermitage- court dresses

Picasso ceramics

Matisse- the Dance

St Petersburg. Part II

St Petersburg is a spectacular city. It is more compact than Moscow for a tourist but the streets are not nearly as orderly. Grammar alone, and Ruth and Andrew together, all spent some time getting lost, or at least going around blocks twice.

We had mostly dull skies and rain in St Petersburg but that did not stop us. On the very wettest day, we went to the famous Hermitage Museum. WOW! It is humungeous - I am sure we only saw a tiny bit but what we saw was fabulous. The only problem was that every tourist in St Petersburg was there and was required to leave his/her raincoat and bag in a cloakroom that was down a big flight of stairs. Two huge jams of people were trying simultaneously to go up and down the stairs. This was very dangerous for Andrew and Grammar wobbling on their canes. Finally, a great big Russian man told Andrew to put his hand on his shoulder, and Grammar attached herself to Andrew and the man beat a path for them down the stairs. (I had stayed with Ruth to keep her company.) When we got back to the main level, we asked if there were any facilities for disabled people. The information person said, "no cloakroom, but there is an elevator." It took some searching but we did find the elevator: it was out-of-order!

It took us about an hour to organize ourselves with entry tickets, no coats, a bite to eat before we actually passed through the entry gates. Once inside, we split up and met again about three hours later. The place is so extensive that Group 1 (Ruth and Andrew) never saw Group 2 ( Snowflake and Grammar), even though we all saw some Impressionist painters!

Grammar was so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of paintings, that she started counting paintings:


Van Gogh - 4

Matisse- 31 plus some sculptures. Matisse seemed specially interested in feet!

Picasso - 32 plus several ceramic pieces.

Ruth and Andrew found Degas, Monet, Manet and Pissarro. We did not.

We found three really exciting things at the Hermitage. The first was Matisse's huge painting from 1910 called "The Dance". The second was a ceramic piece of Picasso's from the 1950s that really looks like a quick copy of "The Dance"! The third was an exquisite collection of Japanese netsuke. Grammar has "the Hare with the Amber Eyes" beside her bed in Calgary. It is about a real collection of netsuke and she has been trying to read it. She now has an appreciation for this amazing art form and will finish the book.

After the Hermitage, Ruth and Andrew returned to the hotel by Metro making only a few wrong turns.

Grammar and I walked: along canals; through parks; past fountains, sculptures and the golden-domed Admiralty building; past the dark, massive and brooding St. Issac's Cathedral; down some dicey streets in what was Dostoevsky's favourite neighbourhood-of-inspiration; to the Mariinsky Theatre. There we bought tickets for the ballet "Sylvia" for the following night. [from snowflake to Gordon Hamre: note exquisite use of dashes, commas, colons and semi-colons as per "Fowler's Modern English Usage"!]

By this time it was after 6 pm and pouring rain. We knew we were not very far from the hotel but we left the theatre in the wrong direction and kept getting conflicting directions from people we asked for help; so Grammar finally returned to theatre and bravely flagged down a taxi. Now you need to know that we had been warned never to take a random taxi in Moscow or St Petersburg. There are all sorts of horror stories but what was a small bear and a tired Grammar to do?! Grammar negotiated a price and, although the route did not feel very direct, we finally got back safely to the hotel.

We reconnected with our buddies and we went out for dinner to a great Georgian restaurant that was very close to the hotel.

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